Wayne Law alumna finds fulfillment in prosecuting crimes

A serious car accident caused by a drunken driver eventually led Wayne State University Law School alumna Dianna Collins to her career as a prosecutor.

"When I was in sixth grade, my brother and sister were hit by a drunk driver and seriously injured," said Collins, who graduated from Wayne Law in 1998. "It turned our family's world upside down. The driver fought the ticket that he received, and my parents allowed me to attend the proceedings. When I saw the prosecutor in action, I knew that being a prosecutor was exactly what I wanted to do with my life, and I've never looked back."

An Ypsilanti resident, she earned her bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Michigan. In law school, she was active in many arenas, including moot court, Free Legal Aid Clinic and Student Bar Association Board of Governors. Today, she's an assistant prosecuting attorney for Washtenaw County, responsible for prosecuting all felony crimes, excluding sexual assaults. She's been with the county prosecutor's office since 1999.

"My first murder trial involved a triple homicide where one of the victims was an infant," Collins said. "There were four co-defendants and ultimately the case was tried before two juries simultaneously. It was quite a daunting task for my first murder trial."

The job still can be nerve-wracking, but it's also incredibly fulfilling, she said.

"There certainly is an emotional toll," Collins said. "Learning how to compartmentalize things has been a challenge. I'm getting better at it but still find it difficult occasionally. I prosecuted sexual assault cases for four years. Although that work is very stressful, the sense that you've had a hand in protecting children from crime is very rewarding. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to give back to the community and help people during some of the most difficult times in their lives. I continue to be amazed at the strength and bravery that people, especially children, display during such difficult times."

Collins developed close friends in law school and continues to play a part in its tradition, serving on Wayne Law's Board of Visitors.

She and four friends from her law school class - Marcy Hahn, Stacey King, Samantha Lord and Mary Margaret O'Donnell - made a pact when they graduated to get together once a month for dinner. It's a commitment they have kept. During one dinner in 2012, the classmates decided to create an endowed scholarship to be given to a deserving law student each year. They called their gift the Brass Ring Endowed Scholarship and dedicated it to their "enduring friendship and their collective and individual quests to live life to its fullest."

"I'm so grateful to be able to give back to the school in this way," Collins said. "The scholarship is a celebration of our friendship, and I'm truly honored to have these women in my life."

Published: Fri, Aug 14, 2015