I knew Kyron Hinton through my travels around downtown Raleigh. I have been a criminal defense attorney for the last 12 years, and I often walk from my downtown Raleigh office to the Wake County Justice Center.

Kyron and I would share a few kind words as we crossed each others’ paths from time to time. Like many in our community and our families, Kyron suffered from mental illness and struggled with drug addiction.

As the Indy Week’s Thomasi McDonald first reported, Kyron’s mental illness, in part, brought him in contact with law enforcement in April 2018 where Kyron was assaulted by officers and attacked by a police dog released by one of the officers.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman dismissed the most serious assault charges against former Deputy Cameron Broadwell and former Trooper Michael Blake. Both officers received no jail time after guilty pleas to misdemeanors.

In particular, Blake had a history of allegations involving physical abuse of citizens who had the misfortune to be stopped by him.

Meanwhile, charges against Tabithia Davis, the only black officer among the group charged, are still pending.

As Thomasi McDonald reported last week in the Indy Week, the disclosure of details concerning Kyron Hinton’s death and Lorrin Freeman’s decision not to prosecute the juvenile was news to Kyron’s family.

A diverse and inclusive Wake County District Attorney’s Office would go a long way to ensuring that all parts of our community have a voice in the prosecution of the most serious crimes.

Unfortunately, Wake County has neither. After eight years in office, our elected District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has not a single African American (or Latinx) felony prosecutor on her staff.

That is a shocking fact in a county that is more than 20 percent black and given the fact that African-Americans are disproportionately represented among both victims and defendants in our criminal justice system.

A fairer, more just criminal justice system cannot happen without direct input by and representation of BIPOC in every facet of the system, including as senior level prosecutors in the Wake County District Attorney’s Office.

A diverse office of prosecutors would ensure that all parts of our community are heard when the most important decisions are being made about how to ensure that Wake County remains safe for our families and our neighborhoods.

Damon Chetson, Democratic Candidate for Wake County District Attorney, 2022

Editor’s Note: We reached out to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman for comment. Here is her response in full. 

Since taking office in January 2015, I have hired 16 African American prosecutors. There are currently 6 African American prosecutors on staff.  All of these are individuals with less than a few years’ experience and currently are therefore assigned to our District Court unit.

When I became District Attorney, there were no African American or Latinx prosecutors carrying a felony caseload.  As of 30 days ago, I had two felony African American prosecutors assigned to the General Felony Superior Court unit and one Hispanic prosecutor assigned to our felony drug unit. Unfortunately in the past month, I lost the two superior court felony ADAs to other jobs—both at a higher pay than I am able to pay–one to the Attorney General’s Office and the other to the City of Raleigh to be the new Police Attorney for the Raleigh Police Department. I continue to have an Hispanic prosecutor in the felony drug unit. There is also an Asian prosecutor assigned to our felony domestic violence unit.

I have been committed to building an office that reflects our community. Attrition of prosecutors with less than five years’ experience, regardless of race, is a common issue in District Attorney offices across the State and has been for years. For that reason, it has been particularly challenging to cultivate a diverse group of experienced prosecutors who handle our most violent and complicated cases despite very strong hiring practices of African American attorneys. Nevertheless I remain committed to this as an important goal for our office. 

Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.