Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Ann Williams, 54, is a bit tough, a little hard to take in at first. But that's because she's passionate. And she speaks the truth.
Williams is a forensic consultant and investigator, a videographer working on a biting full-length documentary. She teaches an enrichment class at Millsaps called "Armchair Detective," through which she urges citizens to keep themselves informed and scrutinize everything, as she does. In addition to discussing the many fields of forensics, Williams uses her class to "create higher expectations for the quality of evidence produced" in criminal cases. "I hope to make [students] aware that even after someone is prosecuted that they should keep their eyes open," she explains. "There are bad prosecutors and false confessions. I used to assume that if someone was on trial, that must be it. I thought a prosecutor wouldn't just accuse anyone."
As she's gotten older, though, filling her days with research, Williams has learned that there are many holes in the criminal justice system. She's currently working on a documentary focused on the Baton Rouge serial killings that resulted in the tragic death of Millsaps graduate and Jacksonian Murray Pace. The documentary primarily explores the lives of the victims—their dreams, hobbies, successes—and also explores the mistakes made by the police. But "more importantly," Williams says, "the film will feature the close relationships that have emerged between the victims' families, which have served as a resurrection, of sorts." Williams plans to enter the film in several film festivals to bring increased awareness to the situation and others like it.
The film won't be finished for over a year, but Williams is working on other projects. In the fall, she's sponsoring a public showing of the film "Senorita Extraviada" about the unsolved rapes, killings and tortures of more than 300 female NAFTA factory workers in Juarez, Mexico. Williams says NAFTA has done nothing to help the situation: "The victims were employed by 'multinational' corporations who moved American jobs to Mexico because of the cheap labor market there—with the help of our governor, Haley Barbour, as he lobbied for Mexico to get NAFTA approved. It's a pity he made so much money on the backs of the working poor, there and here."
Williams is critical, but she's not mean-spirited or overly cynical. "Scrutiny preserves our system," she explains with a smile. "It's what keeps our country great."