District Attorney’s office seeks justice under Glenn Funk

[l-r]: Jomilla Newsome, PRIDE managing editor; Rebecca Miller Warfield, Assistant D.A.; Glenn Funk, District Attorney; Amy Hunter, Assistant D.A.; Meekahl Davis, PRIDE publisher. Photo by Cass Teague

[l-r]: Jomilla Newsome, PRIDE managing editor; Rebecca Miller Warfield, Assistant D.A.; Glenn Funk, District Attorney; Amy Hunter, Assistant D.A.; Meekahl Davis, PRIDE publisher. Photo by Cass Teague

The PRIDE paid a visit to the offices of Metro Nashville District Attorney on Wednesday, May 20. The D.A., Glenn Funk, along with several of his office staff welcomed PRIDE publisher Meekahl Davis, PRIDE managing editor Jomilla Newsome, and PRIDE senior correspondent Cass Teague for an hour to talk about the exciting new initiatives the office has put forth in Funk’s first year to date. Joining the conversation were assistant D.A.’s Rebecca Miller Warfield and Amy Hunter, along with investigator Norris Tarkington. In April, the PRIDE shared Funk’s commitments to diversifying the office, and last month we reported on his domestic violence programs.

The conversation ranged from D.W.B. to sex crimes to drug offenses, among other topics. “Statutes that are facially race-neutral are not really race-neutral in the way they are applied,” Funk said. One way that we get ahead of that is to recognize such things as “the lower level drug crimes are really about health as opposed to crime.”

Possibly the most poignant moment was when Amy Hunter said: “When we’re appointed by Glenn to be assistant D.A.s, we have to raise our hands and take an oath. And the oath is not to put people in jail, it’s not to prosecute people, the oath we that take is to see that justice is done. We really do our best every single day, on the front lines and sometimes behind the scenes, to really see that justice is done, and with a lot of the things that Glenn has implemented, it’s given us the tools to be able to see that justice is done, and not just convictions won.”

Here’s one example of how Glenn Funk’s new policies have helped provide justice through simple common sense. The Driving on a Revoked License law provides up to 11 months, 29 days in jail just for driving without a license. Funk decided that people shouldn’t spend time in jail just for not having a license.

“Driving on a revoked license is really a crime of poverty,” Funk said. “People out in Belle Meade aren’t running around with a revoked license because they can’t pay the reinstatement fee.” Looking at an average of fines running 300 – 400, plus a reinstatement fee of $165 on top of that, it’s really problematic for the working poor, people working on a minimum wage job.

Funk looked at how many man-days were spent in jail for driving on revoked licenses. The criminal justice information systems showed that from January 1 – April 28, 2014, people spent almost 6,000 man-days in jail. “This year it was roughly 1,100 ; so just over 4,800 less days in jail, for just for drivers licenses, saves the county at $100 per day $480,000. It kept people with their families, it kept them able to get their drivers licenses, and working and providing for their families, and paying taxes and paying payroll taxes. That’s just a simple common sense fairness situation where I think we’ve made a huge impact.”

Rebecca Miller-Warfield shared how important being sensitive to the individual’s circumstances is to find justice, rather than getting a deal done. A young man’s life might have been ruined if she hadn’t taken the time to look into the case, and see that a college-educated young man would suffer from an unwarranted conviction.

“I wish more people knew that we are not really out to get people,” Hunter said. “We’re prosecuting cases that the police bring to us, and we’re taking our oath as seriously as we can in being as just as we can to everybody in the dispositions and the offers that we make.”