Issue of repeat offenders to dominate Meck. DA race

By Molly Grantham - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Two words for you: Repeat offender.

Based on issues brewing about the justice system over the past two years, repeat offenders are bound to be one of the major concerns in this year's Mecklenburg County District Attorney's race.

Candidates can't officially file to run until February 8th.

Many of your neighbors say this is now the time to start caring, and have this election on your radar.

"What we need to do is make life for these criminals in this country so miserable that either they stop being criminals or they move somewhere else," said Jim Olenik, a south Charlotte resident.

Olenik is a member of CharMeck Court Watch, an organization founded in October of 2008 by neighbors who say they were fed up with watching criminals get slaps on wrists.  Court Watch's mission is really pretty simple: hold Mecklenburg County's justice system accountable and keep repeat offenders in jail.

"I feel like we have a lot of Assistant District Attorney's who are fighting for the people, but it starts with the leadership and filters down," said Jackie Philemon one of the co-founders of Court Watch.  "I think a lot of them have lost hope and focus and are frustrated with the amount of work and lack of technology and resources.  We sit in court hearings.  We show up to try and hold people accountable.  The more you sit there and the more you see, the more frustrated you get as a citizen."

In the past, current Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist has tried to make the distinction to the public between what's needed to make a lawful arrest, and what's needed to get a guilty verdict.  He has pointed out arrests are made on "probably cause", and convictions in courts require a finding of "beyond a reasonable doubt".

So far, Democrat Michael Barnes, a city councilman, and Republican Andrew Murray, a Charlotte attorney, say they are both going to run for District Attorney.  Former FBI agent Chris Swecker says he is considering a run, but has yet to decide if he will.

All candidates must file by February 26th.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  You can watch Molly's story by clicking under the Video Gallery above.  We have also posted Molly's entire unedited interview with the group CharMeck Court Watch.

After the story aired on WBTV News, WBT Radio Host Keith Larson invited Molly and two of the people she interviewed to appear on his show on Friday, Jan. 29th.  Jackie and Marcus Philemon are founders of CharMeck Court Watch.  They are volunteers who say they are trying to hold the justice system accountable and keep repeat offenders in jail.  We have also posted the WBT interview under the Video Gallery on this page.