Partnering with law enforcement to promote public confidence
Police and prosecutors represent two distinct and independent groups in the criminal justice system. They act as partners to seek justice and ensure public safety. We are grateful for police officers who risk their lives to protect citizens and to uphold the law. And yet, when a law enforcement official, like anyone else, is suspected of violating the law, a fair prosecutor must demonstrate independence and impartiality. As District Attorney, Spencer Merriweather will do the same thing he does in any case –assess the evidence, protect the right to due process for the accused, and apply the law without prejudice.
Confronting implicit bias in our justice system:
Our criminal justice system has a shameful history of discriminating against people of color, and we continue to struggle with that legacy today. Prosecutors need to understand how it can influence our fellow citizens’ perception of the justice system.
Mecklenburg prosecutors have been leaders in designing systems to address implicit bias internally. Bias trainings have led to actual changes in the courtroom, where prosecutors are now commonly observed explicitly raising issues of race in jury selection. Such measures are designed to steer jurors toward verdicts based on evidence instead of implicit racial stereotypes. Spencer will continue to build on these efforts by working with academic leaders, who specialize in assessing the institutional impact of implicit bias.
One of our best weapons against bias is a more inclusive workforce of attorneys and legal assistants. A diverse community like Mecklenburg County needs an equally diverse team of prosecutors working to maintain justice and public safety. For years, Spencer has advocated for the recruitment of attorneys of color to the District Attorney’s Office, such as our two newest prosecutors. He will redouble these efforts by working with law schools across the state and the region to attract the best and brightest students to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office.