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Saacks Opens New Chapter for Durham DA's Office

Posted September 7, 2007
Updated September 8, 2007

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— A crowd of family, friends and district attorney's office staff erupted into applause after longtime prosecutor David Saacks took the oath as Durham County's new district attorney Friday, bringing to a close more than a year of scrutiny of the position under Mike Nifong.

"I am here to serve to keep this courthouse running, to keep this office running and to keep doing what we do," Saacks said Friday.

"I don't have an agenda," he added. I don't have a mandate. I don't have anything of that nature."

Gov. Mike Easley appointed the 15-year veteran prosecutor to the post Thursday after more than two months of speculation about who would take the helm and help restore public confidence to the office after Nifong's mishandling of the now-discredited Duke lacrosse case.

"What I think we need to do is what we're doing already," Saacks said. "I want us to do our job and do the right thing in each and every case. If that happens, the community will be with us, because that's who we're working for."

The Duke lacrosse case, he said, was one of approximately 60,000 handled over the past year. That one, he said, should not define the office or the head prosecutor position.

"We didn't just have that one victim, we have victims – thousands of victims – and thousands of cases that we need to deal with," he said. "And as we deal with each one of those the right way, I think we will be just fine with the community."

Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin, who served as interim district attorney for more than two months, was also reinstated Friday to his former position.

Easley asked Hardin in June to move into an interim position to review the district attorney's office, its personnel and its practices after Nifong, who began serving a one-day jail sentence Friday, was disbarred and subsequently suspended from the prosecutor's office.

Hardin applauded the staff members Friday, calling them "absolutely and consistently dedicated" to representing the Durham community . He said the office was run "very, very well for the last year and a half under extremely adverse conditions."

"When I came in, I didn't know exactly what I was going to find," he said. "I assumed, wrongly, thank goodness, it was going to be chaotic, the policies were going to be disjointed, there would be no real leadership running the organization. And thankfully, and to my surprise and to the benefit of Durham, that was not true."

Hardin said the staff assumed "great courage" in how they were running the office and that Easley made an "exceptional decision" in asking Saacks to serve as district attorney.

"He, in my opinion, is the quintessential professional. He's very smart, he's very hardworking. He has an even temper," Hardin said. "He gets along well with everyone that he deals with and he has a way of empathizing and sympathizing with folks that need that."

Saacks will serve as district attorney until 2008 when a new district attorney will be elected. Although he is currently ineligible to run for the office (he lives in Cary), he said he has no intention to do so.

"I put myself in a position to be doing this, at this point," he said. "This isn't my passion or my love, but I can do it. And I'm willing to do it to help out and get us through this time – to be a bridge, so to speak – until someone else who is elected comes over and takes over."

"I would just soon be in the courtroom dealing the cases, dealing with the law, dealing with the judges and dealing with my evidence. But I will do this until that time comes again."


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  • Nancy Sep 9, 2007

    "What a bunch of negative comments aimed at Saacks. Where would the case have been if the second private DNA screening had never been ordered? Nifong might still be DA."

    No, he was disbarred for much less than hiding evidence (part of the second round of DNA). Once disbarred, he could no longer keep his office as DA.

  • hp277 Sep 7, 2007

    ^ Well said, Durham-Raleigh.

  • Durham-Raleigh Sep 7, 2007

    The only thing more aggravating than most lacrosse babbling is uninformed lacrosse babbling.

    1) "Slow down spending on welfare services." In all N.C. counties that I'm aware of, the County -- and not the City -- runs and pays for social services, with some subsidy from the state/Feds. Please note the City is being sued here.

    2) The D.A. is an elected official reporting to the state. Not the City -- not the County. The threatened suit is against the City over the actions of DPD, which reports to the City.

    3) Regarding a topic that came up in another article: Nifong received less than 50% of the vote last fall. Steve Monks ran as a spoiler candidate against Nifong and Lewis Cheek (Cheejk ran as an anti-Nifong.) Add their two votes, Nifong'd been out of town.

    4) How much do you want to bet that many of the ppl. here who thought $20k/year was too much for a prisoner falsely incarcerated for years, think $10m is just right for the MEN (not boys) in this case? Settlement yes, $10m no.

  • Weetie Sep 7, 2007

    Maybe Durham has a chance after all! :)

  • then who cares Sep 7, 2007

    The only reason for the second dna test was grasping at straws hoping to find something they could use against them but it backfired!!! To me that was a slap in the face to the SBI lab. It shows how loose the control of money is there in Durham! But this time it worked to the advantage of the innocent so it was money well wasted!! Why didn't they call for a special election??

  • lgboro Sep 7, 2007

    Weasly should have gone to WalMart and made the 100th person through the door Durham DA. At least we wouldn't end up with another creditable Demoncratic Weasly appointee. A person from inside a corrupt department---good choice!

  • oneday8035 Sep 7, 2007

    If the second DNA screening had not been done three INNOCENT people would have been in jail. I don't think that Saacks is a bad guy but no one thought that Nifong was either. However, let's give they guy a chance. My husband worked with him when he was on the Durham PD for many years and says that he is not a bad guy and my husband called the Nifong fiasco from the beginning so he must know a little more than I do about these guys.

  • hp277 Sep 7, 2007

    What a bunch of negative comments aimed at Saacks. Where would the case have been if the second private DNA screening had never been ordered? Nifong might still be DA.

  • moi_oc Sep 7, 2007

    TH - you are correct sir - comparing him and finding him wanting.

    I hate hippies: really don't have anything to say, but I hate 'em too! ;^)

  • I Hate Hippies Sep 7, 2007

    another crook in office in Durham

    in other news, kids like candy and the sky is blue today