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Ingham County prosecutor John Dewane lays out priorities for his new role

January 18, 2023
<p>Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane; Courtesy of Ingham County's Prosecutor's Office</p>

Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane; Courtesy of Ingham County's Prosecutor's Office

Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane is sixteen days into his tenure as the county prosecutor, having taken office at the start of the new year.

He was chosen to succeed Carol Siemon, who resigned halfway into her four-year term. Dewane served as deputy chief of the county's prosecutor's office for the past twelve years, working primarily as a homicide prosecutor, before being chosen to replace Siemon.

Dewane's first order of business: on his first day in office, he reversed the former prosecutor's felony firearm policy.

Siemon, who has embraced more "progressive" policies, set the rule as a part of a series of reforms. Her office did so in order to address mass incarceration and racial equity promoting justice and fairness in charging decisions and equitable results in sentencing.

Dewane said he wouldn't "characterize" himself as a "progressive prosecutor."

However, Dewane said when a case comes to his office, his assistant prosecutors and him take a look into all its factors and decide whether a crime occurred, what crimes occurred and how those crimes will be charged.

Dewane also announced it will charge individuals who are repeat felony offenders under Michigan’s Habitual Offender law, which would increase their maximum exposure to prison or jail time. 

“I was on the frontlines of observing gun violence and observing it increase in our community,” Dewane said. “At this point, gun violence in our country is at unacceptable levels. I'm committed to protecting county residents from the upsurge in gun violence.”

Dewane said he hopes the change in policy will act as a deterrent to people possessing and using guns while committing a crime or felony. 

Dewane worked in the county's district court's family court division and circuit court. He served as unit chief of both the district and circuit court at different points in his career spanning over twenty-years. 

In his role as the county's homicide prosecutors, Dewane prosecuted multiple murder cases. Most of his legal experience is trial work and he has tried over eighty cases in the county.

His top priority right now in his new role is gun violence reduction. Dewane said he believes the only way he can do so is by enforcing laws, holding people accountable and collaborating with law enforcement.

"The more guns we get off the street, the better and more safe our public will be and our citizens," Dewane said.

Dewane said he works with a nonprofit organization, Advance Peace. According to it's website, the organization describes itself as one that "interrupts gun violence in American urban neighborhoods, by providing transformational opportunities to young men involved in lethal firearm offenses and placing them in a high-touch, personalized fellowship—the Peacemaker Fellowship."

"That's an equal part of working with the community, not just with law enforcement, but with community members who have access to our youth because a lot of gun violence is stemming from youthful offenders" Dewane said.

Alongside gun violence, sexual assault is also high-up on Dewane's list of priorities. He's also a proponent of "specialty courts," which includes substance abuse, drug, veteran and mental health court which people without lengthy criminal records can be put into to receive the tools they need to avoid incarceration.

"I'm here to enforce the law and protect victims. I am a public servant. Being a public servant means that I need to be accessible. I need to be available," Dewane said. "People need to reach out to me, let me know what's going on — that's a huge thing being in the job, here working hard every day for the citizens of East Lansing."

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