New prosecutor in charge in Bucks Co.

January 11, 2008 5:48:36 PM PST
There's a new top prosecutor in Bucks County. While she may be relatively young, her colleagues and predecessors say don't let that youth fool you.

"For me, it was never a question of if I wanted to be district attorney. It was a question of when," said Michelle Henry.

At age 39, Henry is the region's youngest district attorney.

She was chosen to fill Diane Gibbon's seat last Friday, just hours after the former district attorney was sworn onto the county bench.

"Every once in a while an opportunity comes along that you have to seize, and this was it for me," she said.

She was chosen over two higher-ranking co-workers, both of whom have high praise and respect for her.

Henry is a career prosecutor. She was Bucks County's Chief Deputy in Charge of Major Crimes. She started out in the child abuse unit, so it comes as no surprise that protecting child victims is now one of her top priorities.

"I saw the horrific impact that child abuse has on its victims. Not just the actual victims, but also on their families," said Henry.

At 5-foot-1, Henry has no problem when some assume she is too petite, too young and too cute to be tough in the courtroom.

"That's fine because that's their own underestimation of my abilities," said Henry.

Convicted killer, Richard Laird, knows not to underestimate her. Last year, when a federal court overturned his first first degree murder conviction and death row sentence for the 1987 murder of Anthony Milano of Levittown, Henry re-tried the case.

Laird was sent back to death row, and Henry said it's hard to explain how accomplishing that for the victim's father affected her.

"For me, to be able to do something like that -- to attempt to make somebody whole again really is indescribable. The words and the feelings that come with that, it's what motivated me every single day for this job," Henry said.

Henry also said she'll focus some of her energy on the prevention of substance abuse, a key factor in the majority of violent crimes.

Bucks County Judge Alan Rubenstein said he expects good things from the district attorney's office with her at the helm.