Criminal Defense Attorney Randall Levine successfully argued for his client, Michael Lafler, to receive a preliminary hearing in a first-degree murder case, stating his former defense attorney did not effectively represent him, allowing him to waive the preliminary examination.
Levine, the newly-hired defense attorney for Lafler, argued former defense counsel John McDonough failed to explain to Lafler all his rights and the value of the examination in exposing state case weaknesses and effectively discover the prosecutor’s case, according to The Daily Reporter.
McDonough missed appointments with Lafler’s family. He also said he had another court appearance on one of the exam dates. A check found he was not at that courthouse for a hearing, according to The Daily Reporter. The prosecutor for the case, David Marvin, objected to returning the case for examination.
McDonough, the former prosecutor, never got appointed to the public defense contract.
On Thursday, St. Joseph Circuit Court Judge Paul Stutesman explained: “And therefore, the family believed that he was a public defender. It was premature, because in the end, the county wouldn't approve it. So for that reason, I'll remand it for exam as soon as possible,” The Daily Reporter wrote.
No date is set.
Lafler is being charged in the Oct. 15, 2021, death of Chelsea Wallen.
Levine filed several other motions. Prosecutor Marvin agreed to turn over clones of both Lafler and those of Wallen to the defense for examination.
“I'm not going to start off the case with a shadow on the case of appealable issues that can be avoided," the judge said.
All agreed that Three Rivers attorney Luke Nofsinger was appointed a public defender to represent Lafler at his arrest. Nofsinger “entered into some agreement with Mr. McDonough to take over the case. Mr. McDonough was never approved by the county to be on the defense contract.”
Marvin also agreed to allow for DNA testing on a baggie found on the floor of the home near Wallen, according to The Daily Reporter.
Levine outlined one defense he intends to pursue for Lafler.
“He never intended to kill the decedent, but was rather engaged in efforts to save her life the night in question,” Levine told The Daily Reporter. “The defendant expected there to be evidence that the decedent attempted to commit suicide by ingesting a baggie containing the cocaine.”
According to police reports, emergency medical responders were called to Lafler's home in Colon, The Daily Reporter reported. Lafler indicated Wallen suffered a heart attack and he could not resuscitate her. Colon Police also responded. Officers saw injuries and bruises to Wallen's arm, neck, face and right eye. He also said he and Wallen were arguing. Lafler told officers both used cocaine. Lafler said he went upstairs, but found Wallen on the floor when he returned. He called friends who came over. The couple also found her unresponsive and called 911. An autopsy ruled the death a homicide by asphyxia/strangulation.
Levine wants access to privileged medical records he believes will show Wallen had drug addiction issues, which made her violent and suicidal while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He also wants Child Protective Services records relating to investigations of Wallen in regard to her child.
Levine also said he expects to introduce evidence that night there was a struggle between the couple. He claims the efforts by Lafler “to force the decedent to expectorate the ingested baggie may have caused injury” to Wallen, according to the newspaper.
Read the entire story, here.