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Attorneys clash over whether former Michigan health dept director should stand trial

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A circuit court judge is weighing arguments over whether Michigan’s former state health department director should face a jury trial on charges related to the Flint water crisis.

Nicolas Lyon was bound over last year to stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges related to a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County between 2014 and 2015. At least 12 people died during the outbreak. Lyon is charged in connection with two of those deaths.  

But Lyon’s defense attorneys are trying to convince a judge to toss out a lower court’s ruling that bound over the former state health director for trial.

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
“The jury gets the chance to decide,” Prosecutor Todd Flood told the judge on Friday.

Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah held a hearing Friday on the defense request.

Prosecutor Todd Flood recounted testimony from Lyon’s marathon preliminary hearing in urging Judge Farah to reject the defense’s motion.

“The jury gets the chance to decide,” Flood told the judge.

But Flood’s recounting testimony from Lyon’s months-long preliminary hearing was derided by Lyon’s defense attorney John Bursch.

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
“Forget the fire and brimstone,” Defense Attorney John Busch responded to the prosecutor's arguments on Friday, “Talk about the law.”

“Forget the fire and brimstone,” Busch told the court on Friday. “We’re tired of the arguments that you make to the media and that you want to make to a jury. Talk about the law.”

The hearing will continue on Wednesday.   

Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah repeatedly interrupted and quizzed the attorneys on different aspects of their arguments and the law. At one point, Farah suggested he may send the case back down to the lower court.    

Both sides will return to court on Wednesday for the conclusion of the hearing.

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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