Category Archives: Legal News

DNA return in case dismissals should be automatic, says Bloomfield Hills defense attorney

Bloomfield Hills-based attorney Neil Rockind says innocent people shouldn’t have to ask for what’s already theirs.

That’s why he’s calling on Michigan legislators to be tougher with a Michan Senate bill dealing with the return of DNA evidence for individuals acquitted of any charges, he said.

“I don’t believe it should be an innocent person’s responsibility to seek the return of DNA profile evidence that was taken from him or her by law enforcement,” said Rockind of Senate Bill 1083, sponsored by Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida.

“The law should be more protective of people whose cases are dismissed.”

The Senate bill, which is moving through committee following its introduction Sept. 20, aims to change the process for biological evidence destruction by requiring the individual whose charges have been dropped or dismissed to request the DNA sample be destroyed.

Rockind said his passion for the issue was sparked in 2015 when he handled a drunk driving case in in which the accused was aquitted following a jury trial.

The client, records show, was Michael Amouri, whose case was presided over in the 48th District Court by Judge Marc Baron.

“He was charged with drunken driving and refused a blood test, so police sought a blood test,” said Rockind.

“Our defense in the case was that the state couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was operating (under the influence).”

Amouri was eventually aquitted by a jury.

Rockind said later that it dawned on him that his client was aquitted; the state should not be able to keep the blood sample.

He and his client met several challenges to getting the sample back, including the Michigan State Police Crime Lab telling them returning a DNA sample was against policy, preparing formal pleadings to get the sample back and opposition from the arresting law enforcement agency, said Rockind. The process took about a month.

“Initially, the department refused and claimed the blood drawn from the client belonged to the prosecuting agency or the arresting agency,”Rockind said.

“However, there is no law supporting the department’s claim. The department also claimed there is a policy that all blood samples must be kept for two years, with no distinction or exception for persons acquitted of a crime. Again, we found no law supporting that.”

Rockind said the final SB 1083 legislation needs to be explicit in defining when and how any biological evidence of an innocent person is returned.

“It must be timely and automatic,” he said.

“If someone is acquitted, there should be an automatic letter sent to the crime lab to destroy or return the profile. No one should have to go through any hoops at all to get their biological information returned to them.”

via Daily Tribune

Do Not Doubt Rockind Law

I’m a bit biased and what I’m about to say may make me sound a bit narcissistic, but I never doubt what our firm, ROCKIND LAW, is capable of – and neither should you. Day in and day out, Neil Rockind, Noel Erinjeri, Breanna Weiner and myself represent individuals who are looking for the best possible outcome to their case. Of course, we can never guarantee anyone any specific result in any given case. However, what we can guarantee is that they will not find any firm that is better suited (we only handle criminal matters) to defend them during what is likely to be the worst event they will ever experience; that nobody else will do as much preparation, analysis, and strategizing as Rockind Law. We get results. It really is that simple. From the first time drunk driver looking for either a dismissal or a lenient sentence, to the person charged with serious felonies looking to avoid a conviction or a prison sentence – we fight like nobody else – in EVERY. SINGLE. CASE. We file motions and briefs on every single legal issue we can come up with. We put pressure on the prosecutors and city attorneys. We argue until we are blue in the face. We make judges decide difficult legal issues. We never give an inch – and when it is your life on the line – every inch counts. It is telling that the vast majority of our clients are referred to us by past clients and other lawyers. Who would know better than they what we are capable of? It may be even more telling that we substitute out other lawyers/law firms in cases several times every week/month. When people need results, when it’s the bottom of the 9th, with two outs, there’s a runner on first base, and they are down by a run – we are the Designated Hitter.

This may be best exemplified by an individual that called our office six weeks ago. He was charged with pulling a gun on his sister during an argument. Specifically he was charged with Felonious Assault (involving a handgun) and Assault and Battery. He came to us in desperation. He knew he had done nothing wrong. He knew the allegations were b.s. He knew he was innocent. He just needed a lawyer who believed him and believed in him; a lawyer who would fight as hard as possible to ensure that he was not wrongfully convicted of these crimes.

He met with our office and like a lot of people he had important questions: What outcome could we achieve? What potential sentence could he receive if convicted? How would we look out for him and his interests? Could we get the case dismissed? Would he have to go to trial? How could he be sure he was making the right choice in hiring our firm? All great questions and all questions that could not be answered up front.

Yet we told him the truth: “No lawyer can guarantee you a specific outcome, but hire us and we guarantee you that nobody will work harder than us at getting you the best result possible. Give us the bat, and we will drive in the winning run. Do not doubt what we are capable of.”

Six weeks later, following a lot of determination, strategizing and consistent pressure by our firm, we hit that game winning home-run. The prosecutor’s office threw in the towel; they contacted us and told us that they were dismissing the entire case. They didn’t want to (in fact, they offered several other resolutions, all of which were turned down), but we left them no choice. The prosecutor’s office didn’t even make it to the preliminary examination. And now our client is free.

Do not doubt Rockind Law.

Lab error taints thousands of state police alcohol cases with inaccurate data

A calibration error in 4,001 alcohol cases resulted in inaccurate records in some of them, drawing criticism from defense attorneys, and forcing prosecutors to take a second look.

An examination of the cases, where testing was done at Michigan State Police labs, showed some results were incorrect by a range of -0.002 grams per deciliter (g/dL) to +0.004 g/dL, the June 30 letter signed by Acting Commander of the MSP Forensic Science Division, L. Scott Marier, states. The majority of the cases appear to be drunken driving.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and Michigan State Police forwarded MLive a copy of the letter Monday, Aug. 22.

Upon finding the error in April 2016, MSP took immediate corrective action to determine the most appropriate measures to remediate the issue and ensure the incorrect calibration model could not be used again, Michigan State Police Spokeswoman Shanon Banner said.

“The integrity of our laboratory system is of the utmost importance…” Banner said, noting the corrective action. “We are confident in the amended results. The error that occurred was identified and corrected, and appropriate communication was made with our impacted stakeholders.

“Additional safeguards have been put in place to ensure this error does not happen again,” she said.

Banner noted the error did not produce large differences in result figures but said it was important to issue amended reports on any case with a change in result.

Among the cases, 2,007 require corrections, while 1,994 do not, the letter states.

None of the cases originally reported near Michigan’s legal blood alcohol limit of 0.080 g/dL have amended results that move them across the legal threshold in either direction, according to the letter, and none of the cases had to be reanalyzed because existing raw data was accurate and available.

Of the cases originally reported near Michigan’s “Super drunk” legal alcohol limit of 0.170 g/dL, 18 have amended results that move them across the threshold, the letter states.

“These cases are potentially impacted, but the original error was in favor of the defendant,” Banner said. “The individual would have still been over the drunk driving threshold of 0.080, but the original results report would not have put them at the super drunk threshold.”

Four cases originally reported at exactly the threshold for people under 21, of 0.020 g/dL, when amended fall below it.

“I cannot tell you the status of these cases to know whether this affects any charging decisions, but this is the reason the prosecutor’s offices were notified of the amended results,” Banner said about the cases near the 0.020 g/dL threshold.

The letter states the inaccurate readings were due to an incorrect calibration model. A review indicated that the processing method being utilized on that
instrument had been incorrect since Dec. 14, 2015, the letter reads.

The incorrect calibration model was used on one of two machines, Banner said, used in blood alcohol cases. In these cases, from Dec. 14, 2015, to April 13, 2016, the labs used two machines, and used the average of both to tally the results.

Amended reports were to be issued to customer agencies and prosecutors for any cases where a change occurred “to ensure our customers have the most accurate results available,” the MSP letter, dated June 30, reads.

The letter is on Michigan State Police – Forensic Science Division letterhead and bears the names of Gov. Rick Snyder and Col. Kristie Kibbey Etue near the top. It’s addressed to an official at the Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council, which forwarded the letter to prosecutors.

Neil Rockind of Bloomfield Hills-based criminal defense law firm, Rockind Law, complained that he did not learn of the error until Aug. 22, when the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office issued a news release.

He was still learning whether any of his clients’ alcohol tests are among those with errors, Rockind said in a Tuesday, Aug. 23, statement.

“People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake here,” Rockind said, criticizing the delay in notifications. “I have argued for years against the rush to use what I call junk science in determining drug and alcohol cases. Now that the controlling authorities add credibility to my crusade, they go silent. It’s not right.”

He said the errors call into question the reliability of other MSP results as well.

“How can we trust the accuracy of other MSP test results following this debacle?

“Their credibility is shot and the suppression of the information shows their interest in protecting their own, while individuals subjected to faulty test results suffer the consequences,” Rockind said. “This is going to make it very difficult for MSP technicians to testify with 100 percent assurance and authority moving forward.”

Defense Attorney Steven Shelton of Shelton Legal Services in Fenton believes the labs that test samples to be used as evidence should not be run by the state police.

“It makes sense that the results should be objective,” Shelton said. “I don’t think you get objective results when you’re sending your samples to a lab run by the very people trying to obtain a conviction.”

There should be a firewall between the source of funding and the people who do lab work, he said.

Defense Attorney Mike Nichols of Nichols Law Firm in East Lansing said some of his cases are affected by the calibration error. He questioned how many times a major error might have occurred in the past and no one knew about it.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said he received a copy of the MSP letter forwarded by the Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council on June 30, and soon learned that about 35 cases in Kalamazoo County were among the miscalculated ones.

The office received amended reports from MSP, Getting said, and sent them on to those with affected cases, or to their attorneys.

None of the cases in Kalamazoo County crossed any legal thresholds, Getting said.

“I’m really proud of the Michigan State Police for taking corrective action and notifying us of the mistake they made,” Getting said. “They’ve handled this in absolutely the right way by making us aware of the issue.

“Making sure they were transparent in this process, notifying us of the mistake, speaks very highly of the MSP lab and MSP in general,” he said.

The Michigan State Police said they could not provide information about which counties had cases with updated results that crossed legal thresholds.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office determined that 89 of the 402 Wayne County cases on MSP’s list are being or were prosecuted by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, noting that many alcohol-related cases are prosecuted by local city attorneys and could also be affected.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said it received the letter describing the calibration error, but did not receive an updated report from MSP about local cases until it contacted the agency in August.

However, Banner said that on July 7, all police agencies and prosecutors in the state received individual amended reports via email for each affected case.

Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Maria Miller said the office is working to notify city attorneys about the cases in Wayne County. She said she did not know the specific impacts to Wayne County cases as of Monday afternoon.

via MLive

Michigan House votes to study marijuana limit for drivers

LANSING – A bill advancing in Michigan’s Legislature may set the stage for setting a legal limit for driving under the influence of marijuana.

The House voted 107-1 Tuesday to create a commission to research and recommend a threshold of THC bodily content that would constitute evidence of impaired driving. THC is the component of marijuana responsible for the drug’s effects.

Unlike other Schedule 1 drugs, THC can be detected in the body long after it no longer affects someone’s driving ability.

Michigan’s law legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes shields patients from prosecution for drugged driving as long as they aren’t “under the influence” of marijuana. Legislators hope to define a limit similarly to how there’s a bodily alcohol content of 0.08.

via Lansing State Journal

Bashara attorney files motion for Gentz to testify in hopes of getting new trial

DETROIT – The Bob Bashara epic continues.

Bashara’s attorney filed a motion for a writ requesting to have convicted murderer Joe Gentz brought from prison to testify before the court in the hope that Gentz’s new testimony would lead to a new trial for Bashara.

Gentz’s originally story was that Bashara hired him to kill his wife Jane Bashara. While serving time in prison for the murder, he refuted his testimony.

In a sworn affidavit, Gentz said the former police chief of Grosse Pointe Park, David Hiller, and the detective who investigated the slaying when it happened in January of 2012 allegedly told him to lie.

Gentz wrote in the affidavit, “My testimonial statements against Mr. Robert Bashara was the product of coercion and subornation of perjury by Sgt. Reducio and Chief Hiller.”

He also said that Bob Bashara was not home at the time Jane Bashara was killed, contradictory to his original story where he claimed Bob held a gun to his head as he strangled Jane

Bashara was found guilty in December on counts of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit murder, witness intimidation, and obstruction of justice.

Bashara’s attorney filed the motion last week.

“If he even has one shred of believability, look out, we could be looking at another trial,” attorney Neil Rockind said.

If the motion is granted, court sessions could resume in April, but ultimately that is up to Judge Vonda Evans.

via Click On Detroit



Like out of a movie, we recently caught a police narcotics section engaging in a coverup and misconduct.   I’m not talking about theories of a coverup where people articulate or allege a coverup or misconduct and I’m not talking about an alleged coverup where the client says it happened and all of the police officers involved deny it. No, I’m talking about a police investigation, police conduct, police reports, police strategy in court, etc. that actually implodes on itself – one where a coverup is evidence by reviewing the officers’ conduct without reference to much more. Without going into details about the officers, county, etc., what follows is a tale of a police coverup that has now been exposed and that resulted in the dismissal (by an ethical prosecutor) of all of the charges once the coverup was exposed. Here is the amazing story – sit back and enjoy.

The Friends

The story begins with four (4) friends from childhood. One would go on to become a police officer. The other three involved themselves in the marijuana trade: two operating, at times, popular dispensaries and, the third was growing and selling marijuana to various dispensaries. The “grower” and the officer were best friends and remained best friends despite their having taken up opposite sides of the criminal justice system.

In the end, it was the desire of the officer to help his best friend, the marijuana grower, that ultimately did them in.

The Breach

As the officer worked in a narcotics unit, he was entrusted with serious and protected information. Clearly, were he to come across information and/or evidence that his best friend (the marijuana grower) was going to get in trouble, he should disqualify himself from the investigation and do nothing. Clearly, it would be illegal for him to tip off a drug dealer, target or accused with information that he learned in the course of his duties. While as a friend, he’d want to tip off his best friend, as a police officer who swore an oath, tipping off a target is illegal and unethical.

Impressively, his honor and commitment to his friend overwhelmed him. After raiding a dispensary and seeing the vendor list (of people supplying marijuana to the dispensary) he advised his friend that his friend’s name was on a list. He also advised the friend that his name would be “removed” from evidence.   In and of itself, this is a crime. Yet there is more.

On a Monday morning, the officer learned that his best friend’s marijuana grow house was being targeted for investigation.   Again, remaining faithful to his best friend, the officer advised his best friend to clear out the house.   Under any definition of the terms, this is a (felony) crime – obstruction of justice, misconduct in office or both.   No matter how much a police officer cares about a target, he cannot warn his friend, i.e., tip him off, that his grow/drug house is about to be raided.   On this point, no one can seriously disagree. Yet, this is most assuredly what he did.

The Transfer Of The Plants

What happens next, the marijuana grower empties out his house of plants and moves them to a warehouse in which my client occupies a front office and out of which he operates another business.   Coincidentally (maybe/maybe not), another crew of the same narcotics group/unit were in the area on the same day that the plants had been moved and claimed to have “smelled marijuana” coming from the warehouse.  Sound suspicious? You bet.

As the officers were securing a warrant, they observe the best friend walking up the building and attempt to enter. As the make entry to the building, they detain the friend. This is when the coverup begins.

The Coverup

After detaining the best friend/grower, the cops talk with the best friend/grower for 45 minutes! They take his information, driver’s license information and actually interview him. The grower’s friend/cop comes down and participates in the matter as well. All told, the grower/friend is interviewed in the warehouse, out in the open, for all of the other police officers searching and seizing items to see.   So obvious and apparent is the grower/friend’s relationship with the cop that one of the other officer’s says to the best friend/grower, “why didn’t you tell me you were the officer’s best friend? I’d have let you go from the start.”

When all is said and done, the police raid that warehouse and then raid two (2) more buildings that night. However, they don’t raid any of the homes of the any of the individuals involved in the warehouse or the home of the best friend/grower that night.   Anyone familiar with search warrant executions, knows that this is suspicious.

They Don’t Ask For Permission Or Make Appointments

As it turns out, the cop, best friend/grower, my client and the person that used the warehouse for other purposes are all friends. After the cop/friend comes down to the warehouse, none of the houses or the four friends are searched. The next day, the grower/best friend gets a friendly call from the cop/friend: “you need to let us search your house later today or else they’ll get a search warrant. When can we come by?” Now anyone familiar with this process knows that police don’t make reservations to search the homes of suspected drug dealers or traffickers – they just show up. They don’t make appointments or arrange for times later in the day to search because to do so would mean that the growers/traffickers would clean out the house of all contraband.

I start hearing rumors that our client is going to catch the brunt of the charges in the case and that the friend/grower is going to skate. Concerned that out client will take the heat, I lay out what I know to the police and the head of the detective bureau. I advise them to leave this case alone – too much foul play has transpired to pursue a case. I advise them further that if the friend tried to help out a friend/grower, then leave it alone for all. I got a short response from a command officer wanting to know if my client wanted to talk. Of course, with possible pending criminal charges and an aversion to cooperation, we declined. Again, I advised them to do an investigation and they’d uncover the information on their own – the police had engaged in foul play to protect a friend’s friend.

“Expect A Whitewashing”

A couple of days later, I get word from a lawyer representing the friend/grower that 1) the police are going to whitewash the grower out of the reports, 2) the reports will just say he was “passing by”, 3) my client owes it to the friend/cop that his house wasn’t searched and 4) they will only be going after my client and the other person using the warehouse. The lawyer advised me that my letter to the police and command structure may have changed the direction of the police department but he wasn’t sure.

The Case – We Prepare To Expose Them

A full six months later, we learn that the police have actually decided to bring charges against my client and the other warehouse occupant. The grower/friend is not charged. I’m stunned. I think, “how arrogant?!”   Incredibly at that point, I didn’t even know how arrogant the group was – I would learn soon enough.

The police are clever. Since there are several officers, they can assign different officer’s to do things, thus avoiding having the main actors involved in the coverup actually writing reports, etc. The officer that made the “you should have told me were his best friend” didn’t write a report; neither did the best friend/officer. Rather, an officer that has close to nothing to do with anything writes the report. Yet, he writes the report just as the lawyer predicted 6 months earlier in November:

“[name withheld] walked up, punched a number in the door and then started to walk away. We approached and talked to him. It turns out that he was ‘just passing by.’”

I couldn’t believe it. I had incredible proof of a conspiracy to conceal and coverup, i.e., to mislead.   Six (6) months before I ever received a police report, I was advised (and recorded the information at that time) that the police were going to write a misleading report “whitewashing” the friend/grower out of the incident and instead say he was going just passing by.   When I got the report, six (6) months later, I couldn’t believe that they had done just that – whitewashed him out. It reminded me of a scene from Quiz Show.

Quiz Show Moment

In Quiz Show, the federal government was investigating whether a Quiz Show was rigged – whether the contestants received the answers ahead of their appearance. To prove that he had received the answers ahead of time, one of the contestants mailed the answers to himself prior to his appearance. The postmark, before his appearance, proved that he had received them ahead of the show.

My notes from November, 2014 was looking like a Quiz Show moment. I have information in November, 2014 that the police would whitewash the grower’s name from the reports and 6 months later, that proved true. It was like mailing the answer to myself before I ever saw the test.

We were stunned that the police had brought this case. It was one thing to do a favor for a friend … quite another to try and pass off misleading reports and omit a possible 3rd suspect from the reports.  We wanted to ensure that the police didn’t get away with it and that our clients received the best outcome possible.

Setting It Up and Springing It

For months, we hinted to the prosecutor that we had the goods on this case and on the narcotics unit crews involved.   I recorded an interview with the grower in which he reluctantly spilled the beans and then later tried to assert the 5th Amendment due to self-incrimination. His attempt to protect himself made his statements admissible in court.   Having the evidence in place (in the form of a tape) and a timeline that made sense, we sprung the first trap: we prepared to cross examine the detectives at a hearing. However, they involved a fourth officer in the coverup – rather than call anyone of the officers that talked to the grower or even the one that wrote the report, they called another.   It was as if they were trying to avoid exposing the officers that played the biggest role and so they kept turning to others to play a role.

The officer that testified in court looked like he was training for a wrestling match – trying to make weight – during his testimony. He stammered and sweated his way through the hearing. Even the judge commented on his inconsistent answers. When I was questioning about the grower/friend, he looked like he had seen a ghost.

Soon, we filed our legal arguments – entrapment, vindictive prosecution, hiding exculpatory evidence, illegal search warrants, etc. The judge was biting on the arguments and granting us hearings and became more interested. At one point she looked at the prosecutors like, “are you really going to continue.” At first, the young prosecutor pushed on. Later, to his credit, a more senior and extremely ethical prosecutor, stepped in and after learning everything said, “enough.”   This second prosecutor is among the best and most ethical around – he was concerned on many levels: why had they done this, why had the police presented this case, how many officers were involved, why had they hidden evidence and why was this case in court? He was upset about the case and concerned about the long term consequences regarding these drug detectives. Could and should they continue in their jobs, were questions that still needed to be answered.

The Dismissal And Questions Unanswered

I got the call this week that the case was being dismissed. This was the proper result. What the police did was reprehensible. This much is indisputable. But think about what happened along the way and how the checks and balances didn’t check and balance this case out until the end:

  • The police officers concealed evidence and the involvement of people;
  • They involved other officers;
  • They deliberately involved other officers in other facets of the case to shield the involved officers from examination and scrutiny;
  • The officers didn’t police themselves;
  • The supervisors didn’t police the suborninates;
  • The reviewing prosecutors didn’t scrutinize this case; and,
  • The first assigned prosecutor didn’t scrutinize this case.

It took months and a more experienced, ethical prosecutor to realize that the police erred. But it begs the question: should this case have made it this far and shouldn’t someone along the way have stopped the coverup and its aftermath long ago. The tally is as follows:

  • One officer tipped off a friend about a raid;
  • The same officer told his friend he had erased his name from evidence;
  • The same officer tipped off his friend that his grow house was going to be raided;
  • A crew of officers happened to be in the area where the plants were moved to – the same day and within hours;
  • Another officer told a potential suspect that he would call his friend a police officer;
  • That same officer told the potential suspect that “why didn’t’ you tell me you were [name withheld’s] friend”;
  • That same officer let the potential suspect go;
  • A third officer told someone that they were going to whitewash the reports and exclude the suspect;
  • A fourth officer wrote a report, white washing the grower out of the report;
  • A fifth officer testified; and,
  • A sixth officer sat by as the officer in chard.

In other words, an entire crew committed some form of misconduct.   While my client’s case was dismissed, what happens next remains to be seen. Stay tuned for more from Rockind Law.