Editor’s note: The League of Women Voters-East Central Mississippi posed the following question to Michael Grace and Kassie Coleman, candidates for district attorney for the 10th Circuit Court. Grace, a Democrat, will face Coleman, a Republican, in the Nov. 5 general election.
What do you see as the most pressing issue impacting District 10? What job and life experiences, skills, and values would you draw upon to effect change on this issue?
Kassie Coleman: Community must work together to find solutions
When I became district attorney nearly a year ago, I believed the most pressing issue was applying the available resources in the manner that most effectively and efficiently protected our families. Unfortunately, while I still believe that to be important, the most pressing issue today is division within our community.
Division comes in many forms race, religion, politics, socioeconomic status and within our criminal justice system. Victims believe our justice system is broken because those who commit heinous crimes are not punished harshly enough or quickly enough. Defendants believe they are charged and convicted based on insufficient proof and sentenced unjustly.
My desire to protect the innocent led me to law school. Being a prosecutor is more than a job to me, it is a calling. I have spent my professional career fighting for victims and working with law enforcement officers who serve and protect our families. I have fought for crime victims in every possible area—in the courtroom, through legislative change, and through partnership with community organizations.
I’ve experienced victorious days as a prosecutor including a jury verdict of “Guilty” against parents who sexually abused their own children; watching foster parents finalize the adoption of those same precious children; and watching drug court participants regain custody of their children.
But not all days end victoriously. Some days witnesses refuse to cooperate, or evidence is deemed inadmissible.
My record as a prosecutor demonstrates my commitment to do everything within my power to protect our families. Law enforcement will attest that I support them and hold them accountable. Having always worked on behalf of victims, I understand their frustrations with the system—Defendants often seem to have all the rights when our loved ones are victimized. Ironically, often those accused of committing crimes usually report the opposite view.
After nearly twenty years of working in a prosecutor’s office, I recognize people’s perspective of our criminal justice system is often based on whether they are the accused or the victim. It’s impossible to justify waiting more than a year for an autopsy report. That old adage, “justice delayed is justice denied” is true for both the defendant who sits in jail awaiting indictment and trial, and the family who waits for a murderer to be held accountable.
The most pressing issue in our community is the need for us to come together to work for solutions instead of adding to the division and conflict that tears us apart. As your District Attorney, my ethical obligation is to seek the truth, not to obtain the most convictions or the lengthiest sentences.
I must work towards a just outcome in each case through prosecutions based on admissible evidence, not speculation.
I cannot be swayed by the opinions of those who would attempt to judge without fully knowing the facts or understanding the law.
I am the only candidate with the experience and integrity necessary to serve as your district attorney. I will follow the law and hold others accountable to do the same. I am committed to seeking justice for all.
We must pray for the strength to forgive, move forward, and work together for solutions. I am asking my supporters to take the first step. Please support without attacking. Pray, and God will heal our community. We must trust and follow Him.