By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on May 10, 2021
First Judicial District DA Andrew Womble has rejected a request from attorneys for the family of Andrew Brown Jr. to recuse himself from involvement in the case because of what they say are conflicts of interest.
On April 21, Brown was shot and killed in Elizabeth City by Pasquotank County Sheriff Deputies who were attempting to serve a felony drug arrest warrant. While a separate FBI federal civil rights investigation into the shooting has been launched, it is the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) that is tasked with investigating the case and presenting the evidence to Womble, who will make the charging decision.
The May 5 letter addressed to Womble and signed by Brown attorneys Bakari Sellers, Ben Crump, Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, Wayne Kendall and Harry Daniels stated that, “it has become apparent that a conflict has arisen that precludes your office from investigating and prosecuting this case without inherent bias.”
Outlining the conflict as the working relationship the district attorney has developed with those being investigated in the case, the letter added that, “You and your office not only work with Sheriff Wooten and his deputies daily, your office physically resides in the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s department.”
In response, Womble pointed to a statement he released on April 27, the same day that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper had called for the appointment of a special prosecutor in the Brown case “in the interest of justice and confidence in the judicial system.”
The Womble statement said that, “The duties of the District Attorney are statutorily spelled out in NCGS 7A-61 and they include but are not limited to charging decisions regarding potential criminal conduct within the prosecutorial district. I stand ready willing and able to fulfill my statutory obligations and well as my Oath of Office for the people of the First Judicial District.”
Meanwhile, Tuesday May 11 may well be a significant day in the unfolding case as Brown family members are expected to see edited excerpts of the body camera footage from the shooting. Prior to this, the family had only been allowed to view 20 seconds of video from the incident.
An order filed on May 6 by North Carolina Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Foster stated that of the roughly two hours of footage captured on five deputies’ body cameras, the family will be able to see about 19 minutes. The judge said that the portions of the video being withheld “are found not to contain images of the deceased, and thus are not appropriate for disclosure at this time.”
Late last month, Foster denied a request by a consortium of media outlets to publicly release the body cam footage, choosing to delay any release for anywhere from 30 to 45 days so that the investigation into the shooting by the SBI could be completed.