Family of attorney Clifford Woodards frustrated with delay in justice after his death

Posted at 4:15 PM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 17:45:25-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — After losing her father in a deadly officer-involved crash on Detroit's west side, the daughter of attorney Clifford Woodards is breaking her silence about waiting for justice.

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The daughter of prominent attorney Clifford Woodards says more than two months after his death, she’s received no answers about the case. It's a situation she says has delayed healing and closure.

“Initially I was relieved to hear that they were taking the investigation seriously and I felt assured they would do that to the utmost of their ability," said Melissa Connelly-Woodards. "Two months after the fact, the faith in swift prosecution is diminished to say the least.”

As she copes with devastating loss, Connelly-Woodards speaks out about what she calls a lack of accountability. Her father died in early February, yet she says no one has informed her whether or not the officer who struck his vehicle after failing to safely stop will be charged.

“I’m sitting here waiting for the WCPO to validate the value of my father’s life,” Connelly-Woodards said.

After checking with Detroit police, 7 Action News confirmed findings of an investigation were sent to the Wayne County prosecutor, however, a spokesperson for the prosecutor says a final report from the medical examiner is yet to be completed.

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“I’m yet another person waiting for someone to be held accountable for the death of a Black man, and frankly it’s an all too familiar narrative in this day and age,” Connelly-Woodards said. “The grief process is difficult enough without adding on this additional element of waiting.”

Attorneys Arnold Reed and Arnold Reed II, represent the Woodards family. Arnold was also a dear friend of Woodards.

“We were informed the day after Cliff’s unfortunate passing, the autopsy itself was complete," Arnold said. "The report hasn’t been done."

After the death of Woodards at West Chicago and the eastbound Jefferies Service Drive, Chief James Craig said preliminary findings showed officers had lights and sirens turned on responding to an emergency at 1 a.m. However, the officer driving failed to stop sufficiently at a red light. They appeared to not see Woodards' vehicle while slowing down from speeds at or above 50 mph.

"Chief Craig was very expeditious and thorough. We know that,” Arnold said.

He added that a letter was sent several days ago to the medical examiner, but there has still been no sign of progress. A spokesperson for the medical examiner declined an interview but instead said by phone that the report is simply unfinished without an explanation as to why.

“We’re not going to allow for too much time to go by, we have a client and her loved one was lost. That’s a very serious matter,” said Arnold II.

The attorneys for the Woodards say they will also pursue justice in civil court.