State's Attorney event honors those who stand for victims' rights

The words "victims" and "celebration" don't often go hand in hand, but this week the Historic Courtroom of the Circuit Court Building in Annapolis hosted a Victims' Rights Week Celebration honoring residents and criminal justice professionals who work with victims of crime.

The Victim-Witness Unit, a department of the county state's attorney's office that works to help victims of all types of crime, organized Wednesday's ceremony and luncheon. The unit has victim-witness specialists based in county courthouses.


Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said that over its 33 years, the program has "provided victim assistance services to literally tens of thousands of Anne Arundel County residents."

Debra Tall, who heads victim-witness services for the Anne Arundel County Police Department, was awarded the Warren B. Duckett Memorial Commitment to Justice Award. Officials said Tall, a 30-year veteran of victim services, reaches out to families after a crime occurs and "is often the first point of contact the victim of a horrible crime has with the criminal justice system."

The award, named for Warren B. Duckett Jr., a longtime chief prosecutor, judge and political figure in Anne Arundel County, is given to an individual in recognition of performance, leadership and dedication.

In addition, Victim Witness Assistance Awards were given to the following people:

•Annapolis Officer Jennifer Morsell for her role in a human trafficking case that uncovered the exploitation of teenage girls from South America. Officials said Morsell scoured school records and coordinated research with federal officials, ultimately developing a case that led to a prostitution arrest in Annapolis.

•The organization Bikers Against Child Abuse for its work serving abused children. Members of the group accompany children to court and operate an on-call service for children. Members have also arranged for therapy sessions for some abused children who otherwise could not afford them.

•Cynthia Cook-Jones for helping to save a life after a stabbing. She was eating at an Edgewater restaurant last year when a fight broke out and one person was stabbed. She rendered first aid to the victim until paramedics arrived.

•The Anne Arundel County Sheriff's Department Emergency Response Team for its work to encourage victims to attend trials as observers.

Weathersbee said the annual victims' rights event is an important opportunity to "thank our staff for their commitment and dedication to serving victims and witnesses. This event also allows us to thank those who also share in our goal to help victims of crime."

For more information on the Victim-Witness Unit, call 410-222-1740, ext. 3811.

—Jim Joyner