Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is cleared of charges in Flint Water case

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: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder speaks to the media regarding the status of the Flint water crisis on January 27, 2016, at Flint City Hall in Flint, Michigan.
: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder speaks to the media regarding the status of the Flint water crisis on January 27, 2016, at Flint City Hall in Flint, Michigan.

The Michigan Supreme Court has struck down the indictments against former Gov. Rick Snyder and eight others, including his health director, in connection with a Flint water probe. As Axios reports, the court stated the Genesee County grand jury lower court, which comprises one judge, does not have the legal authority to issue indictments.

With the 6-0 decision, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack explicitly says state laws only allow “authorize a judge to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants.” The Associated Press notes that prosecutors in Michigan typically file charges after a police investigation.

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Utilizing a one-judge jury happens when you want to protect witnesses who have to testify in secret. Some are confused about why criminal investigator Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy took the non-traditional route to get charges on Snyder and others.

From the Associated Press:

“MCL 767.3 and MCL 767.4 authorize a judge to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants. But they do not authorize the judge to issue indictments,” judges said in the opinion Tuesday. “And if a criminal process begins with a one-man grand jury, the accused is entitled to a preliminary examination before being brought to trial.

“Accordingly, we reverse the Genesee Circuit Court’s orders denying Peeler’s and Baird’s motions to remand for a preliminary examination and denying Lyon’s motion to dismiss. We remand to the Genesee Circuit Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

The cases now will return to Genesee County court for dismissal. Snyder was initially charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty. Those charges levied against Snyder’s former senior aide Jarrod Agen, former Flint managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley, and others are now voided.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Richard Bernstein placed the blame at the feet of the prosecution.

From Detroit Free Press:

“Put simply, the prosecution’s power to charge individuals and haul them into court is constrained by certain preconditions,” Bernstein wrote. “We recognize today that, under these circumstances, one of those preconditions is required by statute — a preliminary examination.

“The prosecution cannot simply cut corners in order to prosecute defendants more efficiently. To allow otherwise would be repugnant to the foundational principles of our judicial system.”

A Flint father and community activist Leon El-Alamin called the ruling a “disgrace.”

“So everyone involved in this manmade disaster by the government is walking away scot-free?” El-Alamin said. “We lock people up every day for petty crimes. Something like this has killed people. People died from the Flint water crisis.”