Commentary: Our track records should hold us accountable

Mike Silver

Commentary: Our track records should hold us accountable
July 08
13:54 2020

By Mike Silver

When I first moved to Winston-Salem in 2007 to work as a prosecutor, I was on a panel with H. Glenn Davis, then the oldest practicing African American attorney in Forsyth County. While on the panel, I was asked if I owed a special duty to the Black community. I said that I had a responsibility to be fair and impartial — and to work to rid the criminal justice system of any appearance of either special treatment to one group or unfair treatment to another group. 

H. Glenn Davis corrected me. He told me that being fair and impartial was my job as a prosecutor, but that I owed more than that to the community. He told me that I had a special duty to be a role model, to be a leader, and to individually put in the work to keep our Black children from ever getting involved in the system.  

From that moment until now, I have worked in our public schools and with Big Brothers Big Sisters to mentor students, both Black and white. I have also served in a position of leadership for multiple groups advocating for the rights of domestic violence victims, our elderly, and children in our juvenile justice system.  

I look back and I am proud that, through the years, I have stayed true to the vision that H. Glenn Davis had for a young Black lawyer in this community.    

In 2018, Wake Forest School of Law professors Ron Wright, Kami Davis, and Gregory Parks published a study analyzing North Carolina jury trials in criminal cases in 2011. Their study found that, statewide, prosecutors remove twice as many potential Black jurors than white jurors during jury selection. 

The results of their study made me question whether I did my job and administered justice fairly as a prosecutor. I reached out to Professor Wright and asked to see my data set. I needed the objective data to see what I had done in the cases that I prosecuted.

The results are consistent with who I believe myself to be. During the period of the study, I did not strike any potential Black male jurors (0%), while the defense attorneys in my cases struck every potential Black male juror (100%). Further, their data shows that I only struck one potential Black female juror. 

Despite the statewide trend of prosecutors to strike a larger percentage of Black jurors than white, my statistics show that I was race-neutral in my jury strikes, giving both Black and white citizens an equal opportunity to serve as jurors to their peers in the felony cases I prosecuted. 

I owe many thanks to District Attorney Jim O’Neill, Chief Assistant Jennifer Martin, Assistant DA Lizmar Bosques, Superior Court Judge David Hall, and District Court Judge David Sipprell. Each was my supervisor at one time while I was a prosecutor. They all trusted my judgment, allowed me the freedom and discretion to prosecute my cases in the way I thought best, and allowed me to administer justice. 

In 2020, it is not enough for people to simply say Black Lives Matter.  Our actions and the structure of our communities must show that Black Lives Matter. 

Regardless of party affiliation, candidates and elected officials must demonstrate that they have a record that supports the things they say and the promises they make. We as a community have a responsibility to hold each accountable. We do that through our vote.  

I am proud of my record as a prosecutor, as a volunteer, and as a mentor. I am proud that my track record speaks more loudly than I ever could and have shown that I believe Black Lives Matter.

Mike Silver is the Republican candidate for Forsyth County District Court Judge in 2020. To learn more about his experience and community service, visit or Instagram and Facebook: @mikesilverforjudge.

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