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Local prosecutors reevaluate cases after court decision on Flint water crisis grand juries

Headshot of Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, wearing a suit, looking off to his right
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton says a recent state Supreme Court decision could impact the way his offices conducts cases.

Local prosecutors may have to make changes in the wake of Tuesday’s Michigan Supreme Court decisionon one-man grand juries.

The high court found problems with the way the one-man grand jury handled the Flint water crisis investigation and indictment of several former government officials.

As in some other counties, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton’s office has used the one-man grand jury process in violent crime cases. The process has produced dozens of criminal counts.

The intent has been to encourage witnesses to testify. Prosecutors say people who may otherwise worry about their personal or family safety if asked to testify in a more public venue are more willing to participate in a hearing in front of one person.

But the high court’s decision is casting doubt on some of those cases.

Leyton issued a statement saying his office is evaluating its cases and will determine if any pending cases need to be re-issued.

Likewise, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement the Supreme Court decision creates some problems.

“In Wayne County, we have communities that are plagued by murders, drive-by shootings, and other violent crimes. The one-man grand jury has been an important way to protect witnesses who would never have come forward for fear of deadly consequences for themselves, family members, and friends,” Worthy said.

Leyton recently voiced support for a Flint and Genesee County “witness protection” program. It would provide temporary housing ”out of town” for witnesses fearful of coming forward.

This story includes reporting by Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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