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Michigan Layers Weekly: Michigan Supreme Court ‘one-man grand jury’ decision in Flint Water case among ‘most important’ opinions in 2022

The Michigan Supreme Court’s decision regarding the “one-man grand jury” in the Flint Water Crisis criminal case is cited among Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s most important opinions in 2022.

The June 28, 2022, ruling is the sole criminal law opinion in the publication’s “Most Important Opinions” compilation, which published online on Jan. 4, and will be in the Jan. 16 print edition of Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly. It is among more than 100 cases from the latter half of 2022 chosen by Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly editors, stating:

“Where a judge decided to issue criminal charges against three defendants for their roles in the Flint water crisis, two of the defendants are entitled to a remand for a preliminary examination, while the third defendant is entitled to dismissal, as MCL 767.4 does not authorize a judge to issue an indictment initiating a criminal prosecution, held the Michigan Supreme Court. People v. Peeler; MiLW 06-105651

Upon the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling last June, criminal defense attorneys Randall Levine and Anastase Markou shared how this would affect their client, Richard Baird, in the Flint Water case.

Baird, who previously served as transformation manager for former Governor Richard Snyder, was "unfairly vilified" to appease the "justifiably angry" citizens of Flint, Levine told the Detroit Free Press.

“From the very beginning, we had argued that the process employed by the attorney general’s office was improper,” Levine told WWMT, WNEM and MLive. “The government cannot employ a one-man grand juror to act in secrecy and then deny those accused a right to challenge in open court the allegations made against them through the preliminary examination process. Moreover, a judge who is appointed as a one-man grand juror is not empowered to act as an executive and issue indictments; which was done in this case.”

Markou argued, successfully, that the process denied his client and others an important step in the criminal process: a preliminary examination, he told FOX 17. The examination allows defendants charged in Michigan with a felony to defend the allegations against them, and see the prosecutor’s evidence, before trial.

“Because it’s a secret, private, almost star-chamber-like process where a defendant who is under investigation essentially has no rights whatsoever,” Markou said during his interview with FOX 17. “It was designed primarily to investigate cases where there might be corruption in the judiciary or with prosecutors. It was not meant to be a separate, distinct charging authority for a judge.

“They were trying to use this as a way to circumvent what is essentially a statutory right for all criminal defendants charged with felonies,” he added. “Once the judge found what the judge believed to be probable cause, the prosecutor should’ve filed a complaint against whatever defendants they chose to charge, and then each of those defendants would’ve been entitled to a preliminary examination.
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