I-Team: When DA's recuse themselves

Larry Shaheen


by STUART WATSON / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @stuartwcnc


Posted on June 7, 2013 at 8:09 PM

Updated Saturday, Dec 7 at 8:14 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The office of Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray is bringing in outside prosecutors to handle the DWI cases of two defendants with ties to the prosecutors' office to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest in the cases. 

Larry Shaheen Jr., 29, managed Murray's winning campaign for DA but is not working on his current re-election campaign. CMPD charged Shaheen with DWI and resisting an officer at a Shell station in the Arboretum area just before 1 a.m. on Thursday, May 16.

In a telephone interview Shaheen said, "I very seriously believe this is a personal matter. I have not spoken with, nor would I speak with Andrew about this. I don't currently work for him. I expect no special treatment.”

Norman Butler, 61, is a defense attorney who worked in the DA's office years ago, before Murray was DA but when many of his top lieutenants worked for the prosecutor’s office. Butler was charged with DWI and speeding in April.

While the DA's office does not comment on pending cases, the supervisor of the misdemeanor team, Bruce Lillie, confirmed that outside prosecutors will handle both cases.

"That's because we want to make sure the public has complete confidence in how our case is being handled," said Lillie. "And if someone in our office knows a person involved with the case that could erode that confidence."

Andrew Murray typically would not handle a DWI case in court himself. Assistant district attorneys known as A.D.A.'s process thousands of traffic offenses. If an A.D.A. knows a defendant personally, Lillie says the office may be able to avoid a conflict of interest by transferring the case to another prosecutor in the office. But in the case of defendants who know Murray himself or other top administrators within the prosecutor’s office, Lillie says the office "farms out" those cases.

Mecklenburg A.D.A.'s also travel to other counties where there is a conflict of interest. Such transfers are coordinated through the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. Just this week a Mecklenburg A.D.A. secured a conviction against a former state trooper in Henderson County.