PLAN TO PROTEST RENEWAL OF CITY CONTRACT FOR PROSECUTOR WORTHY’S INVESTIGATION, ON COUNCIL AGENDA TUES. JULY 19
By Diane Bukowski
July 14, 2011
DETROIT — The Detroit People’s Task Force to Free the Wrongfully convicted has kept up the battle to expose what they say is blatantly falsified crime lab evidence and the fates of many who have languished behind bars for years as a result of convictions tainted by it.
“We want accountability,” said Kevin Carey, Executive Director of the People’s Task Force, during a protest outside the Detroit Federal Building office of U.S. Congressman John Conyers June 28. “We want a federal investigation which he promised us last year, and we want crime lab personnel and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and her assistant prosecutors who have been using the falsified evidence to convict innocent people to be incarcerated.”
They also appeared in front of Detroit City Council July 12 to demand to know why Council members voted $2.7 million in funding for an investigation of the crime lab over the past three years to Worthy, and what happened to the funds. They have contended that it is a conflice of interest for Worthy to investigate the cases, because her prosecutors brought charges on falsified evidence in the first place.
Afterwards, members held a boisterous protest outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center which garnered major media coverage, as did the June 28 protest.
The Council, which voted that day to ask Worthy for an accounting, is to consider a renewal of her contract Tues. July 19. Councilwoman Brenda Jones requested that Worthy and former Deputy Mayor Saul Green be present.
The firestorm over the crime lab exploded in 2008 when an audit of its firearms unit, staffed wholly by Detroit police officers, showed a 10% error rate. In the case of Jarrhod Williams, state police auditors said results bordered on criminal conduct by firearms technicians.
“The gun involved in my son’s case was never shot, and the bullets the prosecution presented at his trial didn’t match the gun,” Valerie Watts-Williams, Jarrhod’s mother, said outside the federal building June 28. “He is serving two natural life sentences for double homicide. He turned down eight plea bargains offered to him because he is innocent.”
“No one ever sees new trials, despite Worthy’s promise that she would review all the cases,” said the Task Force’s paralegal Roberto Guzman. “We do want the guilty to go to prison, but we want the innocent to have their charges dismissed or at least get new trials. If you value your freedom, it could be you tomorrow. Karen Plants [head of Worthy’s drug task force] is in jail for perjury, but she is by no means the only one suborning perjury in her office.”
Marilyn Jordan, President of the Task Force, said they are determined to fight until they win.
“My son Kelly Nobles was falsely convicted in 2002 even though there’s tons of evidence in his case and others we’ve investigated that prove his innocence. This is not something that just started, it’s been going on for a long time. There were federal investigations when crime lab evidence unraveled in Boston, Dallas and in other cities, and the Kym Worthy said herself that there are thousands of cases here that need to be reviewed.”
To date, only four convicted individuals have received new trials as a result of Worthy’s investigation since 2008. Three, including Jarrhod Williams, of them were re-convicted, generally using the same evidence from their first trials.
At the City Council, Williams’ cousin Dominique Manuel demanded to know why there have been no other new trials, and numerous other Task Force members confronted council members individually about the 7-0 vote they took to approve funds for Worthy in 2009.
They said they plan to be out in force again Tues. July 19 at 10 a.m. as the contract with Worthy comes up for discussion and possible approval the next day.
Guzman said they plan to raise the following issues, among others:
- “While the city is claiming broke and forcing its workers to take pay cuts and other concessions, they can find the money to shower the prosecutor for phantom investigations that are going nowhere.
- The prosecutor’s office never, ever, in the three year saga so far voluntarily confessed to error in any case. We intend to make that perfectly clear to city council.
We also made Council aware – and will repeat – that the funding given to Kym Worthy clearly violates state statute under MCL 45.452. The statute cannot be any clearer. It says a county prosecutor is not to receive “additional funding” for “additional work.” Her duties in investigating the crime lab are above her regular statutory duties and are thus “additional work.” The $2.7 million funding she got was “additional funding” above her annually fixed funding by statute. She and City Council violated state law. Period.
- Also, she breached the terms of the original MOU [Memorandum of Understanding], which is coming up for renewal. She never provided the quarterly reports of her progress to the city; she never structured a review unit to include a defense attorney and a former judge as she said she would; she never reviewed or agreed to retesting any evidence older than 2003, as she said she would and again, she brings an inherent biasness and conflict of interest to the process.
- City Council cannot reasonably trust that she is going to open the files, see where the errors lie and where her staff committed misconduct and expect that she is going to discipline them. That is a conflict of interest.
- Then, there’s the unexplained mystery about the rape kits. Kym Worthy got over $600,000 to investigate those cold cases, too, for which we likewise have seen NO RESULTS. She’s getting all this windfall of money for which there are no results.
- Finally, as for her song and dance about she is short staffed and has to work with limited resources. That’s her problem. She knew that going into this, as we have said time and again. The federal government has the personnel and resources; if she doesn’t then even more the reason she should not be messing with these cases. She cannot keep getting millions of dollars of our tax money and continue to talk about limited resources. It is just downright insulting and is nothing more than an excuse from her not to let these investigations go anywhere.”
To contact the Detroit People’s Task Force to Free the Wrongfully Convicted, call Marilyn Jordan, at (313) 784-4021, Kevin Carey, at (313) 887-4344, or Roberto Guzman, at (313) 272-1406.