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Gambril: Criticism unfounded

Greg Gambril, a Democrat, is seeking election to a second term as district attorney. Prior to his election six years ago, he was an assistant district attorney.

It is apparent from arrest reports that there is a drug problem in Covington County. In your current administration, your response was to start a Drug Court. Is it an effective and cost efficient tool?

Gambril: Covington County, like every community in the nation, has had a drug problem for decades. As a prosecutor since 1992, Drug Court is the latest of several alternative approaches I’ve pursued to combat this problem.

For instance, in 2002, I led the DA’s Office towards initially using long-term faith-based drug rehabilitation programs, which have proven to be the only effective way to rehabilitate an addict. Working with the state’s district attorneys, I successfully pursued legislation that drastically reduced the amount of meth being manufactured in our state. Also, as a member of the Zerometh Executive Committee, I helped develop this nationally acclaimed awareness program and have presented it to our high school youth for over two years now. Additionally, I have received national attention for the prosecutions I’ve pursued against mothers who give birth to babies who test positive for drugs.

Drug Court began here in July 2009, so it’s too early to judge its effectiveness as it takes one to two years for an individual to complete the program. Regardless, drug courts are overwhelmingly successful nationwide in helping low-risk addicts become drug free. Further, a law enacted last spring now requires a drug court in every judicial circuit. Because we started in advance of the mandatory law, our Drug Court was able to obtain start up funds of $50,000 and, most recently, a federal grant in the amount of $250,000. These are competitive grants that several circuits who moved slower than us won’t be able to obtain.

Many members of the law enforcement community have openly supported your opponent. Will their actions affect your ability to work with them if you are re-elected?

Gambril: No, especially since a large number of police support me, though more professionally and appropriately.

You have been criticized for settling too many drug cases with plea agreements. Has this public criticism caused you to rethink how you dispose of cases, and what if anything would you do differently in a second term?

Gambril: Any so-called criticism is misguided and uninformed. According to the Administrative Office of Courts, my office, over the last few years, has taken more cases to trial, per capita, than nearly every other jurisdiction in Alabama. Additionally, most drug cases settled by plea agreement received the input and approval of the Drug Task Force, underwent judicial scrutiny and received the Court’s approval. Simultaneously, the DA must always consider the size of the docket backlog and the need to get cases involving crime victims to trial faster. I’ve focused on settling cases quickly after arrest, rather than waiting until a case is put on the trial docket years later. In fact, there have been several grand jury terms where more cases have been settled than indicted. This is sound docket management, which is something I pledged to do when I took office.

Why are you a better choice for this office than your opponent?

Gambril: I am a battle tested and proven career prosecutor.

Since 1992, I’ve “prosecuted” (handled a criminal prosecution at any stage) and successfully “tried” (took the case to trial) every major type of felony.

Shortly after being elected in 2005, I became the first Covington County DA to try a capital murder in over 30 years. I have since obtained guilty verdicts in three other capital murder trials that lasted, collectively, 12 weeks. As opposed to drug crimes, capital cases take months to prepare, yet, in my first three years in office, I overcame the most intense of trial challenges and still effectively managed to run the DA’s Office solely due to the years of prosecutorial experience I had before being elected. I have since received two state DA of the Year Awards (2007 and 2009).

Obviously, experience is essential for the elected DA. With five murder cases and over 50 sexual abuse cases pending, now is not the time for on the job training. Serving the crime victims of our county is what I’ve dedicated my life to and, with God’s blessing, it’s all I will ever do.