WRAL Investigates: Cumberland County Below State Average In DWI Convictions
Posted November 17, 2003 5:36 a.m. EST
CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — Cumberland County has historically lagged behind the rest of North Carolina when it comes to convicting drunken drivers. Years ago, the district attorney focused his attention on dismissed DWI cases, but instead of getting better, the conviction rate got worse.
Over the past year, highway patrol troopers and local officers arrested more than 86,000 suspected drunken drivers in North Carolina. Statistics from the Administrative Office of the Courts show 54 percent of those people were convicted of driving while impaired. Conviction rates in Wake and Durham counties were slightly higher at 59 percent while Cumberland County trailed well behind at just 32 percent.
"It is disappointing and it does concern us," said Sgt. Everett Clendenin, of the N.C. Highway Patrol.
By examining Highway Patrol statistics, the disparity is even more glaring. Statewide, troopers' drunken driving arrests resulted in convictions 65 percent of the time. Accused drunken drivers in Wake and Durham counties were found guilty more than 70 percent of the time, but in Cumberland County, the rate fell to about 25 percent.
In 1999, a habitual drunken driver plowed into a motorcyle and killed Danny Deavers. A judge sentenced Antonio Speranza to 15 years in prison, but Gypsy Dorn, Deavers' friend, feels the low conviction rate sets up Cumberland County for a similar tragedy.
"It's an insult to the entire county that we have to fear for our lives going out on the road from somebody who could be drunk several times and get out of it," she said.
"We're willing to partner with the players in this -- the court system and the district attorney's office. We'll do whatever we need to do to try and improve these numbers," Clendenin said.
District Attorney Ed Grannis tells WRAL one reason why so many DWI cases get dismissed is that officers do not show up for court because they frequently get transferred. On Tuesday, WRAL will explore that argument.