Former district attorney Lankster wants position back

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 6, 2004

“I have seen, within the last year or so, an increase in violent crime in Marengo County, particularly in terms of robberies of local retail stores,” said Barrown D. Lankster. “Many of these robberies lately involve our young people, and I think it is vitally important that we try to get to our young people prior to them getting into lawlessness.”

A former district attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit of Alabama, Lankster has announced that he will run again for the position. He was elected as the first African-American District Attorney in 1992 and served six years in the position.

The 17th circuit includes Marengo, Sumter and Greene Counties.

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“When I was in the office of District Attorney, I was pro-active in terms of bringing to the various high schools in this circuit a Team Summit program which involved individuals from Mental Health, people from the Department of Human Resources, from the District Attorney’s office and people from Montgomery,” he said.

“We talked to our children about conflict resolution, anger management, saying no to drugs and crime and dealing with peer pressure.

“It is vitally important, I think, if we are going to look at trying to reduce crime to be pro-active and try and make a difference on the front end,” Lankster said. “We do that by trying to get to our juveniles and our youth.”

The youth have choices to make, he said, “that can mean the difference between a life in the penal system or a life in productivity.”

Lankster is proud to put himself forward as a role model for youth. “Young people need to know that they are a part of the process in the future in terms of serving on juries.

“Law enforcement is there to protect and preserve,” but people are also a part of the solution. “They are witnesses; they are the jurors. They play a vital part in the process.

“…People need to feel that they are free to be forthcoming in terms of telling who the suspects are, telling what they know, and basically in a sense, policing their own communities,” he said.

“…I have a passion for prosecution,” Lankster said. “I have devoted nearly 20 years of my professional career in prosecution at one level or the other.”

He started off in Birmingham as an assistant city attorney in Night Court then he went to the Fourth Judicial Circuit and served more than 10 years as assistant district attorney.

“There is a passion for representing victims,” he said. “There is a passion for trying to make certain that we have justice in our court system.”

A native of Linden, he began private practice in Demopolis in 1980. Lankster has served as county attorney for Sumter and Greene Counties as presently serves as county attorney for Hale County.

“I am very much involved in the trial of various cases,” he said. “We tried very serious criminal cases while I was district attorney. I think we were firm, were fair….We plan to continue that.”

How would he deal with the problem of repeat offenders that frustrate law enforcement? “These individuals probably constitute more than half of the cases that we see in criminal court,” Lankster said. “The recidivism rate is alarming.

“Those individuals who are repeat offenders need to be dealt with quite harshly so that we can remove this element from those who want to be law abiding. I don’t think there is any other way that we can deal with this other than being harsh and being tough.

“Especially when it comes to domestic violence, (it) involves a cycle of violence,” he said, “where you have a spouse who is dependent on another spouse. That person is almost force to stay in a relationship for sustenance….It’s about power and control.

“A lot of times domestic violence involves alcoholism, perhaps drug addiction. It’s vitally important that we be tough on those who involve themselves in a repeat way.”

Lankster feels he can make a difference. “The only way you can solve a problem is to get involved,” he said. “…You have to be willing to be persistent and consistent in terms of the kinds of cases that we see on a regular basis.

“Each case is different. Each case has a different victim, people who are hurt, people who are in pain. We have to treat each individually and don’t consider it as being part of an assembly line process.”

Election day is June 1.