Nancy (Lorrin) Freeman | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Nancy (Lorrin) Freeman

Candidate for Wake County District Attorney


Full Legal Name: Nancy Lorrin Freeman
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Nancy (Lorrin) Freeman
Office Sought/District: Wake County District Attorney (10th District)
Party: Democrat
Date of Birth: 04-20-1971
Campaign Web Site:
Occupation & Employer: Clerk of Superior Court; Elected; State of North Carolina
Years lived in Wake County: 18
Home Phone: 919-790-5926
Work Phone: 919-792-4050

1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the DA’s office? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?

Certain specific areas of criminal activity appear to create some of the greatest challenges currently for the District Attorney’s office--gang activity, domestic violence, and elder abuse. My top three priorities to address these issues are to: (1) raise public awareness through community outreach; (2) build collaborative teams across agency lines to share information, and (3) continue training teams within the District Attorney’s office on how to best handle these type cases. Currently I am involved in proactively addressing these challenges in several ways. As President of the Conference of Clerks of Superior Court, I am collaborating to host an all-day elder abuse awareness symposium. The symposium aims to train court staff on how to identify the signs of exploitation of our aging population. As Clerk of Superior Court for Wake County I serve on the interdisciplinary Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team that is staffing cases with a goal towards learning from past patterns in cases that ended in homicide. In addition to ensuring that we vigorously prosecute cases in these areas of continuing concern, as District Attorney I will proactively work to prevent such activity.

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.

Three traits are particularly important to being an effective District Attorney: (1) a commitment to doing what is right even when it is not easy; (2) an ability to maintain public confidence; and (3) strong leadership skills. As a former prosecutor and Assistant Attorney General, I was fortunate to develop a reputation of fairness and credibility which is evidenced by the support I now have from leaders in law enforcement, such as Cary Chief of Police Windy Hunter (retired) and Former Colonel of the State Highway Patrol Fletcher Clay, and leaders in the Defense Bar, such as Joe Cheshire and Wade Smith. The role of the elected District Attorney in Wake County is that a of leader of an office of forty (40) attorneys and over thirty (30) administrative staff who collectively are responsible for representing victims and the interest of the State in over one hundred thousand (100,000) cases filed annually. In addition to having gained valuable skills in handling complex cases as a prosecutor and an assistant attorney general, I have effectively led an office of over one hundred fifty (150) employees managing over two hundred thousand (200,000) cases annually. Effective management requires not only the ability to lead the team but also an ability to make the tough policy decisions that come with being in charge of the day-to-day operations of the courts. Over the past eight (8) years as I have served as Clerk of Superior Court, I have been part of the team making these decisions. As District Attorney I will continue to work with others in the criminal justice system to best serve the people of Wake County.

3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

Public confidence in our justice system is fundamental to our democracy. To maintain that confidence, politics can have no role in the administration of justice. I consistently worked across political lines with our Sheriff and others during my service as Clerk of Superior Court to ensure that the courts are accessible and fair to all people. Continuing to build a criminal justice system in which the citizens of this county can place their trust will be my motivation.

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.

Public confidence in the criminal justice system requires that citizens be secure in the knowledge that misconduct in criminal investigations on behalf of law enforcement and/or the State will not be tolerated. In cases in which it becomes clear that evidence has been withheld, obscured or fabricated, I would refuse to move forward against a defendant on the original charges as brought regardless of the offense. Misconduct by those who are sworn to uphold the law must result in significant consequences in order to deter such behavior.

5. North Carolina is one of only two states that try 16 and 17 year olds as adults. Do you support raising of the juvenile jurisdiction to 18? Explain why or why not.

I support a change in the law that allows 16 and 17 year olds who are charged with minor offenses to be prosecuted and sentenced under the juvenile system provided that sufficient resources are made available to manage these offenders post adjudication. As an Assistant District Attorney, I helped to start the Wake County Teen Court as an early intervention and diversion program for teenage offenders because I recognized that many of these cases could be appropriately resolved and offenders deterred from committing further offenses without receiving a criminal record that would follow them the rest of their lives. However, I also was responsible as the lead juvenile delinquency prosecutor for handling cases against young offenders who posed a significant threat to the public safety of our community. I believe that serious felony offenses committed by 16 and 17 years old should be handled using the full force and effect of the criminal justice system.

6. Would you ever seek capital punishment? Under what circumstances?

All premeditated murders are heinous, cruel and tragic. The decision to seek the death penalty is perhaps the most grave and difficult decision that a District Attorney faces. Despite increasing concerns about this form of punishment, our state law continues to provide for it. Unless and until that law changes, as District Attorney I would consider all possible punishments in charging homicide cases, including whether to seek the death penalty. In that event, I would guard zealously against improper factors being allowed to influence the choice of pursuing capital murder charges. Yet in cases where the facts are especially heinous and the interests of justice call for consideration of the death penalty, I would entrust this very serious choice to a jury who would reach a conclusion on behalf of our citizens.

7. What are your views on the Racial Justice Act? Do you agree with its repeal?

Racial bias should not be allowed to infect the judicial process. The policy underlying the Racial Justice Act was committed to this principal. However, the manner in which the legislation was drafted allowed for abuse. I support bringing all interested parties back to the table to determine if an appropriate and workable resolution can be found.

8. As head prosecutor of the most powerful jurisdiction in the state, what you would do to address graft, corruption, and lack of transparency among higher-level state elected officials and state agencies and departments? How would you ensure that your choice of investigations were not politically influenced?

All people should be treated equally under the law. Maintaining public confidence in the criminal justice system requires that the District Attorney have the courage to make the tough decisions even when it is difficult. The power of the District Attorney to call for an investigation is profound and should not be recklessly exercised. Yet a violation of the public trust cannot be ignored. Over the past year, I was presented with this very choice when a tip brought to my attention allegations of wrongdoing and corruption by one of my very own department heads. Immediately I worked to evaluate the factual basis of the report. I then alerted District Attorney Colon Willoughby and requested that he involve the State Bureau of Investigation. While this was difficult personally in that I felt a sense of betrayal by someone I had trusted, I did not hesitate to take the appropriate steps to investigate, root out and prosecute the wrongdoers. As District Attorney, I am committed to doing what is right even when it is not easy. Just as I have done in the past, in those cases where wrongdoing is not just speculated but grounded in substantiated facts, as District Attorney I would ask for independent investigations and would prosecute wrongdoers to the full extent of the law.

9. As DA, how would you deal with a fatal use of force by the local police?

Cases of fatal use of force by local police should be investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation. If wrongdoing is determined to have occurred by the law enforcement officer, appropriate proceedings should ensue. As Assistant Attorney General I represented the NC Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission where I was responsible for pursuing cases against law enforcement to remove them from certified law enforcement work when they had committed a criminal offense or violated their code of conduct. I have tremendous respect for law enforcement and the job that they do daily. But I also firmly believe that public confidence in law enforcement--which is so important to officer safety--depends on the appropriate response by the system when law enforcement officers exceed their authority.

10. What do you think is the most effective way to deal with low-level drug offenders?

First time low-level offenders currently are allowed to pursue a diversion program that includes treatment and other conditions. As District Attorney, I would continue this program.

11. When is it inappropriate to plea bargain cases?

Nearly ninety percent of cases are resolved by plea negotiation. Many factors impact when a plea bargain is appropriate, including the primary considerations of hardship to victims of testifying at trial, evidence that may not be convincing enough for conviction by a jury of the most serious charge, and appropriate use of limited judicial resources.

12. Are you in favor of raising suggested bond guidelines for serious felonies? Are you in favor of unsecured bonds for Class 2 and 3 misdemeanors? Explain.

As Clerk of Superior Court I served on the team that helped to craft the current bond guidelines for Wake County, along with along with our elected District Attorney and our Chief Judges. I believe the current guidelines are appropriate. Unsecured bonds are currently one option provided by state law available to judicial officials when considering bond for individuals charged with Class 2 or 3 misdemeanors. Wake County has a robust pretrial release program that allows low risk offenders to be released pending trial under supervision and conditions of release without requiring a bond. As District Attorney, I will make bond recommendations in individual cases based on public safety considerations but will respect the authority of the judicial officials vested by law with making these decisions.

13. As DA, what would you do to develop a trusting relationship with the large immigrant community in Wake County?

All residents of Wake County should be treated the same under the law. My career has been dedicated to building a criminal justice system that is effective and fair. As Chair of the Raleigh Human Relations Commission, I led the commission in hosting a series of community dialogues dedicated to building an inclusive community. I firmly believe that maintaining open lines of communication with all members of the community is important in maintaining public confidence in our criminal justice system.

14. As DA, how would you have legally dealt with the over 900 Moral Monday arrestees at the General Assembly last year?

Because these cases are still pending in our courts, I do not believe it is appropriate for any of the candidates for District Attorney to comment on those cases specifically. Generally, I support a citizen’s right to exercise his or her First Amendment Rights. Also generally, prosecutorial discretion on how best to handle these types of charges within our courts must not hinge on whether the District Attorney agrees with those demonstrating. Rather, a decision on how to proceed in cases involving protestors must be one that could be applied equally in similar situations regardless of the policy supported by those involved in the protest.

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