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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Cases against 28 Black Lives Matter protesters in Detroit dismissed

Demostrators in downtown Detroit protest police-involved shootings that have killed African-Americans.
Sarah Cwiek
/
Michigan Radio

A judge has dealt a blow to the City of Detroit’s criminal prosecution of Black Lives Matter protesters. Judge Larry Williams, Jr. dismissed - without prejudice - cases against 28 people who were arrested during last summer’s anti-police brutality demonstrations.

John Royal is president of the National Lawyers Guild chapter in Detroit. He is defending those charged by the city. Royal says he’s asked judges to dismiss cases because city attorneys have withheld evidence.

“But this is the first dismissal of a large group of cases en masse, specifically for the failure of the city, or the inability of the city to provide discovery of information necessary to prepare a defensive trial,” he said.

Royal says the defense is hopeful that Judge Williams’ ruling sets a precedent for other cases. He says the National Lawyers Guild is offering legal resources to several hundred protesters who were arrested during last year’s protests in Detroit. Royal also believes the dismissal could play into a federal civil rights complaint against the city made by the Detroit Will Breathe protest group.

“He made his ruling based on the fact that the city cannot identify who the actual arresting officers were in most of these cases and cannot identify what happened to any police body cam footage that would have been taken at the time of the arrest of the defendants.”

Royal says city prosecutors could try the case again if they can provide the names of police officer who arrested protesters. He says many demonstrators arrested last summer were booked en masse and by the same officer.

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