Durham’s Choice: A Break from the Past?

Like Raleigh, Durham County is facing its own election for a new elected district attorney. On my way to Guglhupf, a German bakery in Durham, I noticed a lot of signs for Roger Echols.

Echols has served as an assistant district attorney in Durham since 2010, and most recently as first assistant district attorney to Leon Stanback. Stanback is the former judge who was appointed as a caretaker interim district attorney following the dismissal of Tracy Cline. Cline was removed from office for having made intemperate remarks regarding the senior resident Superior Court Judge in Durham County, Orlando Hudson.

Echols' opponent is Mitchell Garrell, also a former assistant district attorney Durham who was let go in 2010 by Cline. The fact that Garrell was removed by Cline should be enough reason for Durham voters to elect him as their new elected district attorney.

Despite having the full support of Leon Stanback, Echols has not distinguished himself, particularly with the recent news that Durham's police Department made payments to drug informants rewarding them for convictions in drug prosecutions.

Instead of recognizing the real problem associated with such payments, in that they can encourage drug informants to lie in order to achieve convictions, Echols defended the prosecutions by saying that no “Brady” violations have occurred.

Durham has the chance to rectify nearly 10 years of questionable prosecutorial conduct by its elected DAs by electing Mitchell Garrell. Garrell, by all accounts, is an honest and ethical prosecutor. The question is whether voters will take the opportunity to make a clean break from the recent past.