Fair Michigan Launches Justice Project
DETROIT - A new project has started in southeast Michigan working directly with city officials to investigate hate crimes against the LGBT community.
Fair Michigan, the relatively-new nonprofit organization whose literature describes its mission as “dedicated to transforming Michigan to be a place where LGBT lives are celebrated, valued and respected,” has developed a program working directly with Wayne County city officials.
At a July 12 press conference the Fair Michigan Justice Project, a collaboration between Fair Michigan and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, was announced. It will investigate and prosecute crimes against the LGBT community, especially homicide cases, and those considered “cold” or those that lack eyewitness evidence.
According to the Detroit News, the project began months ago when Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy reached out to Dana Nessel to discuss how to better serve the LGBT community.
“I noticed a national trend, ticking upward, of people being killed because of their sexual orientation,” Worthy said.
Nessel is best known as the lead attorney on the Michigan same-sex marriage case, DeBoer v Snyder, that was integral in the path towards marriage equality.
LGB and especially trans men and women experience higher rates of hate crimes compared to their heterosexual counterparts. LGBT individuals also experience extreme discrimination by the hands of the police, both institutional and prejudicial. While LGBT cultural competency trainings have been happening in communities and within police departments, more needs to be done so that LGBT folks are provided with equal treatment under the law.
In an effort to keep up on hot and “cold” LGBT cases, Deputy Dani Woods was appointed in 2013 as the LGBT liaison to the Detroit Police Department, office of Police Chief James Craig. Since her appointment Woods has worked to open communication between the LGBT community and the police force and regularly meets with LGBT leaders in the area. Last year the department held a community conversation at Palmer Park following the tragic murders of Amber Monroe and Ashton O’Hara, two young trans women of color from the city. The event was attended by over 200 people. Monroe’s case has yet to be solved. Woods also conducted multiple police trainings.
The Fair Michigan Justice Project Team will consist of former assistant prosecutor Jaimie Powell Horowitz who will be appointed as a special prosecutor by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. Former police chief, Vicki Yost will be appointed as a special investigator by the Wayne County Prosecutor.
The initial project launch will focus on Detroit, but Fair Michigan plans on expanding to other communities in Wayne County according to Worthy.
Monroe’s case is one of 12 that the project will initially focus on, plus five other homicides.
The project is funded through a grant by the Hertz Schram law firm.
Learn more about the Justice Project at http://www.fairmichigan.org/fair-michigan-justice-project/.