DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – While the homicide rate may be up in Durham, murder and manslaughter convictions were up in 2021, according to the district attorney’s annual report.
According to the report, the Durham County District Attorney’s Office secured 19 murder and manslaughter convictions in 2021, which is up from the nine convictions in 2020.
Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry said that COVID-19 was to blame for the drop in convictions in 2020.
“Unfortunately, 2020 was a pandemic year,” Deberry said. “We didn’t have any trials, so we weren’t able to try any of those cases.”
She said in superior court they have a slight backlog, but she said it’s about the state’s average.
Deberry said her office has been busy prosecuting not just violent crime cases, but sexual assaults, some that are cold cases
When it comes to prosecuting the murders and shootings cases, Deberry said they need witnesses to come forward.
“The best evidence is an eyewitness,” Deberry said. “Often there is an eyewitness, often there is more than one eyewitness.”
Some folks in the Durham community who have had loved ones fall victim to gun violence, have told CBS 17 they have concerns about suspects who have been arrested for gun-related crimes bonding out of jail and then turning around and committing other crimes.
Gerald Robinson’s 17-year-old grandson was shot at McDougald Terrace on Sunday afternoon. Robinson said he has concerns about those arrested for gun-related crimes bonding out too easily in Durham.
“The people who are going to jail, are coming right back out and doing worse things,” Robinson said. “We have to do better.”
CBS 17 asked Deberry about the concerns from residents.
“I would say that is a question for the judges,” Deberry said. “The DA’s office does not set bonds. We advocate for a bond in every case where there has been violence, and the constitution requires a bond.”
CBS 17 reached out to some of the judges in Durham County for a comment on how they determine bonds, but we are still waiting to hear back.
Deberry’s office did add that they have sought to hold people without bonds under those limited circumstances allowed by law.
When it comes to addressing the problem of gun violence, Deberry said it is going to take the whole community to make sure those who are most at risk of committing the crimes are given educational and employment opportunities, so they do not turn to the streets.
“We can’t prosecute our way out of this,” Deberry said. “We can’t arrest our way out of it, it is a whole community effort.”
On Thursday afternoon, a Stop Killing Us organization held an event with community activists from Durham and Charlotte at the Friendship Fellowship Outreach Ministries on Holloway Street in Durham.
This comes as there were almost 50 homicides in Durham in 2021 and half of those homicides remain unsolved.
Reverend Curtis Gatewood, the founder of the Stop Killing Us organization, asked “where are the churches at,” as he said they are calling on ministries in Durham to do more to help address the gun violence problem.
“We have mothers who are weeping,” Gatewood said. “We gather today and call for church action.”
To see the Durham County District Attorney’s full 2021 Annual Report, click on the following link.