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Kym Worthy      

First African-American Woman to Serve as a County Prosecutor in Michigan

Kym Loren Worthy is the current prosecutor of Wayne County, Michigan, home to the city of Detroit. She is the first African American woman to serve as a county prosecutor in Michigan. She became internationally recognized for prosecuting then Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick at the beginning of March 2008.

Worthy received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and her law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School. She attended high school in Alexandria, Virginia and is a 1974 graduate of T.C. Williams High School.

Worthy started as an assistant prosecutor in the Wayne County Prosecutor's in 1984. She served in this position for ten years, becoming the first African American special assignment prosecutor under Prosecutor John O'Hair. Her most notable prosecution was the trial of Walter Budzyn and Larry Nevers in the beating death of Malice Green. Worthy had an over 90% conviction rate. In 1994, she was elected to the Detroit Recorder's Court (now the Wayne County Circuit Court). From 1994 until January 2004 she was a judge on the Wayne County Circuit Court.

In 2004, Worthy was appointed by the judges of the Wayne County Circuit Court bench to replace now Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who resigned to become the head of the Detroit Medical Center. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office is by far the busiest in Michigan. There are 83 counties in Michigan yet Worthy's office handles 52% of all felony cases in Michigan and 64% of all serious felony cases that go to jury trial.

In 2009 Worthy began working on resolving a massive backlog of unprocessed rape test kits in Detroit, despite years of refusal to even allow assistant prosecutors to look for them for over a decade. On August 17, 2009 assistant prosecutor Robert Spada discovered a massive number of kits sitting in a warehouse that the Detroit Police Department had used as an overflow storage facility for evidence. The 11,431 sexual assault kits languished in the DPD property warehouse from 1984 to 2009 without being submitted for testing. In one case, a 2002 rape was linked to a man who was incarcerated for three murders he committed in the seven years after the rape.

From the inception of the project she has been committed to ensuring that every kit is tested, every kit is investigated and that a victim-centered approach to the investigation of sexual assault is implemented.

In September 2016 Worthy hosted the first Detroit Sexual Assault Kit Summit that was attended by prosecutors, police, sexual assault victim service workers, academics, and journalists to share information learned from the Detroit Project.

In 2018 Worthy was featured in the documentary produced by Mariska Hargitay - I Am Evidence. The documentary won several awards including the Emmy in 2019 for the Best Documentary in the News and Documentary category.

In 2018 after a distinguished career with many awards Worthy was inducted into the Michigan Woman’s Hall of Fame for her years of tireless work as the Wayne County Prosecutor and specifically for her outstanding work on resolving the Detroit Sexual Assault Kit Backlog.

In 2019 the 10th Anniversary of the Detroit Rape Kit Project was marked by a commemorative ceremony celebrating the completion of the testing of all of the rape kits, state legislation that sets out timeline for the submission of kits for testing and a statewide tracking system that allows victims to follow the progression of their kit for DNA testing.

In 2020 the mission of the Detroit Sexual Assault Kit Project continues with investigations and prosecutions of rapists. As of June 2020, there have been 219 convictions, and 2,234 cases that are actively being investigated. The Detroit Rape Kit Project has been a leader in this field establishing best practices across the county.

After wanting to have a Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) for many years, Worthy received the funding with the support of Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans, from the Wayne County Commission in 2017. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office CIU became operational in January 2018 and has received over 700 requests for investigation. It is headed by Director Valerie Newman. The Conviction Integrity Unit investigates claims of actual innocence, to determine whether there is clear and convincing new evidence that the convicted defendant was not the person who committed the conviction offense. "We are committed to taking these new claims of innocence seriously and we need any and all additional resources we can muster,” Worthy said.

In 2020 WCPO partnered with the Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center on New Program “Talk It Out.” Every year the Juvenile Division of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office (WCPO) handles thousands of juvenile delinquency cases. While many of these matters are set on the formal court docket of the Third Circuit Family Division, there is a new alternate path available on appropriate cases. Prosecutor Worthy, in partnership with the Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center (WCDRC), offers select youth the option to participate in a unique juvenile mediation program called Talk It Out. Although it is imperative that each juvenile who commits a delinquent act is held responsible for his or her conduct, Prosecutor Worthy recognizes the negative impact that juvenile adjudications may have on the future of young people. The WCPO has created a program that balances the need for delinquent youth to accept responsibility for their actions and the interests of delinquency victims seeking justice. With the assistance of an experienced WCDRC facilitator, Talk It Out will bring selected juvenile offenders and their victims together with a focus on repairing the harm resulting from the minor's behavior. The goal of Talk It Out is to provide an alternative to formal prosecution that gives delinquent youth an opportunity to take responsibility and make amends, while also giving the victims a forum to be heard and healed.

Ms. Worthy has been an adjunct professor of criminal law at the University of Detroit/Mercy and has lectured at Harvard Law School, the University of Notre Dame Law School, Wayne State University Law School and the Universite des Sciences Sociales in Toulouse, France. She has lectured for the National College of District Attorneys, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, the Detroit Police Department and other local schools and agencies.

Her proudest accomplishment is being the mother of three daughters, Anastasia, 25, and 14-year-old twins Anniston and Alessandra.


Kym Worthy | Time
Kym Worthy is the Wayne County Prosecutor, in charge of the Detroit area. She leads a small team that is investigating more than 11,000 abandoned, untested ...

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