When Peter Gilchrist retires next year after 36 years as district attorney in Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County, his successor faces a daunting task: bolstering public confidence in a justice system many believe is broken, the Charlotte Observer reports. The new DA will inherit the state’s largest prosecutor’s office – one that has come under increasing criticism from citizens and Charlotte’s police chief over dismissals of felony cases.
Filing for the job begins in February. Last year Mecklenburg prosecutors dismissed nearly 5,500 felonies – more than prosecutors in any other urban county. Even Gilchrist has acknowledged his office dismisses too many cases. Gilchrist, 70, is North Carolina’s longest-serving elected district attorney. Even his supporters, however, say a new DA might find ways to improve efficiency. “They could speed up the time from arrest to trial,” says defense lawyer George Laughrun, whose law partner is running to succeed Gilchrist. “Defendants are just sitting in jail waiting. Imagine how frustrating that is for victims.”