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MI Supreme Court says 'one-man grand jury' can't indict in Flint water case

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Update: Tuesday, June 28, 2022: 1:40 p.m.:

Former Governor Rick Snyder's legal team says it will ask to have all the Flint water criminal charges against him dismissed. That's based on an opinion issued Tuesday by the Michigan Supreme Court that was a setback for the prosecution. Snyder faces two misdemeanor charges of willful neglect of duty.

Snyder's legal team issued this statement:

"We applaud today’s decision from the Michigan Supreme Court, which leaves no doubt about how Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office egregiously mishandled these cases from the beginning. As the Michigan Supreme Court makes clear, these prosecutions of Governor Snyder and the other defendants were never about seeking justice for the citizens of Flint.  Rather, Attorney General Nessel and her political appointee Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud staged a self-interested, vindictive, wasteful, and politically motivated prosecution.  The people of Michigan will recall how Solicitor General Hammoud took to the stage at every opportunity to grandstand, but they now see the truth from Michigan’s highest court of law.  We will be moving immediately to dismiss all criminal charges against Governor Snyder based on today's unequivocal and scathing Supreme Court ruling."

Original post: Tuesday, June 28, 2022, 1 p.m.:

The Michigan Supreme Court says three former state officials should be allowed to hear and challenge the evidence used to indict them in a criminal Flint water case. The decision says the Genesee County Circuit Court improperly allowed the very unusual process of having a one-person grand jury indict the former officials without a preliminary hearing.

The three officials worked in former Governor Rick Snyder's administration. They are former Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, Nancy Peeler — who also worked for the department — and Richard Baird, who was a top advisor to Snyder. The high court said the lower court should also consider Lyon's motion to dismiss the charges against him.

John Bursch is the lawyer for Lyon, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Bursch says it’s time for the Flint prosecutions to end.

“The court compared the attorney general’s tactics here to the star chamber, which you may know is the 15th to 17th century English court of inquiry that became synonymous with social and political oppression through the arbitrary use and abuse of the power it wielded,” he said.

The attorney general must go back to the Genesee County Circuit Court and present evidence in a preliminary hearing or drop the case. A spokesperson for Attorney General Dana Nessel said the decision is being reviewed.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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