In Their Own Words: County prosecuting attorney candidates address issues

Published 12:21 am Saturday, June 1, 2019

Today The Natchez Democrat profiles the three candidates vying for the Adams County Prosecuting Attorney position.

All three candidates are running as Democrats so the election will be decided in the August Democratic party primary.

The Adams County Prosecuting Attorney’s duties are outlined below as summarized from Mississippi state statutes by the Mississippi State University Extension service.

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“The county prosecuting attorney represents the state in all investigations for a felony before the various justice court judges in the county.

“He/she also appears before justice court judges and prosecutes all cases against people charged with offenses. The county prosecuting attorney is the prosecuting attorney for the county court. The county prosecuting attorney may present any matter to the grand jury of his/her county. The county prosecuting attorney has full responsibility for all misdemeanors, youth court proceedings, and all other cases not specifically granted to the district attorney.”

1. Why should Adams County voters elect you to serve as the Adams County Prosecuting Attorney?

Lydia Roberta Blackmon:  Adams County voters should elect me to be Adams County’s Prosecuting Attorney because I am qualified and experienced. I have a very diverse employment history, having served as a county prosecuting attorney as well as the managing public defender for a county with a public defender system. I have prosecuted in jurisdictions outside of Adams County, and have practiced in countless jurisdictions around this state. Additionally, I work well with various people and organizations, having worked as a teacher, a filmmaker, an ombudsman, a hearing officer and as an arbitrator. I am God-fearing and principled, and I believe in working hard and smart.

Lisa J. Chandler: I am and have been a concerned citizen of Adams County for 28 years. My reputation for honesty and diligence is inviolable to me. The job of the prosecutor is to bring out the truth of the matter asserted in criminal matters, and I will hold that always as my standard. I will listen to the voices of victims and ensure their rights to be present at every hearing is practiced and protected. I will work closely with law enforcement to ensure the best possible outcome for the folks of Adams County.

Carmen Brooks Drake: Adams County voters should elect me because I am the candidate that can be trusted to use my vast knowledge and experience to work for the good of the community. As your current County Prosecuting Attorney, I have worked well with law enforcement, as well as the victims and their families, to reach the right results.  I have moved forward with every case presented to me by relying only on the facts and the law. I have also provided opportunities for parties to resolve their differences on their own, which has, in many cases, eliminated the need for prosecution.  If elected, I will continue to be a thoughtful prosecutor who will act with honesty, fairness, and integrity.

2. What is the biggest issue facing the Adams County Prosecuting Attorney position?

Lydia Roberta Blackmon: I believe that organization and efficiency, together, or a lack thereof, would be the biggest issue facing this position. For example, litigants who come in to deal with things such as a simple speeding citation are forced to sit around all day waiting for their cases to be heard. The end result is a financial loss to the litigants as well as to the county. This problem could be easily rectified if cases of a certain type were heard on a particular day. Notably, a statute was put into place several years ago, which served to eliminate this very problem. This issue is one that can be easily resolved by the prosecutor working closer with the justice court personnel.

Lisa J. Chandler: The biggest issue facing our community is fear. The bad guys have intimidated witnesses for too long. This has eroded the people’s trust in the criminal justice system. Victims are not given enough information and protection. I will fight for higher bonds for criminals with guns. I will fight to help Adams County Sheriff’s Office fight the scourge of drugs. I will work with law enforcement and the judiciary to find alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders who can be rehabilitated, or deserve a shot at rehabilitation. This will help restore sanity and justice in Adams County and eradicate the fearful helplessness of victims and witnesses.

Carmen Brooks Drake: My greatest concern as county prosecutor is ensuring the safety of our community by instilling in them that following the law is not an option. I want our community to understand that law enforcement can only respond to a crime, but the people have the power to set standards for what they will and will not accept in their homes, on their streets, and in their neighborhoods. We all have to agree to work together to create a peaceful, thriving community that others will want to live in and invest in.

3. What do you think is the public’s biggest misconception about the Adams County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, and what would you do to address it?

Lydia Roberta Blackmon: I think the public’s biggest misconception about this office is that you will have to sit for hours on end to get something resolved when it should only take a few minutes. If elected, I would work with justice court personnel to help streamline case production and disposition. I would do this by the use of applicable Mississippi state statutes, rules and regulations.

Lisa J. Chandler: The misconception of this office is that the sole responsibility of the County Prosecuting Attorney is to obtain convictions. While the County Prosecutor is responsible for convictions, the other duty is to advocate for victims. My goal as the next Adams County Prosecuting Attorney is to seek justice and advocate for victims. I will assist victims with offering programs available for counseling and comfort as well as basics of what to expect when asking for assistance of the legal system to bring justice to the crime against them and their families and the role of the Adams County Justice Court.

Carmen Brooks Drake: I think that the public misunderstands the important role of the Adams County Prosecutor’s Office. As your county prosecutor, I have an early opportunity to advise law enforcement regarding the need for additional investigation or any other matter that will be helpful to the grand jury in felony cases. Another misconception is the authority of the county prosecutor to resolve matters through the use of lesser included offenses when justice so requires. This practice will allow the district attorney’s office to focus its valuable time and resources on cases, which should be presented to the grand jury. Finally, the community should know how much work is done behind the scenes by law enforcement, with the cooperation of the prosecutor and judges, to provide assistance to those in need.

4. What experience do you have that uniquely qualifies you for the Adams County Prosecuting Attorney position?

Lydia Roberta Blackmon: I have the honor of having previously been elected and having served as a County Prosecuting Attorney. I previously served as the Holmes County Prosecuting Attorney from 2008-2012. I would characterize my experience as a successful one in which significant positive changes were made in the justice court as a result of my efforts. Having successfully served as a county prosecuting attorney, I am confident that I can do it again, only this time with even more knowledge and experience.

Lisa J. Chandler: My 34-years of legal experience as well as the ability to communicate and work well with others, regardless of age, race or gender and a genuine concern for Adams County being a safe place uniquely qualifies me to be the next Adams County Prosecuting Attorney.

Carmen Brooks Drake: My previous experiences as a special assistant attorney general, municipal court judge, defense attorney, and Adams County Prosecutor have uniquely qualified and positioned me to continue in this office. My hard work and dedication have earned me the respect of the judges, prosecutors, law enforcement and most importantly, my clients. As your current county prosecutor, I am committed to representing the people of this community with zeal and commitment because I believe that, above all, everyone should respect the law.

5. If elected Adams County Prosecuting Attorney what would you do to ensure Adams County’s justice system is run smoothly and fairly?

Lydia Roberta Blackmon: I would work to ensure that the justice system here is run smoothly and fairly by treating everyone equally … according to the laws of the State of Mississippi and our state and federal constitutions. I would work to create and implement … programs that will provide an alternative to some of the programs … that are not currently working very well or not at all. For example, while not proposing that we eliminate fines, I propose that we find alternatives to collecting fines … — alternatives such as community service. Also, because I serve as a public defender in municipal court, I propose that the justice court adopt some of the things that have been working successfully in municipal court — … scheduling of hearings for certain offenses on certain days. Additionally, I propose that the prosecutor, as well as other personnel in justice court, continually obtain training in … skills, information, technology, relationships, cultures, etc.

Lisa J. Chandler: Teamwork and communication are key to a fair justice system. I will communicate with law enforcement, victims and defense attorneys to advocate a smooth and fair justice system. I will practice due diligence with each case before me so that the court’s time is not wasted and victims see justice in our legal system. I will strengthen the criminal justice system in Adams County by advocating for victims, protecting our community and practicing due diligence in our justice court.

Carmen Brooks Drake: The best thing that I can do to ensure that justice court runs smoothly is to be on time and prepared each and every Tuesday. I am available every day to law enforcement, attorneys and the court staff to handle any issue that may arise. Since I have been county prosecutor, I have made it my personal goal to treat everyone with courtesy and respect. And, I will not allow politics to interfere with my prosecutorial duties.