ATLANTA - In her first interview as the head of Georgia's first human trafficking prosecution unit, Hannah Palmquist talks challenges in the courtroom, specifically when it comes combating how jurors view victims and how victims view themselves.
Palmquist, a former Cobb County prosecutor, sat down with Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr to discuss the unit's priorities, about a month into her new job.
The unit is an extension of the state Attorney General's Office, and has been funded by a $370,000 investment announced by AG Chris Carr earlier this summer.
[READ MORE: Georgia creates sex trafficking prosecution unit]
"These are extraordinarily difficult cases to prosecute," said Palmquist. "They're difficult because people have preconceived notions about what human trafficking is -- about what our victims look like, about what they will act like…"
Palmquist sees the unit's responsibility as victim-focused pre-and post-trial, and educating jurors and the public on how traffickers operate.
"It's like a person who creates drugs in order to sell them," she said. "That is their product. A human trafficker takes vulnerable children and essentially creates their product through the psychological abuse."
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"So by the time we've gotten to trial, they've accomplished their mission of creating this person -- this product -- who is not going to stand up for themselves, who's going to be loyal to them, who's going to defend them … and our job is to start working with the victims so they can start seeing it differently and start seeing that what happened to them is wrong."
Palmquist points out how the unit will add resources to local prosecutors and save cases that are made complex by the traffickers' actual movement across the state.
"Traffickers don't care if they're in DeKalb, Fulton or Cobb County, so one place where we can be helpful is sort of when a case gets bigger than a county," Palmquist told Carr. "We're going to have jurisdiction across an entire state so we can sort of put everything together and make that one case."
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