ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WNCN) – People in the streets are calling for a special prosecutor after Andrew Brown Jr. was shot and killed by a deputy more than a week ago. The NAACP and Gov. Roy Cooper have echoed those calls, too.
“What you don’t want to happen is get halfway through a trial and then find out that, for some reason, a local prosecutor has a conflict with some witness that you don’t even know about yet in the case and you have to go back and redo it,” said attorney Don Vaughan.
Vaughan teaches a course on this very issue at Wake Forest School of Law.
Like most states, North Carolina requires that the local district attorney make the request for a special prosecutor. No one has the authority to appoint one without that.
“They would make the request, the governor would back it up and then the attorney general’s office would accept that request for a special prosecutor,” Vaughan said.
Aside from avoiding possible bias or conflict, the North Carolina General Assembly provides funding for special prosecutors. That takes the burden of costs off the local district attorney’s office, as many across the state are cash strapped when it comes to a case this big.
Attorney General Josh Stein said he has reached out to Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble to offer assistance and that Womble’s office acknowledges that. So far, there is no request for that assistance from Womble.
Vaughan said the earlier the better at helping avoid a mistrial if any deputy is charged.
“I think now is the time to do it, and the sooner the better. You have special prosecutors on the ground and you avoid any conflicts in the discovery process right now,” Vaughan said.