Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy is tough, laser focused survivor on a mission to smoke out criminals

Posted at 7:33 PM, Jul 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-20 12:29:34-04

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has been described as tough, laser focused and on a mission to smoke out hardened criminals.

She has also come under fire recently for the case of a young man who spent years behind bars unjustly.

But, as I have learned over the years, Worthy is more than the hats she's worn as a lawyer, a judge and prosecutor. She is also a victim, a survivor, and a champion for justice.

You might think every prosecutor has a dream case - the one that makes a career. For Worthy you could name a few.

  • The Malice Green case. In 1992 as an assistant prosecutor she sent two veteran Detroit police officers to prison for beating Green to death.
  • The Kwame Kilpatrick saga that brought down a criminal enterprise lead by the former Detroit mayor.
  • Former Fox 2 anchor and reporter and former Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh facing charges of child sexual abuse.

All these cases make national headlines.

Here's another one - only this time is brought the sting of criticism - 23-year-old Davonte Sanford, sent to prison unjustly at 15, after he confessed to four murders, murders a hit man admitted to a short time later.

Nine years later Davonte is free, and a former Detroit police officer may be on the hook for perjury in the case.

Worthy defended her actions and said, "This was not the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office running rogue and trying to do something illegal to Mr. Sanford."

Worthy said, "It's not like you see on television, we don't have the evidence that you read about,  no disrespect to the media it may not be what the real evidence is and you're basing your opinion on things you really know nothing about."

National headlines or not, these are not the cases that keep Worthy up at night.

She says, "The ones that I think that are most gut wrenching are the ones where we have children being shot by either stray bullets and children being harmed in any way."

Like the 13-year-old dragged into a car at gunpoint, strangled to death and thrown away like trash - all over 70 bucks.

Worthy said, "We can change the culture of violence in this region."

But not without more funding. For instance the Wayne County Prosecutor's office still relies on paper files.

Worthy readily says things have gotten better under the rule of County Executive Warren Evans, but it's not enough.

Worthy said, "There's so much more we can do, if we are properly resourced. So much more that other district attorneys offices are doing across this country that are affecting their communities in huge ways that we can't even contemplate doing right now."

Worthy is strong and she has to be as the first woman and first African American to lead her office. Her passion for justice likely came from her heritage.

Worthy said, "I am the daughter of an army colonel and a library scientist and my father was the first African American man to graduate from West Point."

Worthy has lived all over the country. At 17 she was at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, losing her mom her freshman year.

Then in law school - a life altering attack. Worthy was raped.

She said, "It's not a secret."

I first heard her tell her story to a group of high school students. Her message to them: "Do not let any challenge or anything that may have happened bad in your life define you."

Unlike the rape victim in the news recently who took on her classmate and star Olympic hopeful swimmer at Stanford and won, Worthy says she did not tell a soul, but she's never forgotten.

Worthy said, "I think it's regret more than anything else and a little guilt also because I didn't report it."

Only 20 percent of rape cases are ever reported.

Worthy said, "I didn't follow through because I thought, at the time, that that would derail me, believed every stereotype that really still exists about dealing with a sexual assault victim."

Today, Worthy fights for victims of sexual assault, battling tooth and nail to have hundreds of rape kids left to rot in storage tested. But she is not just a voice for rape victims, she's an advocate for foster children, adopting three children, one now in college and 7-year-old twins.

Worthy is a survivor, and a champion for justice who believes as the elected prosecutor it's her job to be fair.

Worthy said, "I just want people to know and to believe that, as the elected prosecutor of this great county, we try our best to be fair. We don't make our decisions based on public opinion or how many letters or phone calls or emails that we get - positive or negative. We base our decisions based on the evidence that we get. The minute you make your decisions based on the public's opinion, that's when you need to quit your job."