Credit: Triangle Business Journal

The News & Observer reported Wednesday that Durham defense attorney Christine Mumma, known statewide for her work with the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, faces a formal complaint from the N.C. State Bar related to alleged violations of professional conduct.

Many in Lee and Chatham, though, might remember Mumma not as an attorney with a reputation for fighting on behalf the wrongly convicted, but as a candidate for public office. In 2004, the Durham resident was the Republican nominee for Senate District 18, which at the time consisted of Lee, Chatham and Durham counties.

That year, Mumma lost the General Election to Democrat Bob Atwater by an 18 point margin. Atwater went on to serve three more terms in the Senate.

The complaint against Mumma centers around her handling of evidence – DNA extracted from a water bottle – in her attempts to clear the name of Joseph Sledge, who was exonerated in January for a double murder he had been convicted of in 1976.

In an interesting profile from 2007, when Mumma was named the News and Observer’s Tar Heel of the year, the newspaper reported that her loss in that Senate campaign may have been what put her on the path she’s on now:

Three years ago, Mumma did something nearly as daring: She ran for a state Senate seat as a Republican in a heavily Democratic district that includes Durham. She spent more than $300,000 on her campaign, nearly twice as much as the average candidate that year. She lost.

But the defeat allowed her to focus on Dwayne Dail, the man wrongfully imprisoned for the rape of a 12-year-old girl in Goldsboro.

While it doesn’t appear that Mumma spent much time in Lee or Chatham following that Senate race a decade ago, her current story is pretty fascinating to observers of the criminal justice system in North Carolina. It’s noteworthy that Lee and Chatham counties were among the stops on her way there.