DA battle churns towards Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2006

CONWAY – It comes down to the definition of passive.

Tuesday night both candidates for Judicial District 6B Attorney had their own interpretation of whether or not incumbent DA Valerie Mitchell-Asbell is indeed a passive District Attorney.

Challenger Don Carter said he believed the current DA was passive in her manner of handling the office, but Asbell was passionate in her disagreement.

Carter, who went first via having his name drawn, began his speech before a crowd at the Ashley’s Grove Community Building by talking about his personal history.

According to his account, the Murfreesboro-based attorney was born in Ahoskie and raised in Hertford County before moving away at age 12.

He enlisted in the United States Air Force and was accepted to the Air Force Academy four years later. During his time in service, Carter was a JAG, a prosecutor and the Chief of Military Justice for Langley Air Force Base.

&uot;When I had the opportunity to retire, I had the opportunity to choose where I would go,&uot; he said. &uot;I chose to come to Hertford County.&uot;

Carter said he was sworn in as an assistant DA under retired District Attorney David Beard.

He said he tried the first death penalty case in the district that Beard had allowed to be tried during his tenure without the DA in the courtroom.

Carter said he was married, had two children and was active in the community.

His activities included Habitat for Humanity, coaching youth basketball and volunteering each Saturday to help students.

&uot;Why am I seeking the office of District Attorney,&uot; he asked. &uot;I know Mrs. Asbell and worked with her.

&uot;Right now we have a passive DA,&uot; he continued. &uot;We need an active DA here.&uot;

Carter said the district attorney needed to always be in superior court and to be active in the community.

&uot;I am providing a choice for strong leadership and help for everyone,&uot; he said.

Carter said he wanted to bring professionalism back to the office, saying that when he served there judges were always pleased because of the DAs office being prepared.

He added that phone calls should be returned in a timely manner no matter whom it was calling.

&uot;Professionalism is treating the public with concern because you are a public official,&uot; he said.

During the question period, Carter was asked how he would feel about plea bargains.

He said the arrangements were necessary, but there were certain types of cases that shouldn’t be pled away. He said that if an officer was killed the case should be tried. Carter said that he understood family concerns, but the cases should go to trial.

He was also asked about the excessive number of appeals in death penalty cases.

Carter said, &uot;The death penalty does not work in our state because of the appeals and arbitrariness of it.&uot;

He added that he believed the death penalty would be abolished in North Carolina soon.

&uot;In answer to your question, do I think there are too many appeals? Absolutely,&uot; he closed.

Asbell’s name was the next one to be drawn and she was quick to answer the charges against her.

&uot;My name is Valerie Mitchell-Asbell and I am your elected District Attorney,&uot; she began.

Asbell said she was born in Person County and moved to the district after graduating from Tulane University.

She said she has been prosecuting in the district for 13 years.

&uot;Anyone who knows me, knows I am not a passive DA,&uot; she said. &uot;I’ve tried over 200 cases in three counties, but it’s not about successful cases.&uot;

Asbell also addressed Carter’s comments about law enforcement cases.

&uot;He’s referring to Chief White’s case in Rich Square,&uot; Asbell said. &uot;I can assure you, had the family wanted it and the facts supported it, we would have sought the death penalty.&uot;

She added that when a person pled guilty to murder there were no appeals.

Asbell said she wanted to make sure of one footnote which was that she and another assistant DA prepared a capital murder case before Carter returned to the district. While the case did not go to trial, it was that case that Beard first allowed to be prepared without his participation.

The DA said when she took office six years ago, she made promises to herself and they included seeking active sentences for convicted felons, child molesters and sex offenders as well as drug dealers.

&uot;I’ll stand on my record the last six years,&uot; she said. &uot;I am tough on crime.&uot;