Name as it appears on the ballot: Nancy (Lorrin) Freeman
Campaign website: www.freemanforda.com
Years lived in the county: 22 years
1. What do you believe are the most important issues currently facing the District Attorney’s Office? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?
As our county continues to be one of the fastest growing in the nation, our quality of life depends in part on a criminal justice system that keeps us safe. Over the past three and a half years, I have worked to define our office responsibilities beyond holding offenders accountable to include using our tools to help individuals struggling with addiction and mental illness live successfully in the community. To this end, I have expanded criminal diversion opportunities for individuals facing behavioral health challenges; built a strong interagency collaborative to aid people exiting the criminal justice system find employment and housing opportunities to reduce their risk of reoffending; and served as an honorary chair for an effort to raise awareness and assistance around adverse childhood experiences. If re-elected I would continue to work diligently to protect our community from the most violent offenders while continuing to find ways to prevent individuals from reentering the criminal justice system. Over the next two years our State will raise the age for prosecution in adult court to 18. As this transition occurs I will focus on its effective implementation.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective district attorney? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
After having served as elected Clerk of Court for eight years, I was elected to be Wake County’s first woman District Attorney in 2014. As District Attorney, I have been repeatedly called upon to make tough decisions subject to public scrutiny in cases as well as to lead a staff of close to ninety attorneys and victim service assistants. During the last three years, I have also handled important public corruption and some first degree murder cases personally. Including my time as Clerk I have served for twelve years as part of the team that sets policy within our local courts and understand extensively the interrelated workings of the multiple agencies.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a lifelong Democrat who has worked hard to leave politics out of the courthouse. I believe our criminal justice system should be focused on earning the trust of the public. I am committed to fairness and opportunity for every member of our community. It is this strong philosophy that led me to bring together a large collaboration to ensure that those who have exited the criminal justice system are not eternally relegated to second class citizenship but instead are given an opportunity for a clean record as allowed by law and access to employment and educational resources.
4. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
I firmly believe that abuse of power must not go unchecked. To that end, excessive use of force by law enforcement must be investigated and where the law supports it, prosecuted. For the first time in twelve years of seeking public office, I do so without the endorsement of the leading law enforcement Union. This comes in the same year that I have formally charged three law enforcement officers with felony assault.
5. Would you ever seek capital punishment? If so, under what circumstances?
North Carolina law provides that capital punishment is the maximum punishment under the law. As District Attorney I took an oath to uphold the law. As with most counties across the state, the number of cases in which capital punishment is sought continues to substantially decrease. I believe that only in the most aggravated of cases should the death penalty be pursued.
6. As head prosecutor of the most powerful jurisdiction in the state, what you would do to address graft, corruption, and lack of transparency among elected officials and state agencies and departments? How would you ensure that your choice of investigations was not politically influenced?
As Wake County District Attorney I have personally led the investigation and prosecution of public officials who have violated the public’s trust by violating campaign finance laws, abusing their position and embezzling taxpayer money. This work has been a top priority. In each of these cases it is important to follow the evidence and apply the law without consideration of political pressure or ideology. A methodical and deliberate process is critical in ensuring our ability to maintain the public trust.
7. In cases in which police use deadly force, it seems officers are seldom if ever held criminally responsible even if the person who was killed was unarmed. As a district attorney, how would you deal with use-of-force issues in policing? What would you say to residents, especially those in highly policed communities, to assure them that the justice system is not stacked against them in these matters?
As Wake County District Attorney I have reviewed many use of force cases including over a half dozen officer involved shootings. These cases require extensive and detailed investigation and as allowable under law, complete transparency. I have met with, and been responsive to, advocates in the community who push for law enforcement accountability. Pushing for justice in cases of excessive force by law enforcement, I have shown that actions that violate the law will not be tolerated. At the same time, it is crucial that we lay bare the facts and explain the reasons and law that justify a use of force that the public might initially question. Law enforcement provides extremely valuable service to our community. I am committed to continuing to work to bring better understanding and trust between our officers and the public.
8. What do you think is the most effective way to deal with low-level drug offenders?
Individuals that have addiction issues that result in criminal charges should be able to earn a dismissal if they comply with treatment conditions. Partnering with recovery programs, the prosecution can play an important part in pushing people towards treatment.
9. As district attorney, what would you do to develop a trusting relationship with the large immigrant community in Wake County?
As District Attorney, I have welcomed the opportunity to attend community events to speak about our office’s services. We recently began a partnership with the Mexican Consulate. Maintaining easy access and bilingual services is critical in being able to serve our larger community. I understand that we must have an effective connection with all communities so that individuals are willing to come forward when they have been victims of crime.
10. On any given day, some detainees are in the Wake jail not because they’ve been convicted of a crime but because they cannot afford their bail. What changes to the cash-bail system, if any, do you support? Why? If you don’t support any changes, please explain why you think the current system is successful.
Our pretrial release practices need periodic review. We currently have a pretrial release program that serves over five hundred people who are awaiting court case conclusion. I am committed to expanding the use of this program. I also will continue to urge the use of a criminal summons in lieu of arrest for low level non-violent misdemeanor offenses.