By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Wayne County Prosector Kym Worthy provided insight to the Wayne County Prosector’s Office operations, various units and divisions, and answered questions from the public during a town hall March 5 at Henry Ford College, 5101 Evergreen.
Many of the attendees included law enforcement officers, elected officials, community leaders, and HFC staff and students. The stop in Dearborn was Worthy’s fifth in her series of town hall meetings that will continue to be held throughout Wayne County.
The main focus for Worthy was around operation of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, school threats, domestic violence, Conviction Integrity Unit, sexual assault kits, and Drug and Mental Health Court.
Of the 83 counties in the state, Wayne County does significantly more cases than another county, with 41 percent of all felony trials in the state taking place in the county, Worthy said.
Also, Wayne County handles 51 percent of all felony capital trials in the state, but about an average of 30 percent of cases brought to the office are declined.
Worthy went on to explain how the system works from when a crime happens to the jury trial and conviction, if the case goes to trial instead of plea deal.
She said most court cases in Wayne County are done in 90 days.
During the town hall, Worthy went into details about the special units within the office which are domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, sexual assault team, sexual assault kit team and animal abuse. The sexual abuse team also handles human trafficking cases.
Worthy said almost 9,000 cases of domestic violence are looked at by her office this year.
“This unit was really designed to deal with our most venerable victims, our children, our elderly and our sexual assault victims,” she said. “All the prosectors who work in this unit are specially trained to deal with whatever type of cases they deal with.”
In 2009, the county found 11,361 untested rape kits in the Detroit Police Department property room and since then officials have worked to test the kits and prosecute suspects.
Worthy said the county has identified over 800 serial rapists.
“We have taken this statewide so we have over 219 convictions of rapists and raised funding to get kits tested,” she said. “At time of discovery it cost to $1,200 to $1,500 per kit to get them tested, so you’re looking at millions of dollars and then bringing justice with investigation and prosecution, so we developed a protocol.”
The general trials division in Wayne County handles cases that are anywhere from two-year felonies to homicides which includes over 19,000 cases yearly between a staff of five.
In the animal abuse unit, there are four volunteers who are assigned to work in the office, and there usually are 70 warrants issued a year with 20 felonies issued yearly as well.
The juvenile courts handle cases for those individuals under the age of 17, with programs that allow juveniles to have a second change and take responsibility for their actions including Talk It Out.
A public integrity unit looks at police brutality cases or police shootings as well as elected officials, teachers and principals and people in positions of trust who have committed a crime.
When it comes to school threats and shootings, Worthy said most of those come from middle school and high schools and are looked at in the juvenile court.
“There have been over 175 school threats of violence since Parkland in county” she said.
During the question-and-answer portion of the town hall, questions regarding juveniles in possession of marijuana, identifying false domestic violence reports, volunteering opportunities in the prosecutor’s office, and culture competency training the county’s staff has relating to the domestic violence cases.
“I’m sure not enough, but we have had ACCESS provide training for us three of four times over the years, and last year I attended a conference here,” Worthy said. “If you have suggestions for us I am more than happy to listen and bring that information to my office. I am open, if there is something we need to understand or do better, I am more than willing to listen to anyone that has something to say to help us do our jobs better.”
She also said that employees go out on other various trainings.
When asked about the ramifications for juveniles arrested for minor possession, Worthy said it is not legal under the age of 21 to have more than 2.5 grams of marijuana in a car, and neither juveniles nor adults may smoke marijuana in public.
As for volunteering within the prosector’s office, students who want to volunteer or intern can be undergraduate students and law students who will be assigned in area they are interested in.
High school students cannot volunteer or intern due to some of the content of cases the county handles, but may job shadow for a day or two to see the type of work the office conducts.
Interested students can email Wayne County Director of Training, Recruitment and CLE Keith Clark for application materials at [email protected]
For more information of the Wayne County Prosector’s Office go to www.waynecounty.com/elected/prosecutor.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])