(CBS DETROIT) — Hours after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the charges against former Governor Rick Snyder and eight other people in the Flint water scandal were invalid, State Attorney General Fadwa Hammoud said she is still willing to prove the charges against them.
Tuesday’s court ruling puts an end to those charges, which were leveled against the ex-officials in 2021.
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The Supreme Court said state laws “authorize a judge to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants” as a one-person grand jury.
“But they do not authorize the judge to issue charges,” the court said in a 6-0 opinion.
Despite the ruling, Hammoud, who was appointed in 2019 by Attorney General Dana Nessel to lead the criminal investigation, said “these cases are not over yet”.
“Public comment to the contrary is presumptuous and brash. Our reading is that the Court’s opinion interprets the one-man grand jury trial to require charges to be filed in the district court and include a preliminary investigation. Our team is willing to go through that process. We relied on solid law and the tried and tested one-man jury tool used for decades to indict the nine defendants in the Flint water crisis. We still believe that these allegations can and will be proven in court,” Hammoud said in the statement.
“We are prepared and determined to prove the charges against the defendants in court and are determined to bring this trial to a successful conclusion.”
Hammoud and Wayne County Kym Worthy turned to a one-man jury in Genesee County—an ancient, rarely used method—to secretly hear evidence and get charges against Snyder and others.
Worthy issued the following statement on Tuesday:
“In today People of the State of Michigan v Nancy Peeler, et al, the Michigan Supreme Court has questioned the constitutionality of the one-man jury. Over the next few days, I will review ongoing cases in my office that may be affected by this ruling to determine how we should proceed.
“In Wayne County, we have communities plagued by murders, shootings and other violent crimes. The one-man jury has been an important way of protecting witnesses who would never have come forward for fear of fatal consequences to themselves, family members and friends. This process was a fair, efficient, and cost-effective way to take a case to court for charges. The juror is a judge well-versed in the law, and the process allows brave witnesses to come forward, knowing they will be safe giving sworn testimony. The one-man-grand jury has been used effectively in some of the most violent cases in Wayne and other counties.
“It is extremely difficult for me to hear the Michigan Supreme Court make an intellectual argument against the one-man jury when I know that the people of my community are besieged with murders, violent assaults and gang warfare that demand severe punishment. horrible toll on families for generations to come. This has been a powerful tool in combating the “no snitch mentality” and I am disappointed and fearful of what the future will bring without this important criminal trial.”
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Snyder was charged with two offenses of willful dereliction of duty. Ex-health chief Nick Lyon and former Michigan medical director Dr. Eden Wells, were charged with involuntary manslaughter for nine deaths related to Legionnaires’ Disease, when Flint’s water system may have had insufficient chlorine to fight bacteria in the river’s water.
Six others were also indicted on various charges: Snyder’s longtime fixer, Rich Baird; former senior assistant Jarrod Agen; former Flint executives Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley; Flint’s former head of public works, Howard Croft; and Nancy Peeler, manager of a state health department.
Snyder was governor from 2011 to 2018.
Officials say that in April 2014, a Snyder-appointed emergency manager made a money-saving decision to use water from the Flint River while a pipeline to the Flint River was being built.
However, the water was not treated to reduce corrosion — a disastrous decision confirmed by state regulators that led to lead leaching from old pipes and spoiling the distribution system used by nearly 100,000 residents. Experts say the decision also sparked an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease and accused then-director of Michigan Health and Human Services, Nick Lyon, of failing to warn the public.
In March 2016, a panel appointed by the governor concluded that Michigan is “fundamentally responsible” for the crisis because of decisions by environmental regulators.
In 2019, charges were filed against 15 people; however, prosecutors dropped all charges against eight people and promised to restart the investigation. Seven of the 15 people argued for no contest against crime and their files would eventually be wiped clean.
In November 2021, a judge approved a $626 million settlement for residents and others exposed to the water.
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