More than a year ago our firm was approached by a family to represent their father in a criminal case in Oak Park, MI. The circumstances surrounding their father’s arrest was a true tragedy and we agreed to take on the case.
It was apparent from our first meeting with this individual that he was severely mentally ill. His family believed that his mental illness was the source and cause of his arrest and subsequent prosecution. After receiving the discovery from the prosecutor’s office, we also believed this to be the case.
Our client’s case was not complicated. A police officer was parked in a parking lot in Oak Park, about to start his daily routine. Without provocation, our client approached this officer and began shouting and screaming at the officer to leave his family alone. This officer had done nothing to his family. Our client began swearing and issuing threats at the officer. Again, the officer had done nothing to our client. It would have been obvious to anyone watching this scene that our client was mentally ill.
Eventually our client walked away from the officer and attempted to go back into his home. But the officer had already made up his mind: he was going to arrest this individual no matter what. Over the next 10-15 minutes our client, a 60 year old mentally ill man, was tasered no less than half-a-dozen times, tackled by 3-4 police officers and ultimately arrested.
The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office charged him with sault with a Dangerous Weapon (at one point he had picked up a stick and “waived it threateningly”), Interfering with a Police Officer, and Resisting Arrest.
At the preliminary examination it was apparent to District Court Judge Gubow that our client was mentally ill and that the situation should have been handled pursuant to the Mental Health Code. Therefore, he dismissed all of the charges against our client. The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office appealed. Our office contacted the Oakland County Circuit Court and requested a court appointed appellate attorney to handle the appeal. Unfortunately, the Court did NOT appoint him an appellate attorney and Judge Gubow’s dismissal of the charges was reversed.
A year has passed and now we are handling the case in Circuit Court. The first thing we did was refer our client to the forensic center for a psychological evaluation to determine whether or not he is competent to stand trial and to determine whether or not he was mentally ill at the time of the offense.
Just for reference, the vast majority of the people referred to the forensic center are declared sane and competent to stand trial. Yet, earlier this week our office was informed that they were finding our client incompetent to stand trial, due to his mental illness.
Despite the fact that we told the Prosecutor’s Office that he was mentally ill, and despite the fact that a district court judge heard the facts and determined that he was mentally ill – the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office wasted time, energy, and money to appeal and proceed on a case against a 60 year old mentally ill man who had been unnecessarily tasered half-a-dozen times by police. And in the end, due to the mental illness that everyone else acknowledged, they won’t even be able to take him to trial.
In this case, the only thing more sad than our client’s mental illness, is a prosecutor’s office that is unwilling to admit when they have made a mistake.