Royal Oak Defense Attorney
Felony Murder Acquittal (5-13-2022)
First of all, thank you for the kudos. I want to say upfront; that I owe a debt of gratitude to Mariell Lehman for being my sounding board and my friend She talked me off the ledge the Saturday before trial and was there to talk almost daily on the case. We all need that person in our lives as we cannot do these cases alone. Also, to Roach, who has been my friend and colleague for 31 years. His encouragement and support were over the top. Last Gary Kennedy II was in the trial at the same time and we just pushed each other.
The case alleged that my client Ann Marie Walsh was the caretaker for her 85-year-old mom. She had been for many years. There had prior Adult Protection Services involved, one where my client had been unsubstantiated and one where she was low level substantiate. In the latter, the mom said she was fine with her caretaker and wanted no intervention. In the latter, there was a similar act. D had left her mom on the floor for three hours and needed maintenance to lift her up. D had taken her walker away because she kept falling. These acts were excluded by the APA
On the date in question, D had called 911 because her mom was having diarrhea and no urine output. She reported that mom had been bedridden for 6 weeks, which was new, and had fallen D left mom on the floor for 2 days. She said Mom was combative and wanted to be there. Mom had 80 or so bruises, a broken nose, ribs, and a sternum. My ME was Dr. John Hunsaker III professor emeritus in forensic pathology from the University of Kentucky. He was the ME for 60 counties in KY (unlike here with individual MEs, in KY they have one for half the state and another for the other half Deputy MEs do the autopsies). The State used Dr. Mary Pietrangelo (I love crossing her and have been since 2012). There was a solid wood nightstand next to mom’s bed. My theory is that mom, who had severe osteoporosis faceplanted into the table and broke her nose and bones. Both MEs agreed that old people bleed and bruise easily when they fall. The EMTs and hospital intake reported no open wounds, lacerations, or fractures outside of the above. All agreed that we would expect these if someone had been beaten. Two neighbors reported hearing mom scream 5 days earlier for D to stop hurting her. The neighbors are relatives and live together. One claimed that the police had been called before. In closing, I asked where these police reports were? Where were the neighbors? Where was management? I had to be very careful not to ask that question in the trial because it would have opened the door to the APS shit. The one neighbor was Batshit crazy and we had to stop the proceedings twice. She was screaming from the stand that my client murdered her mother and was combative. I yelled at the judge that he needed to get control of her, and I was threatened with contempt. She was pulled off the stand and still was batshit crazy. I lost my cool and screamed at her. I apologized to the judge and at closing to the jury. One juror told me walking out told me I better be nice to Grandma’s (the bs crazy W was a GMA). Hey, I’m human.
This case was a battle of the MEs. Incidentally, Hunsaker will be testifying again, and Pietrangelo is the ME I recommend we attend to learn. My ME said the cause was either natural death (sepsis Mind you the EMTs and MEs agreed that the bedsores could cause sepsis) or undetermined. Dr. Mary said sepsis and blunt injury. All agreed that sepsis, including the MEs, was on board when mom was taken to the hospital. I got concessions that calling the EMS when diarrhea, a telltale symptom of sepsis, was present was not an act of neglect. Dr. Mary had to concede and agree with Dr. Hunsaker that the subdural hematomas, breaking of the nose, hemorrhages around the eye orbits, and abrasions below the brim line were consistent with falling (Dr. H wrote the latter in his article). Mom had some cuts on the back of the head, consistent w falling or headbutting. The theme was from Mary that these COULD HAVE been consistent. Or Possible. In closing (which I do in the first person. My protagonist was Mom and how “I died”) I argued you could not convict my daughter who starts at innocence with COULD HAVE or Possible. These answers must be concrete to convict because Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a huge mountain to climb.
There was a blood spatter expert Jodi Corsi. There was blood all over the place. Could not be aged. She agreed that the blood could have been aspirated as mom had pneumonia and had blood in her stomach. Likely from the nose break. Bloody noses, which mom had a history of, could account for cast-off if she bled all over herself. What was best is she said it could have been impacting, aspiration, or cast off. Again, you cannot draw anything without definitive conclusions, though I did put up a photo from a training article on spatter which showed cast off. It has a distinct pattern which was not in our case NOTE as your CDAM Board member and senior faculty. I have called our Executive Director, Mona Sains, and told her we need advanced training on spattering. So, it is in the works
Dr. Hunsaker is published on elder abuse death cases. He wrote in his article that in 50% of the cases, the police or investigators mistake injury that has innocent explanations. He is also big on self-abuse such as hitting a limb against something. Also refusing care, I put evidence into the case that mom refused care in the recent past. And her climbing into bed was her intent to die. She had terrible bedsores which were consistent with being bedridden for a lengthy time. Hunsaker said she was at biological expiration and the fall did kill her mom. NOTE: While I got great instruction on Defendant’s action being the Cause of Death-16.15, I got a terrible instruction on 16.16, susceptible victim. It was a misstatement of the law and I out a lengthy instruction on that. Based on that instruction, I asked my client on the record, if I could have permission to ask for a manslaughter instruction. My client said no.
Following up with the theme that cops jumped to nefarious conclusions, I crossed the now-retired OIC. He candidly admitted he rejected the fall outright and went right to the battery. Based on all the blood in the room and the nature of the injuries. To him, the blunt injury was one done by others I got him to admit he was an expert in elder abuse investigations as I did in the Walker hearing. I then crossed the crap out of him on falls, bleeding with ease, etc. as innocence and how it was a mistake to make automatic conclusions. He conceded that
In this case, because it was Felony Murder, you have to prove the three states of mind. Intent to kill, intent to do great bodily harm, or reckless disregard where D knew death was likely. The Jury discounted Intent to kill and reckless outright. I admit I was a little surprised though I argued in closing that D would have had to know death was the consequence. The battleground for them was intended to do GBH. Over my objection, the court gave a GBH definitional instruction. I think they agreed with what Ann had said in her interview (she admitted that she slapped her mom.) They put two and two together-lots of bruises and whatnot-fed the conclusion that she beat her mom
This jury did its job. They did the heavy lifting. I knew I had a relatively good panel from Void Dire the Guilty Camp was drawn over to the NG group
If the Court sentences appropriately and follows the law, my client, who has been in for 1002 days as of today, should go home on June 28th. Despite the acquittal on the murder charge, the judge declined a request for bond reduction.
This was one of the hardest cases I have tried in my career. Between the end of March and yesterday, I had one full day off (Mother’s Day). This case required razor-sharp focus and as usual, because I am unattached to the verdict, I was able to cull nuggets out of the testimony. If I get a case like this again, I think I would call a gerontologist an expert. I feel it really needed to be sold how fragile and easy to bruise and bleed these elderly folks are.
Three outstanding outcomings (04-02-2022).
Another great outcome today (02-17-2022).
Last, the government tried to join the life felony with a case that allegedly occurred a few weeks later. While there was some factual overlay, the cases are different and it would have been very damaging if they were tried together. The Court denied joinder and will allow a very brief reference to the life felony with what we call a cautionary instruction Mind you this was a court-appointed case on motions and legal arguments that took 36 hrs to draft. I will not get paid for that work I have said time and time again, I do not make a distinction between my paying clients and retained ones. My job remains the same. Defend my clients fully. Just adding that because court-appointed lawyers get a bad rap.
Thanks for reading and supporting me as a criminal defense lawyer Michael L. “Miko” Steinberg, Esq.
Another great outcome today (08-31-2021).
The client was charged with stalking a former girlfriend. As with many relationships, this one did not end harmoniously. To be fair, my client had some choice words in texts exchanged. We went through the texts messages, and frankly, they were creepy on behalf of the complainant. My client had moved on. He had a new relationship. The complainant was continuously contacting my client. She remarkably ended up in western Wayne County “shopping” where the new girlfriend lives. An hour away from the complainant’s Eastside residence.
From the onset, this was a case I was not going to plea. I spent several hours sorting the texts post-breakup breaking them down into months and highlighting ones of the particular issues. “Please meet me I really need a hug and kiss from you” type of stuff. My client had to go as far as to change his phone number.
The complainant just cherry-picked his choice words. My client winters in another state and came home to Michigan to a warrant out for him. We realized there was no way to interview him as the police did not have the means to interview him.
My beef is the police have the means to acquire text messages and could have in the case The fact that the complainant could not provide current contact information should have been a red flag Why don’t you have a number? Answer He ceased contact with me.
I was retained in mid-March. I had the text messages categorized and turned over to the prosecution by the 3rd week of May. We had a lot of pretrials to get this case, making the same obvious transgressions by the complainant, to finally arrive at a dismissal.
I am glad my client held on He was getting discouraged. This type of case shows how easy it is to get charged and despite showing the obvious, how entrenched the prosecution can get.
Meanwhile, a client is free from the yoke of the government and can happily move on with the woman he intends to marry.
Above and Beyond
Sunday, May 10, 2021. Morning arraignment. No problem. My law office is 24/7.
The client was arrested yesterday (Saturday, May 9, 2021).
- In contact with weekend duty prosecutor. ✔︎
- Jail visit on Saturday. ✔︎
- Texting with family at 11 pm last night. ✔︎
- At the jail with the officer in charge discussing. ✔︎
- Bond at 8:45 am. ✔︎
- Therefore the warrant writing this morning. ✔︎
- No felony is written. ✔︎
- Client going home on personal recognizance. ✔︎
When in trouble in Macomb County, better call Miko
Having recently dealt with a Suicide by Cop (obviously unsuccessful) this cannot come swift enough. The Berkley and Royal Oak police were woefully ill-prepared to deal with my client. The SWAT team arrived and immediately knew what they were dealing with. They deployed a non-lethal team response. Training needs to be extended to the police agencies. The “Victim Impact” statement at sentencing spoke volumes. The commander spoke of his fear and downplayed the illness of my client. A client who was known to their department, had 8 involuntary commits in 2 years, including one-two weeks before the incident.
We ended up with Guilty but mentally ill. I was very on the fence on that outcome because I truly believe my client would not have been found sane by an IME But I also felt it was tortuous for this man to have sat in a cell for almost a year. So we took the outcome that removed 14 of the 16 charges, the remainder exposing him to very little incarceration if he violated the delayed sentence, and got him home. Folks I cannot emphasize enough how much we have to educate the prosecution and the bench on mentally ill defendants So many think we are just looking to excuse behavior or avoid punishment.
Felony Non-Support Charges
Once again, a felony non support case goes down. The government seems to see these cases as strict liability. The Michigan Supreme Court has carved out an exception called legal impossibility. The government filed a Motion to try to preclude me taking before the jury, my client’s life circumstances. NO NO NO. The case law and now standard jury instruction do not support the government’s archaic position. Once my response to the Motion was filed, the Assistant Attorney General informed me that that were dismissing the case.
In both of cases, where the case was torpedoed, both dads were working. One lived in Appalachia and the recession just eliminated jobs. He got back on his feet and has been paying for over a year. Thousands in arrears, but still paying.
In today’s case, client has been paying since April 2017 Including a balloon payment of 5k and 13.5k and has regular income withholding . The legal impossibility defense has real legs. It can also apply to clients who are not paying but have extraordinary life circumstances Many lawyers do not understand it and simply plead their clients to felonies These convictions cause a driver’s license to get suspended and obvious impact on future employment.
I am not the right lawyer to attempt to get your child support lowered. However, if you are charged with felony non support, contact me. I understand the defense of this felony and can help.
Firearms and Drug Charges
Walking out of Oakland County Circuit Court, on March 24, 2020 after getting my client released on a personal bond.
Scenario Defendant was charged with a firearms and drug case. She has another fleeing and eluding matter. She was finally sentenced on that case in January after almost 11 months in jail. Credit for time served and probation. She finally makes bond on the remaining case on February 14th. We have a trial date on March 2 at 830 Her ride falls through and she ends up on the bus. Mind you, she has never taken the bus from her home in Detroit to Oakland Circuit in Pontiac. Court takes the bench at 851. Issues Bench Warrant. She arrives at 911. Now mind you, many courts would recall the warrant. Nope remanded without bond. Pretrial set for March 17th. Canceled due to COVID 19.
I filed an Emergency Motion for Pretrial release on March 18th. Arguing that the Supreme Court and our Circuit issued Emergency Orders, which among other things, spoke to the release of pretrial detainees. I had drafted most of my motion, when I received some model pleadings from the ACLU, via the State Appellate Defender office and added a few key lines Court denies claiming no emergency and it could be heard on 4.28.20 at the next PT hearing.
I had solicited the ACLU for help to perfect an expedited appeal. They agreed to take the case. I was co-counsel with Phil Major. Lots of legwork. We worked on the pleadings and brief. Got it filed Friday by 4:30pm (electronic filing) and me serving the Prosecutor by 4:50pm (a few basic speed laws may have been broken) They filed an appellate brief on Monday. Court of Appeals, late yesterday reversed the non emergency ruling and stated she should be released.
Court did not issue and Order yesterday. We had to appear in court today. Me, the judge, the prosecutor, a clerk and some deputies. My client was on polycom.
She goes home tonight and does not have to sit in fear. It’s what we do…
Another jailed client gets out. My Client had an extradition warrant in Tennessee for some kind of identity theft. It is from 2016. His bond was 500k. He posted a bond for his offense in Michigan. Because of the pending case, the prosecutor moved for an adjournment of the extradition case. Leaving my client in jail until May 4th. Remember my client paid his bond. There appears to be a conflict in statutes One permitting release and one allowing detention when there is a pending case I argued that the one allowing a waiver of extradition should prevail. Also the extradition warrant is for a relatively minor felony and there has been an inmate in the jail that tested positive.
After that I called down to the extradition unit in Tennessee no answer yesterday and today is a state holiday for the commemoration of MLK’s assassination I was connected to a voicemail at the extradition office I tried the Public Defender’s Office and no one answered. By the grace of the Creator, someone answered today. Wheels were put into motion Credit also goes to Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Todd Schmitz, for fielding calls. His office had also be doing some efforts. He jumped on a conference call with me and the Sheriff’s Department in Tennessee. With that my client is going home.
We have to take the extra effort. My dad taught me that no is just another way around to yes I am reminded of the folks out there that are giving of themselves without pay. All of my emergency efforts are without pay. They were all indigent. A client’s freedom is greater than that, I feel vindicated.
Two victories are worthy of noting here. On Thursday, the nightmare ended for my mentally ill client. I was his third lawyer and immediately recognized how significant his mental health issues were. 8 hospitalizations (some included botched suicide attempts) in a 2 yr period, including one 6 weeks before his incident, and an 8-day placement upon arrest My case was high profile. My client had a standoff with the Royal Oak and Berkley police threatening them with an unloaded shotgun, begging to die The police did not know the gun was unloaded. The SWAT team knew what they were dealing with and deployed a non-lethal intervention to disable my client.
Representing the mentally ill has become a specialty of mine over the years. Remarkably the forensic report found my client sane at the time because he was able to have a deliberate conversation. The examiner admitted he came to the conclusion that he was not supplied with all the hospital reports when making the conclusion of being sane at the time A big NO-NO. This case had factual (reviewing the discovery I am not sure he did all the acts they claimed. This case would have been great to try particularly getting the emotion-fear and anger-into the story and how it impacted their narrative) and legal (I was not buying the sanity conclusion and was ready to go after it with an independent examiner)
I was able to persuade my specially assigned prosecutor on the case. She took it to her administration. My client had multiple felony firearm charges (mandatory 2 yrs in person) We worked out a delayed sentence with a No Contest but mentally ill plea. In eleven months, the bulk of the felony charges will be gone. He will have 4 additional years of probation With continued MH and substance abuse treatment. Society frowns upon substance abuse and I get that But the truly mentally ill abuse them because they do not always get the right meds to attack their MH issues. A call today from my client’s mom with profuse thanks tells me this was the right outcome I pray he maintains his treatment.
The second case was a termination of parental rights My client had and has mental health issues During a breakdown, she, unfortunately, dropped her toddler causes a broken bone in the face. DHHS has a strict policy to terminate rights when there is an injury on this level. I refused to budge In the interim, we fought for visitation and made a judge demand. We prevailed I worked with my client to make her case right. My client addressed her mental illness further. She visited her son frequently. She got a low paying job and bought things for him (clothing, diapers, toys, etc.) Without the resources of DHHS (no services offered), my client paid for parenting classes on her own. Termination is two-part in Michigan. The first is statutory grounds. My position was simply because there was an injury, that does not meet the grounds in and of itself. The Court had to look at the circumstances. My client had mental illness in the past and addressed it The illness that had gotten her kid into care, arose rapidly. Second, the Court has to look at the best interests. My client with what she had done with her child (there was extreme bonding with all the visitations) and herself. I was going to win on best interest. The DHHS and their lawyer tried to get me to back down and at least plea to statutory grounds No way I was told I was unreasonable Those who know me, know that I do not just law down simply because the government asks me to. I rep my clients zealously. So after a year of this case, the government finally rescinded the term language On Tuesday, the date set for trial, my client pled no contest to the amended petition and was given a Parent Agency Agreement with the goal of reunification My client will sail through that PAA
Two families are going to have a brighter holiday now
I am grateful.