Election Day

Voters cast their ballots at Robious Elementary School in Chesterfield on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

Democrat Scott Miles is running for his first full term as Chesterfield County commonwealth’s attorney after winning a 2018 special election. He faces Republican Stacey Davenport, a prosecutor in the Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

Scott Miles Democrat

Chesterfield commonwealth’s attorney

Question: What are the top issues facing the commonwealth attorney’s office?

Answer: The larger community that we serve lacks confidence in the fairness of our criminal justice system. Community members have lived experiences, now corroborated by professional research and investigation, that demonstrate disparate treatment and outcomes based on poverty, ethnicity, disability and other features unrelated to public safety. Public confidence in the competence, integrity and good intentions of government at each level and in each branch is crucial to the healthy functioning of our democracy and is worth reclaiming.

As drug addiction harms individuals, families, communities and employers, it also fills our jails, clogs our courts and probation offices, and drains our budgets. The “War on Drugs” response to this phenomenon has compounded the damage, especially so with respect to disadvantaged communities. For decades, we’ve addressed a public health crisis as a criminal justice challenge, redoubling our enforcement and prosecutorial efforts such that we currently see more than 500 new felony drug possession cases in Chesterfield’s adult court system a year, in addition to the many probation violations from previous drug possession convictions triggered by ongoing drug use.

Untreated major mental illness is a preventable cause of crime, including the most serious violent offenses. At one point during the past year, my office had three pending murder cases and an aggravated malicious wounding, with a total of five victims between them, and the only issue in each case was the mental status of the perpetrator. Each of the four defendants carried a longstanding diagnosis of a major mental illness, had been previously hospitalized, and was non-compliant with treatment. In the history of each defendant, there were missed opportunities for intervention before he decompensated to the point of engaging in lethal violence.

Question: What should be done to address those issues?

Answer: This office should continue its recently adopted approach of acknowledging and mitigating obvious inequities in our justice system, including but not limited to reduction of the use of cash bail, simultaneous de-emphasis of marijuana prosecutions and advocacy for decriminalization of marijuana, de-emphasis of suspended license and habitual offender prosecutions of safe drivers, rehabilitation of first-offense shoplifters, and additional safeguards in our asset forfeiture proceedings. This office should continue its recently initiated community engagement effort to account for the public safety interests of all Chesterfield communities, including historically underrepresented constituencies.

This office should complete its pilot felony drug possession diversion program to provide an early pathway to professional treatment and recovery support services, and it should revise that program as needed to become the default approach to prosecuting overdose and “simple possession” cases. Our ultimate goal shouldn’t be to obtain felony convictions and jail sentences for those engaging in nonviolent and self-harming behavior. It should be to encourage, facilitate and incentivize recovery efforts so that these members of our community can regain their health, raise their children competently, hold jobs and maintain housing, thereby helping to carry our collective load instead of adding to it.

This office should support the establishment of a mental health docket in our courthouse to intervene in cases in which untreated mental illness has manifested itself in lower-level, nonviolent criminal behavior. This office should advocate for resources to supplement our current array of community-based mental health support services focusing on crisis intervention and treatment compliance monitoring.

Question: Why would you be the best candidate to address those issues?

Answer: During my more than two decades as a criminal justice practitioner in central Virginia, I’ve successfully prosecuted and defended the most challenging cases in our criminal justice system, and I’m proud to have earned a reputation within the legal community for competence, integrity, equanimity and hard work. I have the experience, skill set, leadership qualities and credibility to guide a 53-person organization that can handle the most serious and violent cases skillfully and also identify opportunities to make our justice system more equitable. I firmly believe that fairness in our courthouse enhances safety on our streets, and, over the past year of service, I’ve demonstrated my commitment to this principle through the implementation of policies designed to mitigate the effects of historical disparities, inequities and bias, thereby reclaiming public confidence in our justice system.

Stacey Davenport Republican

Domestic violence prosecutor, Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office

Question: What are the top issues facing the commonwealth attorney’s office?

Answer: Working effectively as a team with our police department, our sheriff and other leaders in our criminal justice system; ensuring the safety of our children and families by aggressively prosecuting defendants charged with domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking; evaluating each case individually to reach the best outcome for the victims, the defendant and the community, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all policy that disregards the unique facts of each case; and developing and supporting successful alternative programs, such as the sheriff’s award-winning HARP (Helping Addicts Recover Progressively) to help defendants and inmates turn their lives around and become productive citizens.

Question: What should be done to address those issues?

Answer: Under my leadership, the office will work cooperatively with our sheriff, our police chief and all other leaders in the criminal justice system and forgo the current “go-it-alone” approach advanced by my opponent.

I will continue to support and help strengthen our School Resource Officer program, allowing those serving as SROs to continue to mentor and protect our children.

My office will treat each case that comes before the court individually, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach that advances a political agenda and harms public safety. The office prosecutes all jailable offenses, but I will also ensure that the outcome of each case is appropriate considering the facts of the incident and the history of the defendant.

When criminal defendants need treatment or other assistance through programs to become productive citizens and make better choices, my office will support those options as part of the court process with judicial oversight to monitor progress and provide accountability.

To protect victims of domestic and child abuse, I will increase the use of evidence-based prosecution in cases where victims are unable or unwilling to appear in court and testify truthfully. I will also work with all first responders in the county to enhance their ability to assist prosecutors in having as much evidence as possible in these cases.

Question: Why would you be the best candidate to address those issues?

Answer: I am running for commonwealth’s attorney to ensure the safety of our community, rather than to pursue or promote a political agenda, and I will provide effective leadership for the office of the commonwealth’s attorney in Chesterfield. I have positive, collaborative relationships across the law enforcement community, which is why I have been endorsed by Sheriff Karl Leonard and the Chesterfield Fraternal Order of Police, and I understand the role of the prosecutor in our justice system. I will not issue any broad edicts on how prosecutors must do their job or force their hands on cases, and I will never put politics before community safety. Under my leadership, the prosecutors in the office will be allowed the freedom to effectively seek justice using their own sound judgment based on the facts of each individual case. I will also foster a sense of teamwork with criminal justice stakeholders by allowing all stakeholders to have input on changes affecting their areas of responsibility.

I have experience working on both sides of the criminal justice system. I’m the domestic violence prosecutor in the Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, and I also serve as an instructor at the Henrico County Police Academy and frequently teach at conferences on domestic violence, including serving as a member of the faculty for a specialized training for prosecutors across the state.

Currently, I prosecute domestic violence and child physical and sexual abuse cases; however, I have had experience prosecuting all crimes, from traffic violations to capital murder. I have also served as a defense attorney for over 10 years, which has provided me with a strong understanding of the roles abuse, neglect, addiction and mental health often play in the criminal justice system.

I understand that, while we must hold defendants accountable for their actions, we should absolutely offer services and support to those defendants who can be helped to become productive members of society. I strongly support the award-winning HARP program Sheriff Leonard has in our county jail, and I will work cooperatively with him and others in the criminal justice system to support and build upon this program. It takes a team effort, not a go-it-alone approach.

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