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Judge delays decision on trial for state health department director

MDHHS Director Nick Lyon
Steve Carmody

It will be another month before a judge decides whether the head of Michigan’s state health department should stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges.

Nick Lyon is the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.  He was in that job when a deadly Legionnaires Disease outbreak occurred in Genesee County in 2014 and 2015. At least a dozen people died.

Lyon’s charges are linked to the deaths of two men, who died months after top state health department officials learned of the outbreak. While notices about the outbreak were sent to medical facilities in Genesee County, no public announcement was made until January 2016.

Lyon’s preliminary hearing began 10 months ago. The point of a preliminary hearing is to give a judge a chance to review the evidence to determine if there is enough to warrant sending the case to trial. 

District Judge David Goggins was expected to make that decision Wednesday.   

But instead, defense attorney John Bursch says Goggins asked the prosecution and defense to address some key issues one more time.

“One thing he asked us to focus on specifically was the gross negligence aspect of the manslaughter charges,” Bursch told reporters who packed the Flint courtroom.     

Special Prosecutor Todd Flood did not speak to reporters after the hearing.

But during the hearing, Flood once again pounded on Lyon’s accountability as the head of the state health department. Flood suggests Lyon tried to “push this under the rug.”

Judge Goggins says he expects to deliver his decision August 20th.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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