Worthy: We ensure justice is served
Re: Nolan Finley’s March 19 column, “CYA rules for Wayne County prosecutor”: The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office prosecutes the largest amount of homicides in the state of Michigan. As a result we have had several of our homicide convictions challenged by the University of Michigan’s Innocence Clinic.
Our mission is always to make sure that justice is served. We have a duty to the public and to the crime victims’ families to make sure that we have prosecuted and convicted the correct person. When cases are challenged with new witness testimony, new forensic evidence, or doubts arise about the validity of a confession, we have a duty to aggressively investigate the purported new evidence; this may include interviewing surviving witnesses, locating and reviewing all of the physical evidence, and requesting new forensic testing. Due in large part to the age of the cases (many over twenty years old), a resolution of the matter does not happen overnight.
It would be irresponsible and ethically inappropriate not to investigate these cases. This is completely contrary to the statement in the piece that: “David Moran has asserted that some Michigan prosecutors are responsive when a wrongful conviction claim is raised, will look at the evidence and in many cases seek to corroborate it with their own investigation.” It would be irresponsible to rely only on the word of Moran, or any other attorney, or a person claiming innocence in these cases. We are not going to seek dismissal of a case in court without closely examining it. Moran is being disingenuous at best in his assertion. He is well aware of this office’s response to challenges raised by the Innocence Clinic because we inform him and his student lawyers of the work that is being done on each case. He is also well aware that the court, not the prosecutor, is the ultimate arbiter of what, if any, relief is appropriate.
The cases referenced in the column are all under active review or are currently being litigated in court. Unlike Moran, we are ethically prohibited from speaking about them outside of court.
Confusingly, Finley also expresses frustration that we have not acted more quickly in charging the “real” perpetrators in two of these controversial matters. It is unclear how he can be so confident that sufficient evidence exists to bring charges and show proof beyond a reasonable doubt in such old homicide cases. This also seems to go directly against his point warning against the dangers of a rush to judgment. Hastily charging people based on uncorroborated media reports will lead to more, not fewer, instances of injustice.
This paper has taken our office to task for testing claims of innocence in court. Indeed, in one case involving the rape of a child, our arguments were called “ludicrous.” Yet, when it became public that the convicted defendant in that case had admitted to his psychologist that he had molested the child, although claiming that he did so on a different occasion, the newspaper remained silent.
We are often criticized for the time it takes to charge a case. That is because we want to make sure that we have done everything to make sure that we have a case we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. We take this very seriously. In the cases where there is a challenge to a conviction we take it equally as seriously because we must do our due diligence to make sure the correct person was convicted of a crime. To say that we are on the wrong side of morality and that we are just being stubborn is not only a simplistic analysis, but it is misguided and just wrong.
Kym L. Worthy, Wayne County prosecutor