“My dad is from Durham, my mom is from Greensboro; both of my parents went to UNC. All my life I have been going to Chapel Hill, so it’s a dream come true to have a job there. It is certainly something I care about – examining criminal justice policy in North Carolina. To grow into an expert in that area and serve as an advisor on North Carolina criminal law, I can see myself doing that forever.”
Markham’s teaching and writing will focus on criminal procedure, sentencing, and corrections, and will be directed primarily toward state employees, including judges, magistrates, sheriffs, public defenders, and prosecutors. He will be responsible for staying apprised of new policy developments and summarizing case law from North Carolina and around the country.
Having completed an externship in the Orange County Public Defender's Office as a 3L, Markham says he is certain his work will be informed by the experience. “During the externship, I tried to pay attention to the public defenders and talk to them about how I might be able to help them through my work at UNC. They are so busy going from client to client; they don’t always have the time to do in-depth case law research”
The externship also gave him a fresh perspective on criminal justice policy. “On all sides of criminal law – the defendants, the victims, and law enforcement– incentives seem to get misaligned, and politics have an affect on policy that often doesn’t match up with the real goals of the system. Sentencing in particular is an area that is subject to criticism. I hope my work might help policymakers to develop a more sensible, non-sound-bite driven criminal justice system.”
Markham also credits both his experience as an intelligence officer in the Air Force and as editor of Duke Law Journal with preparing him for his new role. Having joined the Air Force after graduating from Harvard College in 1999, Markham says he enjoyed briefing senior officers and pilots who were deploying to different parts of the world. But, it was his experience with the Duke Law Journal that really opened the door to academia and UNC’s School of Government, he said.
“I will definitely look back at my time with the Journal as one of my most significant experiences in Law School. I was a captain when I left the military, but working with your peers is a very different leadership challenge. Everyone is so busy—I always just tried to work as hard as possible to keep everybody together and focused on our goals. I’m so grateful to everyone for all the time they put into it.”
About to become a professor himself, Markham says he has benefited enormously from the openness of the Duke Law faculty, especially that of Douglas B. Maggs Professor of Law Catherine Fisk. “At Harvard, I didn’t really have the chance to interact with the faculty; it was very different here. Professor Fisk was very much an advisor in a way that I had never had an advisor in college. My wife and I have two young children now, so she offered advice on everything from juggling family and career to how to prepare for exams – she was so accessible.”
As for the future, Markham says he aspires to eventually become a full professor at UNC. “What I have seen working with the public defender’s office is that the people working in the field know the School of Government professors by name and view them as a resource. If some day my writing or my work is identified as having clarified or improved the law in North Carolina, what could be better than that?”