DECISION 2023: Warren County Prosecutor candidates make their case

Published 4:00 am Saturday, November 4, 2023

Election Day is Nov. 7, when three new candidates will compete for the office of Warren County Prosecutor.

Democrat Christopher Green, Republican Stephen Lee McMillin and Independent Tracie Herring spoke with The Vicksburg Post this week to share their thoughts on the office and current community issues. Their videos are below:

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What motivated you to run for county prosecutor?
GREEN: To be honest, it’s always something I seriously considered doing over the last 10 or 12 years that I was practicing law in Warren County. Prior to then, (the office) was occupied by Ricky Johnson. I felt like he was doing a good job, and when someone is doing a good job, there’s no need to rock that boat. But when I learned that Ken Harper was no longer seeking (reelection) for the seat, I thought it would be a good idea to get somebody in that position that has experience, is familiar with the community. Someone who is going to be impartial and fair on both sides — aggressively prosecute the crimes that need to be and give a second chance when the situation and facts warrant it. The thing about being a prosecutor, and I’ve done defense work for most of my entire career, but I have done some prosecution, is it’s good to have someone who is familiar with both sides of that coin to get fair results for everybody involved.
HERRING: I have always been committed to serving our community. I have been involved in various programs that benefit our local youth, such as the children’s shelter, Good Shepherd, Cedars Headstart and several other organizations. Moving forward with my professional career and becoming a public servant as the county prosecutor, this will further my goal of serving our community.
MCMILLIN: As most know, I’ve been the assistant city prosecutor for about 13 years. It’s not something new to me, and I actually was in the last election four years ago for Warren County Prosecutor. They are two different jobs, but the position requires the same thing: prosecuting misdemeanor crimes in city court and in county court. There was some sort of a dust-up with the county prosecutor’s office a couple of years ago, and the Board of Supervisors actually had to vote me in. Out of the five supervisors, all but one elected me to fill that position for about a year. That was a telling sign that they picked me to be county prosecutor. I felt like that was a vote of confidence.
What factors distinguish you from the other candidates?
GREEN: For one, experience. I think, and this is not to knock anyone else, I’m just way more qualified when you think about experience. I’ve tried cases and handled cases on a federal level, state level. I’ve tried cases in the Delta, in Northwest, Southwest and on the Coast of Mississippi. I think, if you look at the number of (felony) cases tried by both of my opponents, I’ve tried more than both of them combined. I clerked for Judge Isidore Patrick here in Warren County for about a year-and-a-half before going into my own practice, and that in itself required me to sit through every criminal trial he handled at that time. The wealth of experience I gained there, and I’ve gained on my own, I think that is the biggest distinguisher between me and the other people seeking this position.
HERRING: I have always prided myself on the fact that I am a working mother, wife and spend countless hours volunteering to give back to our community. I am committed professionally and personally to making Warren County a better place for my children to grow up in. The youth of today are the adults of tomorrow, and by working with the youth today to educate them on how to become productive adults in the future and not allow them to fall into lives of crime or hang out with the wrong groups. This will positively impact our community going forward. I also have experience and knowledge in various areas of the law, which will benefit me as county prosecutor. I have specialized knowledge in the areas of assault and domestic violence and have recently given a Mississippi Bar-approved program for judges around the state on assault and domestic violence, which is one of the areas of law I will be handling as the county prosecutor.
MCMILLIN: Experience. I’ve been doing this for over 13 years now. I’m not new to this, and I’m experienced and I’m effective. I’ve effectively represented the citizens of Warren County and Vicksburg. I don’t think anyone in town would disagree with that. I’ve had people I’ve prosecuted come and see me after the fact and I can respect that. I think I’m the best at this job, and when I get elected, it’s Day One. There’s no learning on the job. I’m ready to go.
How do you plan to address crime in Warren County?
GREEN: As the prosecutor, your job is to prosecute crime and I think one of the most important factors in prosecuting is creating an atmosphere of, if you commit crimes you will be prosecuted for those crimes and not just get a slap on the wrist. One thing that will be important to me is seeking punishment for those who deserve punishment, which will be a deterrent to the next person.
HERRING: Contrary to the belief of some other individuals, we do have a crime problem. It is something that needs to be dealt with, and I think the first thing that needs to be done is to vigorously prosecute all legitimate charges, and that begins with misdemeanor charges. You have these individuals that come in, they’re repeat offenders and they think they’re going to get a fine and walk out the door. I think we should have stiffer penalties for repeat offenders than just paying a fine. Sentencing is left up to the judge, but as county prosecutor, you do have the authority to make recommendations to the judge. My recommendations will be in line with the statutory guidelines for the crime that has been committed.
MCMILLIN: Head-on, just like I’ve been doing. Do I think we have a crime problem in Warren County and Vicksburg? Yes. It’s not an epidemic, but yes we do have crime. That goes with the environment and the education level. If we could train our young people to know that violence is not the answer, and we’d have to get parents, schools and church involved. It takes a community. Throwing everyone in jail is not the answer. If the issue stems from maybe a drug addiction or something going on at home, that’s where we have the community base to address the situation. There’s something there where we can fix the problem. This is not a good-ole-boy system; it’s just sitting down and, if your client needs the jail time, I can assure you I’ll pursue that.
What are your goals, if elected?
GREEN: As it relates to goals, my goal is to be an effective prosecutor, to do a good job, work for both the citizens of Warren County and the people that I’m prosecuting and assist the judges in the prosecution of crimes. This is not a position you get into for a short period of time; everyone in this position does it for a long period of time. My goal is to do an effective job.
HERRING: We need to reduce crime. We need to do something about it. Part of being a county prosecutor is that you’re not just dealing with misdemeanors in justice court. You also have to fill in (in youth court). My goal is to try, in addition to reducing crime, to protect the rights of all the citizens that are here. I believe that all victims who come in have a right to be heard. I personally have witnessed a situation where a victim did not get that right. And I do not believe that was the right decision. All victims who come in should have a right to be heard.
MCMILLIN: My goal is to be amongst the people. I just signed up the other day, the bar sent me a letter to go speak at schools, to be a lawyer in the classroom and I can be a mentor. I’ve represented young people before, and they’ve said, “I want to be a lawyer,” and that warms my heart. If I can do it, you can do it. In city court, we have a lot of businesses and we have to let them know they’re taken care of. We have to make sure that corporations, companies, tourists can be in this town. And it’s because I’ve a) been a deterrent and b) been proactive. One of the most satisfying things, besides when I do get justice for a victim of a crime, is when you see a defendant that you’ve prosecuted and they’ve broken the shackles of addiction or gotten their life together, gotten their GED or a job. They say, “I know you had a job to do, but I’m better for it.” I’ve had criminal defendants shake my hand and thank me.
What message do you want to send to people who wind up on the receiving end of the county prosecutor’s office?
GREEN: The message I want to send is if you commit crime in Warren County, you will be punished. And if you continue to commit crime, you will be punished and prosecuted even harsher. For people who made a mistake and deserve a second chance, you will get that as far as I’m concerned. I’ll do what I can to give people a second opportunity, when their conduct warrants that. But for people who continue to commit crimes, that can be a hazard to the community, I’ll do what’s in my power to make sure they won’t be able to be a continued thorn in the side of the community.
HERRING: All legitimate charges will be prosecuted. These individuals, citizens of Warren County, are seeking help through the legal system and they need to be heard and will be heard if their charges are legitimate. Those defendants who come in will be prosecuted for their crimes.
MCMILLIN: Choose wisely before you make bad decisions in Warren County. I don’t mean that to sound intimidating or threatening; it’s just a fact. If you commit a misdemeanor crime in Warren County, I will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. If you see the scales of justice, it has a blindfold on. This is a political position; I have to be elected. If you are a victim of a crime, I will make you whole. If it’s restitution through a property crime, or if it’s an unfortunate situation where a drunk driver has hit somebody. I want people to know you will be put behind bars and you will think twice before you do something like driving drunk again.