January 26, 2021
To all: The Detroit Law Dept. this morning issued a press release that it is voluntarily dismissing most of the misdemeanor criminal cases arising out of the Black Lives Matter protests in Detroit on May 31, June 1 and June 2. The Law Dept. states that it is doing this after an exhaustive review of these cases and a desire to be fair. The Law Dept.’s position is explained in the two articles attached below, from the Metro Times and the Detroit News.
The Metro Times is reporting that the City is voluntarily dismissing cases against 238 protesters out of 245 cases issued on May 31, June 1 and 2. The Criminal Representation Team, which is part of the Detroit Coordinated Defense Coalition (DCDC) which the National Lawyers Guild is part of along with five other bar associations and activist groups, believes these numbers to be correct. The Law Dept.’s press release does not mention that the decision to dismiss 238 cases was made less than two weeks after Judge Larry Williams, Jr. dismissed 28 similarly situated cases because the Law Department admitted that it could not identify the arresting officers in these cases and so was unable to provide the bodycam videos of the arresting officers. It is obvious that the same failure to preserve the names of the arresting officers that affected the cases on Judge Williams’ docket also affected the 238 cases the Law Dept is voluntarily dismissing.
The Law Department has not yet reached a decision on what it intends to do with cases against protesters who were arrested on May 29 and 30; on July 10; or on August 23. The Law Department intends to proceed with prosecutions of Detroit school bus protesters, arrested on various dates at the end of July.
This turn of events illustrates the importance of protesters who are arrested in large numbers to form a mass defense group, and have a team of lawyers represent the entire group. A number of the tickets being dismissed were issued against protesters who, for one reason or another, have not joined the mass protest defense team. And some protesters opted to hire private lawyers instead of participating with the group defense. But all of them are benefiting from the aggressive defense work of the attorneys assembled by the NLG and the other groups in the DCDC, who exposed the DPD’s failure to keep track of the names of arresting officers, and the Law Dept.’s failure to provide discovery.
The attorneys working under the auspices of the DCDC will continue to aggressively represent all of the remaining BLM protesters in Detroit, Shelby Township, and around the state. Today’s victory lights our way to the future.