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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Michigan Supreme Court to decide separation of powers case

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Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio
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Michigan Supreme Court (file photo)

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a judge can ignore part of a state law that limits what a jury can consider as part of a criminal case.

The defendant in the case was charged with reckless driving that caused a fatality. His lawyer asked the judge to order the jury to consider a lesser charge. The judge agreed, even though state law specifically doesn’t allow that. The judge said the law violates the state constitution, and its separation of powers doctrine.

The state Court of Appeals upheld the decision, saying the Legislature over-stepped the limits of its authority.  The decision says the Legislature can pass laws, but it can’t tell judges how to run trials.

The prosecutor is asking the state Supreme Court to reverse that decision.