In the Michigan Court System we do not utilize the grand jury proceeding. Instead, legal system utilizes the “preliminary examination.” This examination is very similar to a grand jury proceeding, except that in place of the 12 jurors making the decision, there is a single judge that makes the decision. In addition, at a preliminary examination, as opposed to a grand jury proceeding, the defense is allowed to cross-examine the People’s witnesses and call witnesses of their own.
At a preliminary examination, the People have the burden of proving two things: 1) whether there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed; and 2) whether or not there is probable cause to believe that the defendant is the person that committed that crime. Generally, this is a very low standard and as long as the prosecution presents some evidence of illegal conduct, the Judge will usually bind the matter over to the circuit court. It is a very rare occurrence indeed that a case is dismissed at the preliminary examination.
However, Neil Rockind seems to have a knack for dismissals.
In January, Neil held a preliminary examination in a case wherein our client was charged with several counts of theft for allegedly stealing sets of tires from several different vehicles. However, at the preliminary examination (that was held in front of a very difficult judge) Neil was able to establish that the police had only learned about the alleged connection between our client and the thefts by breaking the law. The police, without probable cause, had been tracking our clients movements and even went so far as to pull him over while he was driving, without a shred of evidence of any illegal conduct.
The Judge agreed that the police had broken the law and, as fruit of the poisonous tree, the Judge suppressed all of the evidence that was obtained after the illegal actions by the police. Absent that evidence, there was no evidence that our client had done anything wrong. Subsequently, the Judge dismissed the case at the preliminary examination upon a finding that there was insufficient evidence to believe that our client had committed a crime.
Neil and I prepped that preliminary examination for weeks and all of that hard work resulted in a DISMISSAL. Doesn’t get any more satisfying than that.