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Michigan court rules grand jury improperly indicted officials in Flint water case

The Hill logo The Hill 6/28/2022 Zack Budryk
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Michigan’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the indictment of former Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and several other officials in connection with the contamination of water in Flint was improper because the grand jury consisted of a single judge. 

The high court unanimously overturned the indictments against Snyder and eight others, including former health director Nick Lyon. The one-judge Genesee County grand jury overstepped its legal authority by issuing the indictments, the court wrote.  

While state statutes “authorize the use of a one-man grand jury to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants, those statutes do not authorize that one-man grand jury to issue an indictment initiating a criminal prosecution,” the court wrote in a 6-0 decision.

One justice, Elizabeth Clement, recused herself due to her earlier work as chief legal counsel to Snyder. 

The decision remands the case against the nine officials to the Genesee Circuit Court. Snyder is due to testify separately in a lawsuit against two companies that advised the city during the water crisis. The former governor is expected to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination 

Video: Michigan suspect could testify at parents' trial (Associated Press)

Snyder and the other officials were indicted in January 2021, with the former governor charged on two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect in connection with the Flint water crisis.

In 2014, Snyder appointees approved changing the water source for the predominantly-black city from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. Over an 18-month period, the city was supplied with contaminated water, exposing up to 12,000 children to elevated levels of lead. 

The crisis has also been linked to a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that caused 12 deaths. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D), upon taking office in 2019, dismissed a number of pending criminal cases relating to the Flint cases, citing prosecutorial overreach, and announced the criminal investigation would be handled by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Nessel’s office told The Hill “The prosecution team is reviewing the opinion from the court.” 

The Hill has reached out to Worthy’s office for comment. 

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