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Durham D.A. Candidate Defends Professional, Criminal Records

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Keith Bishop
DURHAM, N.C. — After 14 years of handling civil and criminal cases in Durham, Keith Bishop wants to become the Bull City's next district attorney.

Bishop faces two better-known candidates in the race: current District Attorney Mike Nifong, who was promoted to the position last year, and former Assistant District Attorney Freda Black, who helped prosecute high-profile cases, such as the Michael Peterson murder trial, before leaving for private practice.

"I've managed a private practice and I will bring that management and greater efficiency to the office," Bishop said.

But as he calls for change, WRAL asked Bishop to explain his professional and criminal records.

The North Carolina State Bar censured him in 2001 after finding he constantly interrupted and stonewalled the defense during a civil case.

"Any of those issues are just a reflection of my diligence," Bishop said.

In 1997, an assault with a deadly weapon warrant was never served. Bishop called it a misunderstanding with his former law partner.

And the candidate never served any time after he was arrested for resisting an officer and failing to stop in 1998. Bishop said Duke University police pursued him after he took pictures of a client in the hospital.

"I was trying to get to the Durham Police Department to save the evidence," he said.

But Bishop does not think his records would hurt his credibility as district attorney.

"Absolutely not," he said. "What it shows, again, is my vigor and diligence."

With three district attorney candidates on the ballot, the question for Durham voters is whose background matters most.

WRAL checked public records of Nifong and Black, but found no criminal charges or disciplinary action by the state bar.

Candidates with a criminal history, however, are not uncommon in Durham. Just last year, several mayoral candidates had troubled pasts: Vincent Brown spent time in prison for forgery; Jackie Wagstaff pleaded guilty to similar charges. And candidate Joe Williams served time for assault. Brown eventually dropped out; Wagstaff and Williams lost.

Durham City Council candidate John Best, who also ran last year, has a driving while impaired conviction; he also lost his bid for re-election.


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