Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Get it in writing!

There’s an interesting story developing in the Muskegon court system these days, but I can tell you now that the defendant is going to come out on the short end of the stick.  It’s really a “he said/she said” situation, but there’s a pattern there that you should be aware of. 

According to the news reports, the attorney for a prisoner says he was promised immunity before he testified.  After he testified, the Prosecutor’s office refused to admit that this was the deal.  Nope.  No deal.  Said defense attorney Naesha Leys, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire 16 years of practicing law.”  If she’s going to keep on practicing law in Muskegon County she’d better get used to it.

You’ve heard me tell the story about Jimmy in this column before.  He was convicted in Muskegon County in the early 80s.  Many years later, while in prison, another prisoner personally admitted involvement in a murder case.  Jimmy was so upset about this that he felt he should tell authorities.  Turns out it was an unsolved murder case on the other side of the state, and the Prosecutor in that county definitely needed his testimony.  He agreed to do it, without being offered any deal, because he has a conscience and he felt it was the right thing to do.

But the state went beyond that, and offered a deal anyway.  The Prosecutor of that county conferred with the Prosecutor of Muskegon County, and they agreed that if Jimmy would testify in this murder case they would go to bat and try to get him re-sentenced.  (He’s currently serving one of those cruel and outrageous sentences:  50-200 years!)

Jimmy testified, and the Prosecutor admits that, thanks to his critical testimony, she obtained a first degree murder conviction.  The state won!  But Jimmy lost!  Nobody will live up to the deal, now.

I find this interesting:  The Assistant Muskegon County Prosecutor who originally obtained Jimmy’s conviction---now retired---is now in his corner, asking the Governor to, if nothing else, commute the sentence!  But the Governor so far has refused.

A former US District Attorney and Prosecutor, now turned criminal defense attorney, has taken up Jimmy’s cause and admits to his frustration with the system.  He’s been lied to and snubbed by these same Muskegon County officials that we’re hearing and reading about.  And they’re even members of the same political party!

Meanwhile Jimmy, who did the right thing for all the right reasons, sits behind bars, now with a “bull’s eye” on his back.  Prisoners and guards know he’s a snitch.  He hasn’t been granted appropriate protection.  Someone tried to poison him.  He’s been stabbed and attacked several times.  He lives in fear.

It’s a simple lesson for all who find themselves in the judicial system, regardless of county.  Prosecutors want to win.  If there’s any deal to be made, get it in writing.

Just ask Jimmy.

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