In what looked like an impossible hurdle to climb, the law firm of Grabel and Associates shocked the state of Michigan by winning their second decision before the Michigan Supreme Court in less than a 3-week time span when the highest court of the state overturned the “People v. Alexander” decision that was rendered before the Michigan Court of Appeals (People v. Alexander, 2016 WL 5887900 [Red Flagged Michigan Court of Appeals decision]).
The case is one that has garnered an immense amount of controversy on social media and beyond. At trial, a jury found former Michigan State Police Officer Brian Alexander guilty of four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct but after that decision was rendered the defendant filed a motion for a new trial and evidentiary hearing based upon various allegations which included inconsistent testimony that was on the record at the preliminary hearing and new evidence that could’ve changed the outcome of the case. The trial court granted the motion and with it a new trial was ordered. The Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the trial court’s decision and now the Michigan Supreme Court weighed in by overturning the Appellate Court which leaves the legal community to ponder whether or not newly discovered evidence will grant a new trial?
Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates was the lead counsel for the defense. Grabel spoke of the Supreme Court’s decision and weighed in on the law. Grabel was quoted as saying, “Whenever you are faced with a decision such as this, we have to turn to “People v. Cress” which lays out the elements that have to be proven (People v. Cress, 468 Mich 678, 664 NW2d 174 ). The Cress court provides the blueprint and once that research is completed, it’s time to go to battle. Today, our Supreme Court voted in the favor of protecting the constitutional rights of not only Brian Alexander but anyone faced with similar circumstances and now he has a new chance at freedom. As a criminal defense attorney, the only thing that we can really ask is that our court system preserves the protections of our constitution. Today, I’m proud to say that was accomplished.”
The case law from “People v. Cress” provides a global perspective but the arguments will lay within the talent of the attorney. In Cress, for a defendant to be granted a new trial on the basis of newly discovered evidence, a defendant must show that “(1) the evidence itself, not merely its materiality, was newly discovered; (2) the newly discovered evidence was not cumulative; (3) the party could not, using reasonable diligence, have discovered and produced the evidence at trial; and (4) the new evidence makes a different result probable at trial. (Cress at 692)”
Ravi Gurumurthy, the lead counsel of Michigan Law North in Cadillac, Michigan also provided commentary. Gurumurthy stated, “The Cress court is perhaps the most overlooked decision in our state. Some lawyers think that the case law alone will make for a new trial and get a rude awakening when their motion gets denied. Others are not even familiar with the decision. As defense lawyers we need to have a working knowledge of the case because it will allow us to combat discovery violations and afford us constitutional protections. Scott Grabel, with yet another victory at the Michigan Supreme Court is becoming a pioneer in the criminal defense sector and we are all taking a cue from his tireless work ethic.”
While the success of Grabel and his team is having a profound effect across the Midwest, it is not a pure celebration for the criminal law sector. One Michigan defense attorney that asked not to place her name on the record e-mailed in response to the verdict, “Social media watchdogs are not going to be happy about this. In the court of public opinion, the world of Facebook wants to see Alexander and for that matter, any police officer accused of rape to get a conviction. There is no question on the world wide web, one is convicted in the court of public opinion because ever even going to their arraignment. While the constitution supports the work of Scott Grabel, those of us with less talent and resources will face a more difficult task ahead. As the field grows more and more difficult in the advent of social media and watchdog groups, some of us are going to think about another profession.”
The words of the attorney really should make the legal profession think. If you do not have the stamina and courage to realize that everyone deserves a defense and that media pressures need to be placed aside, then you probably should not be in the profession. The criminal defense world is one where only the strong survive and as evidence from rulings at the Michigan Supreme Court, nobody is stronger than Scott Grabel. The game is not going to get easier and as attorneys, we will either need to step up to the plate…or step to the side…
Bill Amadeo is a partner at McManus PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan and an Associate Attorney at Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan. In addition to his legal duties, he also owns and operates BAT Tutoring in Lansing, Michigan and is a contributing writer for both “We Love Ann Arbor” and “We Love Dexter”.