Charges removed for 3 Flint water defendants in Supreme Court ruling

The Michigan Supreme Court said a judge has no power to issue indictments in the Flint water scandal.
Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 12:42 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - The Michigan Supreme Court said a judge has no power to issue indictments in the Flint water scandal.

The move wipes out charges against three defendants in the crisis including former state health department manager Nancy Peeler, former advisor Richard Baird, and former state health director Nick Lyon.

The Michigan Supreme Court said Michigan law can let a judge act as a one-person grand jury to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants but cannot issue indictments or charges.

If the trial does start with the one-man grand jury, the defendant is entitled to a hearing to argue there’s not enough evidence to send the case to trial.

The court’s opinion states, in this case, this didn’t happen.

The cases have been returned to the Genesee County Circuit Court for further reconsideration.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton issued the following response to the Michigan Supreme Court’s opinion:

“We are reviewing today’s Michigan Supreme Court ruling with respect to the one-man grand jury and we are evaluating our cases in light of this decision. As I previously announced, we have defended the use of the one-man grand jury and now we will determine if any of our pending cases need to be re-issued.”

“They use rather plain but in emphatic language to say you must have a preliminary examination to assure that the criminal defendant no matter who they are, are and get the due process that they are entitled to,” said Western Michigan University professor Michael McDaniel.

This means the continuation of a 5-year legal battle to get justice for the people of Flint.

“The people of Flint should have their day in court. And the hope is that this is not the end of the line for this process of holding people criminally liable, but it may end up being a detour but not the end of the road,” said Congressman Dan Kildee.

McDaniel said with the Supreme Court decision the legal fight might not be even close to halfway done.

This statement from Rick Snyder’s legal team was sent to TV:

“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.”