President Donald Trump on Tuesday officially signed in Andrew Murray as the new U.S. Attorney for Western North Carolina, setting the stage for the Monday swearing-in of Spencer Merriweather as the county’s first African-American district attorney, the Observer has learned.
Trump’s signature makes Murray, a Republican, the top prosecutor for the Western District of North Carolina, a 32-county area with 2.9 million people. He will direct a staff of about 85, with offices in Charlotte and Asheville, that will prosecute criminal and civil cases. The job is a political appointment that traditionally coincides with the four-year term of the sitting president.
He replaces Jill Westmoreland Rose, a career federal prosecutor who took over the position in October 2015 after the resignation of Obama appointee Anne Tompkins, a former University of North Carolina law school classmate of Murray’s.
“I look forward to the opportunity to build on my service as Mecklenburg County’s District Attorney to serve and protect communities across the entire western region of North Carolina,” Murray said in a statement released by the district attorney’s office.
Murray will be replaced by the man he recommended to succeed him. Merriweather, a Democrat and currently a homicide prosecutor, has been with the office for 11 years.
Merriweather is a Mobile, Ala., native and the son of retired public school educators. He is a UNC-Chapel Hill law graduate and former student body president at Princeton University who interned at the Mecklenburg District Attorney’s Office while in college. As a prosecutor and supervisor, he has handled murders, habitual felons and sex crimes, working with Murray and his longtime predecessor Peter Gilchrist.
Merriweather will become the first African-American district attorney in the state’s largest court district. He takes over the role at a time when prosecutors and police are under greater public scrutiny for how they do their jobs.
The job goes back before voters next year, when Merriweather is expected to face a number of opponents.
“Our community is wide and varied, and its needs are ever-changing,” Merriweather said after being announced as Murray’s replacement by Gov. Roy Cooper.
“Challenges on the horizon demand we bolster relationships with community partners and do more to earn the trust of all of our residents as we seek justice on their behalf. While I know the responsibilities of this office are great, the promise of what is possible is even greater. I look forward to engaging all corners of our county in a justice system that works for everyone.”