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Roger Echols
Durham People’s Alliance PAC Questionnaire for
District Attorney Candidates, 2014
Candidate’s name Roger Al...
2
3. Please describe how your religious and philosophical beliefs may affect your policies
and decision-making if you are ...
3
educate the public about gang activity, and facilitate offenders’ reentry into
society.
5. Have you ever been publicly o...
4
Concerning the District Attorney’s Office:
9. Please describe your experience in prosecuting and/or defending felony cas...
5
As district attorney, I would make decisions on defendants that have attained the
status of habitual felon on a case by ...
6
selection and racial equity in jury selection. While training in all aspects of our
profession can be important, discrim...
7
As District Attorney, my office would review each case involving a youthful offender
to determine if any of the various ...
8
assistant district attorney who is responsible for working with persons who are not
American citizens and their attorney...
9
Positive involvement would lead to a greater level of respect and trust between
officers and the public.
21. Do we incar...
10
As District Attorney, I would make the following organizational changes:
1.) Institute formal employee evaluations. Gre...
1705	MEDALLION	DR.	●	DURHAM,	NC	27704	●	(919)452‐4255	●	raechols@yahoo.com	
ROGER	A.	ECHOLS,	JR.	
Objective
DISTRICT ATTOR...
NC State Bar
George White Bar Association
Durham County Bar Association
Relay For Life (Executive Board)
NAACP
Sierra Club...
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Roger Echols 2014 PA-PAC Questionnaire

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Roger Echols, Candidate for District Attorney, District 14; 2014 People's Alliance PAC Questionnaire

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Roger Echols 2014 PA-PAC Questionnaire

  1. 1. 1 Roger Echols Durham People’s Alliance PAC Questionnaire for District Attorney Candidates, 2014 Candidate’s name Roger Allen Echols, Jr. Residence address 1705 Medallion Dr., Durham, NC 27704 Cell-phone Number (919) 452- 4255 e-mail raechols@yahoo.com Concerning You: 1. Where were you born and where did you grow up? When did you make Durham your home? I was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1973. My family moved to Atlanta, Georgia and Memphis, Tennessee before moving to Hillsborough, NC in 1977. We moved to Hillsborough when my father’s employer transferred him to a position that required him to work at Duke University Hospital. I was educated from kindergarten through graduation in Orange County Schools before attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From the time my family moved to North Carolina, I’ve spent much of my life in Durham because my close grade school friends lived in Durham and because Durham was the primary center for social and business activity for my family. I first lived in Durham for a period of time in 2006 and 2007. I last moved to Durham in 2013. 2. Please describe your involvement in civic and professional organizations, noting any offices you may have held and any awards or distinctions you may have earned. NC State Bar (Member), Durham County Bar Association (member), George White Bar (member), North Carolina District Attorneys Association (member), Sertoma Club (member), NAACP (member), Sierra Club (member), TRY Coalition (regularly attend meetings), American Red Cross, American Cancer Society (Relay For Life Volunteer – planning committee and financial supporter), Dickerson’s Chapel AME Church where I serve as a Steward, Sunday School Secretary, Class leader, and choir member. Selected as Dickerson’s Chapel Man of the Year twice. O.C.I.M. (Orange Congregation in Mission – volunteer and financial supporter) Habitat for Humanity (volunteer), Men of Honor at Eno Valley Elementary School (volunteer, speaker), Men of Distinction (volunteer, speaker) Teen Court (judge), coach for teen judge state competition, coach for High School Mock Trial team, National Aids Hotline (phone operator), Mentor’s Program (mentor), P.R.O.U.D. (supporter, speaker), POMC (Parents of Murdered Children)(regularly attends meetings), FOCUS Organization, Inc. of Durham, NC (Supporter)
  2. 2. 2 3. Please describe how your religious and philosophical beliefs may affect your policies and decision-making if you are elected District Attorney. I am a Christian and my church denomination is Methodist. My religious beliefs and spiritual beliefs play a significant role in my personal and professional life and my decision-making. My religious beliefs lead me to believe that God does not distinguish people based on our personal differences including sex, race, class, or sexual orientation. I also believe the law should not distinguish or treat people differently based on sex, race, class, religion, or sexual orientation. Therefore, my religious beliefs do not conflict with how I believe the law and justice should be administered or applied. Ultimately, my religious beliefs would affect my policies and decision making in that they would enhance my decision- making as it relates to the principles of treating everyone fairly without respect to our differences. 4. Please describe your employment history and, for employment in the public or private practice of law, describe your client base and the subject areas of your practice. I am presently employed as an assistant district attorney in Prosecutorial District 14 (Durham County) and have been since 2010. In Durham County, I have primarily prosecuted violent crimes including robberies, felony assaults, kidnappings, and homicides. For the past 25 months I have been the Chief Assistant District Attorney under the fine leadership of the Honorable Leon Stanback. As Chief Assistant District Attorney, I am responsible for running the day to day operations of the Office of the District Attorney. As the chief, I have the responsibility of supervising the entire staff, planning and conducting weekly staff meetings, planning and conducting regular meetings with the Durham Police Department’s homicide unit and Forensic Services Unit. I am also responsible for the supervision of Superior Court which includes running and facilitating felony trials, misdemeanor trials, motions, pleas, and probation violations in up to three courtrooms per week. As the chief, it is my responsibility to carry a caseload in addition to my supervisory and administrative duties. I worked as an assistant district attorney in Prosecutorial District 9A (Caswell and Person Counties) from 1998 to 2010. I prosecuted all type of criminal offenses including misdemeanors, driving while impaired cases, property offenses, financial crimes, drug offenses, felony traffic offenses including felony death by motor vehicle and manslaughter, cruelty to animals, dog fighting, domestic violence, child abuse, arsons, felony assaults, robberies, rapes, sex offenses, child sex offenses, and homicides. I also prosecuted all types of cases in juvenile court. I was appointed Chief Assistant District Attorney in 2009. I have also worked as a Project Safe Neighborhoods prosecutor, a federal grant position. My work under this grant included specializing in the prosecution of crimes committed with the use of firearms. I also coordinated meetings with local officials, school officials and members of community organizations in order to implement strategies to reduce gang activity,
  3. 3. 3 educate the public about gang activity, and facilitate offenders’ reentry into society. 5. Have you ever been publicly or privately disciplined by the North Carolina State Bar or any other professional or occupational licensing authority in North Carolina or any other state? “Disciplined” should be read to include reprimands, censures, and warnings in addition to license suspension, surrender, revocation, and disbarment. Is the State Bar or any governmental authority considering a complaint against you at the present time? Have you ever been found in contempt of court? For each “yes” answer, please provide us with a full description of the action taken, when it was taken, the authority in question, and a statement of the facts and events giving rise to the action or complaint against you. No, I have never been publicly or privately disciplined by the North Carolina State Bar or any other licensing agency. No, the State Bar or any other governmental agency is not considering a complaint against me. No, I have not been found in contempt of court. 6. Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense (other than a minor traffic offense)? Is there a criminal charge currently pending against you? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, please identify the offense, the tribunal, and the sentence or penalty imposed. Please also describe the circumstances giving rise to the charge and/or conviction. No, I have never been convicted of a criminal offense. Yes, I have a minor traffic offense pending (speeding). 7. Is there any unsatisfied judgment pending against you? If the answer to this question is yes, please identify the party or parties with a judgment against you, the tribunal, the amount of the judgment, and the circumstances giving rise to the judgment. Are you currently a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit? If the answer to this question is yes, please identify the adverse parties and the tribunal where the matter is pending. Please describe the nature of the claim or claims in the suit and the circumstances giving rise to the claim. No, there are no unsatisfied judgments against me. No I am not a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit. 8. For whom did you vote for president in 2008 and 2012? Did you vote for or against Amendment One? I am a life- long democrat who voted for Barack Obama for president in 2008 and 2012. I voted against Amendment One and I support civil unions
  4. 4. 4 Concerning the District Attorney’s Office: 9. Please describe your experience in prosecuting and/or defending felony cases. Your answer should include the number of such cases you have handled and should identify the number of cases where you were primarily responsible for the prosecution or defense (i.e., “first chair”). Your answer should also distinguish cases tried from cases resolved by means other than trial. You may use approximate numbers. I have prosecuted over 3000 felony cases as first chair ranging from drug offenses, property offenses, financial crimes, arsons, violent offenses, domestic violence, adult and child sex offenses, child abuse, and homicides. I would estimate that I have tried between 120 and 150 jury trials as first chair. I would estimate that over 90% percent of my jury trials were felony cases. I have tried homicides, felony assaults, robberies, rapes, sex offenses, child sex offenses, drug trafficking, drug sales, burglaries, breaking and enterings, fraud, discharging weapon into occupied property, illegal gun possession, kidnappings, felony traffic offenses and dog fighting. During 15 of the 15 ½ years that I have been a prosecutor, I have carried a full felony caseload while regularly prosecuting cases in District Court. 10. What is your experience managing a large staff of professional and non-professional employees? For the last 25 months I have managed the staff of the Durham District Attorney’s Office, which includes 20 other prosecutors and 17 support staff members. I have also had a central role in managing the office’s budget of nearly 1.9 million dollars and helping to apply for and maintain 5 grant positions that are necessary for the Durham County Office of the District Attorney to operate. I am also the administrator responsible for communicating with other State Agencies including the State Attorney General’s Office and other District Attorney’s Offices to request special prosecutors for cases that our office have a conflict. I am responsible for assigning MARs (Motions for Appropriate Relief) to the appropriate prosecutor. As Chief Assistant District Attorney, I am responsible for managing and balancing the workload of each assistant district attorney. I have also managed a District Attorney’s staff of 12 employees which included six prosecutors as Chief Assistant District Attorney. During the time periods that I have been a chief assistant district attorney I have had some responsibility in assigning cases, making court assignments, establishing felony trial order, and managing felony and misdemeanor trial calendars. 11. As District Attorney, what policy would you support for charging under the habitual felony statute? Would you take into account the nature of the triggering offenses and the proportionality of the possible punishment upon conviction?
  5. 5. 5 As district attorney, I would make decisions on defendants that have attained the status of habitual felon on a case by case basis. Several factors should be considered when determining whether or not the State proceeds with a habitual felon prosecution including the underlying offense and the offenses that trigger the defendant’s habitual felon. I would also take into account the proportionality of the possible punishment upon conviction. I would also take into account the sentences that the defendant received on the triggering offenses. I would also consider how many times the defendant was previously eligible to be prosecuted as a habitual felon. If a defendant who has attained the status of habitual felon, is charged with a felony that is covered under the Victim’s Rights Amendment, the prosecutor will as required by consult the victim before making a decision on disposition. 12. Do you personally support the death penalty? Do you support its abolition or would you modify its application in any way? What is the societal value of keeping the death penalty? If you support the abolition of the death penalty, would you be willing to encourage the Conference of District Attorneys to take that position as well? As District Attorney, what criteria would you use in determining when you would seek to impose the death penalty upon a criminal defendant? If you are District Attorney, who in your office will make decisions concerning the death penalty? No, I do not personally support the death penalty. Yes, I support the abolition of the death penalty. The death penalty has minimal, if any societal value. I would be willing to encourage the Conference of District Attorneys to take that position as well. The criteria I would use in determining when to seek the death penalty would be guided by the statute. I would consider the number of statutory aggravating circumstances. I would consider the strength of the evidence on the aggravating circumstances. I would consider the strength of the case regarding guilt and innocence against the defendant. I would seek the input of the family of the victim as required by law before making a decision on the death penalty. I would also consider the sentiment of the community regarding the death penalty when making a decision regarding the death penalty. As District Attorney, I would seek input on death penalty decisions from my staff, but I would make the final decision on whether or not to seek the death penalty. 13. Litigation under the former Racial Justice Act uncovered systematic racial discrimination in jury selection by prosecutors throughout North Carolina. What hiring practices, training or other measures will you implement to address this problem? If you are elected District Attorney, would you be willing to advocate problem to insure that no defendant is put to death when evidence of racial bias as contemplated under the Racial Justice Act is present in the case? If elected District Attorney, I would implement hiring practices that reflect the diversity of our nation, state, and county. As District Attorney, I would only hire prosecutors who value and believe in racial equity and fairness. I would implement training within the office that would include trial practice, jury
  6. 6. 6 selection and racial equity in jury selection. While training in all aspects of our profession can be important, discriminating against a victim or any defendant based on any characteristic including race has no place in prosecution and therefore it is a question of fitness to serve. If I am District Attorney anyone who discriminates will no longer be employed in the Durham County Office of the District Attorney. I would be willing to advocate publicly and in the Conference of District Attorneys the problems associated with discrimination to make sure that no one receives the death penalty when evidence of racial bias as contemplated under the Racial Justice Act is present in a case. 14. As District Attorney, would you continue to support the following programs: the Drug Treatment Court, the Criminal Justice Resource Center, STAR, the Mental Health Treatment Court, the Veterans’ Court, the misdemeanor diversion program for 16- and 17- year-olds, and the newly established pretrial services program? If you have reservations about any of these programs please explain them. As District Attorney, I would, as the current administration under the Honorable Leon Stanback has, continue to support the Drug Treatment Court, the Criminal Justice Resource Center, and the STAR programs because they all address underlying issues that cause involvement in the criminal justice system such as drug dependency. These programs also help build a foundation for individuals to achieve future life success. A mental health treatment court and a Veteran’s Court have not been established or implemented yet. However, it is imperative to address the problems of individuals who are in the criminal justice system because of their need for mental health treatment. Likewise, it is necessary for the criminal justice system to address the problems of veterans who find themselves in the criminal justice system. I would support measures to address these issues including training for prosecutors, probations officers, and judges and I would support the establishment of courts to address veterans and those who are in the criminal justice system who are in need of mental health treatment. I support the misdemeanor diversion program for 16 and 17 year olds because this program is designed to keep these young people out of court and out of the criminal justice system in addition to keeping them from getting a record or arrest record. Therefore, the misdemeanor diversion program for 16 and 17 year olds could have a huge impact on reducing recidivism. As District Attorney I would continue to support the newly created pretrial services program. I presently do not have reservations about any of these programs; however, I believe that it is critical that we make sure each agency involved with the implementation of newly created courts has the resources to make the program and courts a success without compromising the effectiveness of other courts, programs, and responsibilities. 15. As District Attorney, what policies would you implement to address issues involving youthful offenders? Would you support legislation to raise the age for juvenile offenders?
  7. 7. 7 As District Attorney, my office would review each case involving a youthful offender to determine if any of the various deferral programs are appropriate in his/ her case. If deferral is inappropriate, then we will consider pleading down the felony charges of youthful offenders to misdemeanors. When misdemeanors are not appropriate we would look for sentencing alternatives to active sentences such as probation to include substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment, and community service. Many young people are charged with possession of marijuana. As District Attorney, I would make prosecuting possession of marijuana a low priority and encourage local law enforcement to make enforcement lowest priority. Our community and the criminal justice system should concentrate on substance abuse treatment for those who possess controlled substances. Resources saved on low priority prosecutions can be spent on greater priority prosecutions such as violent crime, and crimes against children. 16. What role do you think district attorneys should play in identifying and prosecuting criminal violations of state environmental laws? What difficulties attend such prosecutions? What can be done to overcome them? District Attorneys should play a significant role in identifying and prosecuting criminal violations of state environmental laws. I would assign or appoint an assistant district attorney to prosecute violations of state environmental laws. Currently there is an assistant district attorney employed by the Durham District Attorney’s Office who has previously worked in the environmental section of the Attorney General’s Office. Prosecutions of state environmental law violations can be difficult because they can be complex, scientific, and time consuming. Local law enforcement agencies do not specialize in environmental law investigations and they do not have the capabilities or resources to conduct such investigations. Therefore, when violations are identified, the District Attorney should be aggressive in requesting investigations of violations by the State Bureau of Investigations and the EPA who have specialized knowledge and ability in conducting such investigations. Therefore, having an assistant on staff, like we currently have, who has experience in the field would be essential in communicating with the SBI, the EPA and the Attorney General’s Office for investigative and prosecutorial support. Many of the challenges in investigating and prosecuting violations of state environmental laws can be overcome by increased funding to the SBI and Attorney General’s Office to support greater and more effective investigations and prosecutions. We must make sure that we do all that is possible to ensure that there are no more coal ash incidents. 17. As District Attorney, what measures do you support for making our courts more accessible to non-English speaking victims, defendants, and witnesses? As District Attorney, I would support and implement hiring practices that maximize the diversity needed to serve the public and the county as it relates to non-English speaking victims and defendants. Currently there are four employees of the Office of the District Attorney who are bilingual which helps us provide tremendous service to Spanish speaking victims. The Office of the District Attorney currently has an
  8. 8. 8 assistant district attorney who is responsible for working with persons who are not American citizens and their attorneys when they have applications for U-Visas which has resulted in giving many non-citizens and non-English speaking victims access to court and the opportunity to stay in the United States. I support increased funding for language services to hire more translators to provide greater access to non-English speaking victims and defendants. 18. As District Attorney, how would you make district court more efficient? As District Attorney, I would work with the District Court judges and law enforcement agencies to enter an agreement to require law enforcement officers to be in court when court opens until at least the time deadline for defendants to call cases for hearing. This measure would improve efficiency in that cases for trial could be started sooner eliminating down time and the earlier presence of officers could cause some cases that are otherwise for trial to be worked out without a hearing. I would also work with District Court Judges to study the possibility of creating afternoon sessions. This measure would increase efficiency in that it would decrease the number of cases on each individual district court calendar while restricting the maximum time witnesses, victims, and defendants would be required to be in court to only a morning or an afternoon. 19. What in your past might lead the public to question their trust in the integrity of the District Attorney’s office or in you personally? There is not anything in my past that might lead the public to question their trust in the integrity of the District Attorney’s Office or in me personally. 20. What are the shortcomings of law enforcement in Durham? What can be done to correct them? The shortcomings of law enforcement include lack of resources. Being a law enforcement officer is an extremely high calling. As we should, we hold law enforcement to a very high standard. However, more law enforcement officers are needed to adequately meet the goals we expect. Given expectations, law enforcement should be compensated better to reflect the difficult and dangerous job that they do. Another shortcoming of law enforcement is training. Greater training in many areas including investigations could improve the quality of investigations. Racial equity training is also a training that officers could benefit from. This type of training could help officers fairly enforce the law as well as help them more appropriately deal with the stressful situations they face. Lastly, a shortcoming of law enforcement is the lack of positive community involvement. Our law enforcement agencies do have positive involvement in the community through PACs (partners against crime), National Night Out and through other events and organizations. This positive involvement should be increased and done at a higher frequency. Efforts could and should be made by officers to get to know the people in the communities that they serve and protect.
  9. 9. 9 Positive involvement would lead to a greater level of respect and trust between officers and the public. 21. Do we incarcerate too many people in North Carolina? Do we incarcerate the right people? Please explain your answer. What sentencing policy changes would you support in your role as District Attorney? Would you advocate for these policy changes publicly and in the Conference of District Attorneys, the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission, and the North Carolina judges conferences? Yes, we incarcerate too many people. On many occasions, we incarcerate the right people which provides for public safety. Crimes, particularly violent crimes, committed against children, the disabled, and senior citizens should carry punishment that often include long terms of incarceration. North Carolina’s sentencing laws are designed to incarcerate those who commit violent crimes and those who are habitual offenders. There are instances when nonviolent offenders in the State are incarcerated when they should not be. There have been mistakes in incarcerating individuals that have occurred around the state. All District Attorneys should work to make sure those mistakes do not continue to occur. Currently within the Durham County Office of the District Attorney, we emphasize sentencing alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders. I would publicly and in the Conference of the District Attorneys advocate for changes in sentencing laws that give judges and district attorneys more discretion in sentencing. If judges had more discretion and therefore more sentencing options on all cases, offenders could be availed to alternative sentencing options. These options could address underlying causes of the commission of crime without incarceration. I would also publicly and in the Conference of District Attorneys advocate for greater funding for mental health treatment, drug treatment, and Day Reporting Centers within the criminal justice system. The problems of mass incarceration do not begin and end with law enforcement and prosecution. There are many problems in our communities that have an effect on crime and incarceration. There is no greater contributing factor than poverty. As District Attorney, I would seek a place at the table with city officials, county officials, and community leaders to address poverty and other problems that lead to increased incarceration. 22. As District Attorney, how would you make the prosecutors in your office more accessible to defendants and defense attorneys? As District Attorney, I would require at least two prosecutors to be available each afternoon to negotiate cases with defense attorneys and to speak to defendants who do not have an attorney. I would instruct my staff to be particularly aggressive in helping those charged with offenses that can be handled without a court appearance to save those citizens time and a future trip back to the courthouse. 23. As District Attorney, what policy or organizational changes would you make that have not otherwise been anticipated by the questions in this questionnaire?
  10. 10. 10 As District Attorney, I would make the following organizational changes: 1.) Institute formal employee evaluations. Greater communication and guidance would improve employee performance and it would give supervisors and the District Attorney a better basis for evaluation to make employment decisions, improve the staff, and provide greater service to the public. 2.) Budgetary Reviews 3.) Diversity Training 4.) Appoint a Community Liaison 5.) Create a Community Advisory Board 6.) Conduct regularly scheduled meetings with community advisory board Prosecution by its nature is reactive. Prosecutors and law enforcement must achieve a greater understanding and sensitivity to the public’s needs and the effects of crime on the public and our communities. As District Attorney, I would establish proactive programs to include some of the items listed above. I would concentrate on partnering with law enforcement agencies, other governmental agencies, and community organizations to work with the community and at risk youth and other individuals to provide education and other positive alternatives to crime.
  11. 11. 1705 MEDALLION DR. ● DURHAM, NC 27704 ● (919)452‐4255 ● raechols@yahoo.com ROGER A. ECHOLS, JR. Objective DISTRICT ATTORNEY, PROSECUTORIAL DISTRICT 14 Professional Experience November 10, 2010— Present District Attorney’s Office, 14 Durham, NC ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY Chief Assistant District Attorney (February 2012- Present) -Supervisor of prosecutorial staff and support staff -Violent crimes prosecutor including homicides, robberies, felony assaults, and kidnapping -Manages and facilitates superior court calendars -Responsible for weekly staff meetings agenda and conducting weekly staff meetings -Coordinates and conducts regular meetings with Durham Police Department’s Homicide Unit and Forensic Services Unit -Assists in preparing grant applications for prosecutor positions October 1, 1998 – November 9, 2010 District Attorney’s Office, 9A Person/ Caswell Counties, NC ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY Chief Assistant District Attorney (November 2009- November 2010) -Supervised prosecutorial staff and support staff -Prepared Superior Court trial calendars -Screened and assigned felony cases -Prosecuted all types of felonies as lead trial attorney including property crimes, drug trafficking, robberies, rapes, domestic assaults, felony assaults, attempted murders, and homicides -Created office protocol related to providing SBI laboratory notice in drug cases -Created current office protocol related to providing notice of intent to use evidence pursuant to N.C.G.S. §15A-975 -Project Safe Neighborhoods Prosecutor (2003- 2005) Education Degrees Aug. 1995— May 1998 University of Tennessee Knoxville, TN Juris Doctorate Aug. 1991— Aug. 1995 UNC‐ Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC B.A. Economics Professional and Community Memberships North Carolina District Attorney’s Association
  12. 12. NC State Bar George White Bar Association Durham County Bar Association Relay For Life (Executive Board) NAACP Sierra Club Durham PA Dickerson’s Chapel AME Church SERTOMA Club References References available upon request

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