Andrew Murray has served as the elected District Attorney of Mecklenburg County since 2011, leading an office of prosecutors and support staff who work every day to protect our community and seek justice.Andrew enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1980 after graduating from high school. Following six years of active duty, Andrew completed his undergraduate studies at UNC Charlotte. He then earned his law degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law.
Andrew began his law career in 1992 at the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, where he worked as an Assistant District Attorney. He later entered private practice as a criminal defense attorney, eventually becoming a managing partner of a local firm. He was elected as DA in 2010 and took office in 2011. He’s currently serving his second term.Even while practicing as an attorney, Andrew continued to serve his country through the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. After 35 years of service, Andrew retired from the Coast Guard last year as a Captain.
- Tell me about your childhood. What was your favorite thing to do? Where did you grow up?
I grew up south of Philadelphia in a predominantly oil refinery and industrial corridor between I-95 and the Delaware River. I was raised by a single, disabled mother and had two younger brothers. We received government assistance during my entire upbringing. I worked from the time I was 12 to provide for my Wrangler jeans and Led Zeppelin T-shirts and also to help my mother with living expenses. My jobs consisted of shining shoes, dishwashing, working as a busboy, stocking retail shelves, acting as an industrial site janitor and laying asphalt pavements. On nights and weekends, I enjoyed hanging out with friends and simply riding around and exploring different areas around Philadelphia.
- When did you decide to become an attorney? Was there any defining moment or series of events that led you to that decision?
I learned in junior high that I had been gifted with some academic abilities and that I was especially good at deductive reasoning and debate. I had a teacher tell me during a particularly impassioned debate that if I did not go to law school, I had missed my calling. After that exchange, I began to ruminate on becoming a lawyer someday. But as a young man from an impoverished family, I had little to no resources to pursue that possibility. After high school, I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and served six years on active duty. Ultimately, it was my service in the Coast Guard that allowed me to pursue higher education.
- What is the most pressing issue facing Charlotte in the future?
As Charlotte continues to grow and our population becomes more condensed, there is inevitably going to be more crime. A major contributor to crime is the divide and inequities in Charlotte between the haves and have-nots of our community. Some have lost hope, and they believe there are no real opportunities for them to get a decent paying job, let alone medical benefits. They also can’t see a path that allows them to improve themselves through education. Unfortunately, hopelessness then breeds restlessness, which can lead to recklessness that results in criminal behavior.
- Crime in Charlotte seems to be escalating. What would you propose as a remedy or remedies to abate that increase? Do you think the problem is affordable housing? Lack of employment? Proliferation of drugs? Gangs? Inadequate police on the streets?
I don’t know that anyone can point to a single cause of rising crime. Certainly, gang violence is a significant concern, and we have a heroin epidemic here and across the country. Drug addictions frequently lead to other crimes like break-ins and robberies. But as I mentioned earlier, crime is often the result of despair. Educational opportunities and the ability to pursue upward mobility is key to minimizing crime. Those that have hope and can see a brighter future are less likely to succumb to drug or gang activity. Overall, we need to start educating at the preschool age, provide positive mentor programs throughout young people’s formative years and offer afternoon and evening youth programs that keep kids off the streets. Unfortunately, the streets are an equal opportunity employer of chaos and destruction.
- What is the biggest challenge in the DA’s office? When I was on the City Council there was inadequate funding for ADAs and technical equipment. Has that situation been remedied?
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge my office faces is the lack of resources to do the job. Almost every major metropolitan prosecutorial district with a population of 1 million has 100+ Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs). The State supplies this office with 58 ADAs. The support staff numbers are just as abysmal. Fortunately, Mecklenburg County, as well as the City of Charlotte, makes up for some of the shortfall by supplying 26 additional ADAs, which brings the total to 84 ADAs. And today, there is the same number of working Superior Court criminal courtrooms in Mecklenburg County as there were when I first became a prosecutor in the early 1990s. There is no doubt we need more ADAs, more support staff and more courtrooms to adequately do the job of providing justice to the community.
- Word on the Street says you will be our next US Attorney, appointed by President Trump and Governor Cooper appoints your replacement. Is there any particular individual you see as ready and prepared to take on such a critical role at a crisis time in Charlotte Mecklenburg?
I am being considered for the position of U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. But until the selection process is complete, I am the elected District Attorney of Mecklenburg County and will be for the foreseeable future. If I am honored with a nomination by the President and confirmed by the Senate at some time in the future, it is obviously my desire for Governor Cooper to appoint someone to take my position who is abundantly qualified to take up the mantle and protect the citizens of Mecklenburg County by ensuring that justice is done in every case. In my office, an ADA named Spencer Merriweather has expressed an interest in the Governor’s appointment and has also expressed an interest in running to become DA in the 2018 election. Spencer is highly qualified, having served 11 years in the Mecklenburg County DA’s Office. He has done almost every job in the office, including prosecuting high profile sexual offense cases, supervising the Habitual Felon Team and presently serving on the Homicide Team. It is my professional opinion that Spencer has the skill set, leadership abilities, experience, demeanor, knowledge and overall common sense to be an outstanding Mecklenburg County District Attorney.
Andrew Murray and his family