DA candidate cites lost confidence in system

Jan. 22, 2014 @ 09:03 PM

A former prosecutor who plans to run for Durham district attorney said Wednesday that some Durham residents have lost confidence in the criminal justice system, and rebuked his disgraced ex-boss.

Mitchell Garrell, who will file as a Democrat for the office next month, said the loss of trust began while Tracey Cline was district attorney. Cline was removed from office in 2012 after a public feud with a Superior Court judge, calling him dishonest and corrupt. She declined to reappoint Garrell as an assistant DA when her term began Jan. 3, 2011, but wouldn't say why.

"Her relentless, and often bizarre, attacks on our chief resident Superior Court judge [Orlando Hudson] evinced her lack of respect for, and adherence to, the established laws and procedures regarding the relations between DA and judge," Garrell said. "For this, she was removed from office. Seeing the chief law enforcement officer of the county display such a brazen disregard for the law cannot but have an effect on this community, an effect which is still felt today. No one who assisted in such attacks should be serving in the district attorney's office."

Garrell, who prosecuted many violent felonies as assistant DA, said he has a reputation "as a firm but fair prosecutor who has always complied with the rule of law regarding the treatment of defendants even as I attempt to hold them accountable for the crimes they have committed."

If elected, he said, he would lead the office by example "and ensure that all persons in the office respect the law."

"I believe that assistant district attorneys should have real and substantial ties to this community," he said. "I would seek to hire and retain persons who represent the best Durham has to offer, and who are respected by judges, law enforcement, victims of crime, the defense bar, courtroom personnel and the community at large."

Garrell served in the DA's office for almost 16 years. During the last 10 years he served, Garrell prosecuted murders, armed robberies, serious assaults, arsons and sexual assaults. He said that, to his knowledge, none of his convictions were overturned on appeal.

He currently serves as financial-crimes prosecutor for the Central Region of North Carolina, a position with the Conference of District Attorneys.

Garrell graduated from UNC Chapel Hill summa cum laude with a degree in political science in 1991. He graduated in 1995 from the UNC School of Law.

He's lived in Durham for 20 years and is a member of St. Philips Episcopal Church in downtown Durham.

Two others have announced plans to file for district attorney - Roger Echols, a 40-year-old chief assistant prosecutor in the Durham County District Attorney's Office, and Brian Aus, 59, a criminal defense lawyer.

The winner will replace Interim District Attorney Leon Stanback, who said he won't run.

A primary election will be held May 6. The general election is Nov. 4.