Candidates for the Hinds County District Attorney's office spoke at a Jackson 2000 forum at Schimmel's last week, taking questions from audience members.
Incumbent Faye Peterson is defending her office from Michele Purvis and Robert Smith. Purvis said she wants the DA's office to work better with local law enforcement, collect more money from civil forfeiture prosecution and provide more training to assistant DAs leading up to court cases.
Smith said he intends to increase the prosecution rate and foster a better relationship with police and the sheriff's office.
Peterson defended her record, citing a dramatic decrease in the case backlog since she came aboard, explained that state law limits her office's access to seizure money, and added that her office works incessantly with local law enforcement in prosecuting cases.
The challengers took special interest in denying that they were puppets of Mayor Frank Melton. Purvis blamed Peterson for attempting to change the subject from the issue of prosecution. "The mayor did not ask me to run. I am nobody's puppet. I make my own decisions, and I will continue to make my own decisions, and I think that it is wrong for the media to even address an issue of this nature when there's absolutely no proof other than someone making a statement," Purvis said.
Smith said former DA Ed Peters convinced him to run two years ago, "before the mayor was in office." Peters is a long-time friend of Melton, Councilman Frank Bluntson and attorney Dale Danks. He helped negotiate a plea deal for the mayor after his felony arrest last fall. The plea deal fell through.
"The question that anybody can make you do the job is a little bit overboard. No one can make you do the job," Smith said, adding that he represented Melton's bodyguard only because the case was defensible, not due to any allegiance with the mayor.
Peterson said she had addressed the rumor that her challengers had allegiances to the mayor after being asked by a reporter. "I was asked a question and gave my opinion. I'm not even concerned with their reasons for running for district attorney," Peterson said.