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Candidate Profiles: District Attorney

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FORREST ALLGOOD

How long have you lived in your district?
All my life, with 7 years subtracted for the time I spent in college.

What qualifications and experience do you feel you possess that would benefit the office you are seeking?
I have been a prosecutor for my entire career starting as an ADA in July of 1978 fresh out of law school. I have been prosecuting felonies in Circuit Court for 37 years. I may not know all the answers, but at least I know all the questions; and I certainly know how to try a case. There’s no way to know, but I suspect I have tried more jury trials than anybody else in the State.

What do you see as the most important aspects or considerations of the office you are seeking?
Experience is huge. I once hired an Assistant who told me after his first day that there were more ways to screw up in this job than he had ever imagined. I knew then I had a good hire. This is a hyper-technical area of the law. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you will lose cases on technicalities and in the courtroom; thus being put in the position of having to bend to the defendant’s will. They won’t plead if you can’t convict them. One’s philosophy of Criminal Justice is also big. You can be the best lawyer in the world, but that won’t do the victim or the community any good if your sympathies lie with the defendant. My sympathy is firmly on the side of the victim. It always has been.

In your view, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the area in which you’ll be representing?
For the most part, we have good law enforcement in this area. That is a big plus. Additionally, local economic conditions are improving which, hopefully, will result in more jobs. Less idle hands would be a good thing.

What growth or improvements in the area do you hope to see in the next 5 years?
I mentioned this at the end of the last answer; but it’s important to remember it’s all part of a whole. If the crime rate goes up, there will be no new industries moving into the area and we’ll lose what we have. Likewise, rising crime is going to impact education. If the schools are crime ridden and swamped in drugs, no one is going to want to move here; and no one in the school system will be getting a quality education.

 


 

SCOTT COLOM

How long have you lived in your district?
I have lived in the district most of my life. I was born and raised in Columbus. I went to college at Millsaps in Jackson from 2001 until 2005. After college, I taught for a year in Guyana, South America. I then went to law school at the University of Wisconsin where I graduated cum laude and received a Skadden fellowship to work for the Mississippi Center for Justice. I’ve lived and practiced law in Columbus since 2010. More information about my background can be found on my website at www.colomforda.org

What qualifications and experience do you feel you possess that would benefit the office you are seeking?
Since I’ve graduated from law school, I’ve served as interim justice court judge in Lowndes County. I’ve served as municipal court judge in Aberdeen. In 2013, I was appointed city prosecutor for the city of Columbus. During this time, I’ve also successfully tried several cases to jury and on appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

What do you see as the most important aspects or considerations of the office you are seeking?
There are three important aspects to the job of a District Attorney. First, the District Attorney must make sure he or she does not prosecute innocent people. Therefore, at every stage of the prosecution, my office will investigate whether we have enough evidence to believe that a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Before presenting an indictment to a grand jury, my office will work with the police to make sure unjustified charges are not brought against people, which cost tax payers piles of money and clogs up the system. After indictment, my office will not ignore exculpatory evidence and will constantly evaluate whether the evidence points to guilt. My office will never ask a jury to convict a person beyond a reasonable doubt if we don’t believe we have the evidence to prove it.

Second, the District Attorney must successfully and efficiently prosecutes crimes. This requires the District Attorney to follow all the procedural requirements of the law, such as the rules of evidence. For instance, when a District Attorney presents scientific evidence to the jury, he or she must make sure the expert’s testimony is based on reliable and dependable scientific methods. Otherwise, not only does the prosecutor risk prosecuting an innocent person, the failure to use reliable and dependable methods may be a basis for the conviction to be reversed on appeal. This costs thousands of additional tax dollars. Indeed, whenever a prosecutor does not follow the procedural rules, the Mississippi Supreme Court may reverse the conviction and require the taxpayers to foot the bill for another prosecution.

Third, the District Attorney must make responsible recommendations on sentencing. The overwhelming majority of criminal defendants are convicted based on guilty pleas, rather than by trial. The prosecution, on behalf of the state, can recommend to the judge what sentence a criminal defendant should receive for his or her crime. The District Attorney can also recommend alternatives to incarceration, such as pre-trial diversion and drug courts. On sentencing my first priority will be restitution and resolution for the victim. My second priority will be maintaining public safety, especially from violent crime.

Nonetheless, I will also consider the rehabilitation of the defendant. For example, as District Attorney, when appropriate and after careful review, I will consider rehabilitation for non-violent drug offenders, especially young first time offenders. This rehabilitation will include strong monitoring and drug testing by our Circuit Court Judges through the Drug Court in our District.

In your view, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the area in which you’ll be representing?

I’m seeking to be District Attorney for Lowndes, Noxubee, Clay and Oktibbeha counties. In the context of my race for District Attorney, I assume you would like to know my opinion about the strengths and weakness for the area when it comes to crime and punishment.

The best way for me to answer that question is to say I believe that we should prioritize our criminal justice system. Violent crime is the biggest public safety threat to our families and communities. This area will not grow economically or socially if we do not send a strong signal to people that we will not tolerate violent crimes. As District Attorney, I will set up a Violent Crime Unit that will have at least two attorneys focused on successfully prosecuting violent crimes such as Murder, Rape, Sexual Assault, Armed Robbery, Domestic Violence, and Property Crimes. This unit will make sure these crimes receive first priority on the criminal docket and, as much as possible, are prosecuting within two years. This gives victims much needed resolution and sends a clear message to criminals that if you commit violence in our communities sending you to jail will be my office’s 1st priority.

What growth or improvements in the area do you hope to see in the next 5 years?
I’ve discussed several of the improvements I would like to make to our criminal justice system in this area. Additionally, I will build safer communities by working to prevent crime. The best way to stop crime is before it happens and technology has made it easier than ever to analyze crime data and track criminal behavior. My office will work with law enforcement to make sure they have the technology to analyze crime trends and the tools to prevent crime as much as possible.  This type of collaboration will be the hallmark of my administration because I know the best way to make our communities safer is for all the law enforcement agencies to be working together.

Finally, I will modernize the District Attorney’s office. In the 21st Century, so much of our communication and outreach is done online and through social media. Because of this, one of my first steps as District Attorney will be to create a website and social media site that gives the public the ability to quickly communicate with my office and to easily obtain information about what my office is doing to make our communities safer.