I have practiced law in the criminal courts of Western North Carolina for a quarter of a century and, in that time, have worked with more than a few prosecutors. Perhaps I have gained some useful perspective on the qualities of integrity, experience, humility and common sense which make a good prosecutor.
I am writing to support the election of Todd Williams as Buncombe County District Attorney.
In February, Todd Williams made the courageous decision to run for district attorney against a 24-year incumbent. Todd won the May 6 primary election with 67 percent of the vote, ensuring change in this important office. Todd’s opponent chose to sit out the primary election and is now seeking to benefit from the opportunity provided by Todd’s primary victory.
Todd is genuinely concerned about the integrity of the justice system and restoring fairness in Buncombe County. To that end, the exoneration of Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission was a centerpiece of his
campaign. Mr. Kagonyera, who spent nearly 10 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, was my client.
Todd is the more experienced of the two candidates. He has practiced criminal law in Western North Carolina since 2001 and has appeared in almost every kind of criminal case brought to court. He is a known quantity in the Buncombe County criminal justice system and has a solid working relationship with all of the principals in that system: judges, other prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement officers, court clerks and – not insignificantly – defendants and victims.
Arguing motions, negotiating pleas, conducting sentencing hearings, trying cases to a jury – these are the everyday stuff of criminal law practice, for both prosecutors and defense attorneys. I have never seen Ben Scales do any of these things in a Buncombe County courtroom or any courtroom. I am told that Mr. Scales has appeared in two felony jury trials in his career. He has never served as an assistant district attorney or prosecutor of any kind.
Nor has he demonstrated a basic level of interest in criminal law by qualifying for appointment as counsel for indigent defendants. His announced agenda regarding marijuana offenses, while reflective of a defensible personal opinion, is at odds with the oath he would take as District Attorney.
I mention humility because that quality is rare among prosecutors – among defense attorneys, as well, it must be said. Todd Williams recognizes the areas in which he lacks experience and has pledged to retain assistant district attorneys who know their jobs and to hire additional staff to complement the talented, hard-working lawyers presently in the District Attorney’s Office. Todd will seek the input of the Sheriff’s Office, the Police Department and other public entities but will feel no need to manage any public agency other than his own.
I urge all lawyers to support the Williams for district attorney campaign and all conscientious Buncombe County voters to join me in voting for Todd Williams again on Nov. 4.