What inspired you to switch from being a prosecutor to a defense attorney?

“I guess sometimes when there are just so many cases, and at the time there was pressure to just move them through, it’s easy to get burned out. Maybe that’s where I was. I think I had just had my second child and I had the desire to go out and be my own boss, have my own business…. In 1995, a good friend of my mine was going out on his own, he approached me and it seemed like a good idea at the time…. There was more emphasis on plea bargaining the cases rather than having trials just to get the numbers down… Then I became a defense attorney and I found that very challenging… When a client comes in and says thank you for fighting for me, thank you for caring about me, (it) means everything to me.”

Why are you running for DA?

“When I first started at the DA’s office I was single with no children. Now, 30 years later, I have gray hair, I’m a husband, father, grandfather, and I feel it is time to make a change again. I do recall the satisfaction of being an advocate for the victims of crime and being able to take a child who has no voice, is intimidated… has a difficult time articulating a traumatic experience… so working with them, gaining their trust, spending a lot of time with them and then if that’s successful and leads to a successful prosecution is one of the more gratifying things professionally… I would like to get back into being an advocate for the victims of crime coupled with a deep frustration I have right now with the district attorney’s office. I feel like the system is broken and I feel like nothing is being done.”

If elected, what do you want to change?

» Wants to speed up the time it takes for a case to be resolved. He believes no one should wait four and a half years for a trial or to have their case resolved because it costs taxpayers money and it delays the victims’ closure.

“I don’t want any of our assistant DAs to take this as criticism. I’ve been an attorney in district court. I know how crazy it gets….”

» Would like to have a second DA whose only job is to identify the oldest DWI cases and have them tried to reduce the backlog.

» For those charged with a drug offense for the first time, he wants to get them in a treatment program while they wait for trial so they don’t reoffend or commit a more serious crime. Believes these people need their substance abuse issues addressed immediately, not two years later at the day of their trial, plea bargain or guilty plea.  

What is your opinion on plea bargains?

» Believes the jury trials should be reserved for the most serious cases like murder, rapes, armed robberies, habitual felons, etc., which all require mandatory prison sentences and wants those cases to be priority, since the DA's office can only try around 60 cases a year.

“Making a campaign promise that we’re going to try every single case is just impractical, it doesn’t work. It is a pipe dream.”

You’ve been very critical about how the DA’s office handled the Maggie Daniels case. Do you still believe that case should’ve gone to trial?

» Said he is not the most objective since he knew Maggie and she taught his children.

“I don’t take the death penalty lightly. I don’t think it is appropriate for every murder case. It’s reserved for the worst of the worst and I thought that was the worst of the worst. Maybe that’s a combination of my personal involvement coupled with the horrific story of what happened. But in any event, even though I am not in favor of the death penalty for most cases for a lot of reasons, that was one I applauded the district attorney’s office for seeking the death penalty. Then to find out, I call that a soft plea bargain, even though it was life in prison… that is one of the cases he is going in front of a jury and a jury is going to decide if he lives or dies. The reason I’ve tempered my response to that is because I was personally involved, and you don’t like to second guess what a district attorney may know. I haven’t been as strong as maybe I was back then…”

Who’s had the most influence in your professional life?

“I want to say my wife Beth in my personal life. I’m the luckiest person in the world that we came together and what confidence she’s showed in me… As far as my professional life, there’s a lot of people… I’d say Gene Sigmon is one. He’s an attorney. I used to think it malpractice if before any jury trial I did not to go to him, give him the facts of the case and hear what his thoughts were on what my opening statements should be… I used to play golf way too much, almost every day and he came to me and said, ‘You know, there is a direct correlation between the better your golf score, the worse your law practice.’ … That really said a lot to me. So I always considered him a mentor. Other people in my professional life… there are a number of people who’ve helped me, saw promise in me, encouraged me… Bob Thomas was my first boss. He saw promise in me. He was a wonderful boss….”

What three words would you want on your tombstone?

Family, Compassionate, Friend

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Jordan Hensley is the court reporter at the Hickory Daily Record. ​

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