Flint Water Crisis Defendants Invited Back To Work
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State employees charged with Flint, Michigan water crimes have been allowed to return to work after prosecutors dropped the charges against the employees with a plan to rebuild the investigation from square one, The Detroit News reported.
Two of the defendants, Nancy Peeler and Robert Scott, were sent letters from Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services on June 18 informing them that they have the option to come back to work, a spokeswoman told MLive.
“They can choose whether or not to return to work,” spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin told MLive reporters. “If they choose not to return, it would be treated like a resignation.”
Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud announced that she would drop the charges of eight people involved in the Flint water crisis, earlier this month, according to AP News.
State officials Peeler and Scott were being investigated for covering up data that revealed a rise in local blood lead levels of children while the city was using Flint River as its water supply.
Environmental Regulator and drinking water specialist Patrick Cook also had charges against him dropped after being accused of not taking corrective action and misleading a federal agency about the corrosion controls of the water, The Detroit News reported.
“Efforts are underway to coordinate dates for them to return to work given the recent actions,” Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy spokesman Scott Dean said.
Most of the state employees charged with the Flint Water Crisis were put on paid leave and have been off the job for the last three years. Five of the eight people who were charged were state employees, according to MLive.
“I want to remind the people of Flint that justice delayed is not always justice denied and a fearless and dedicated team of career prosecutors,” Attorney General Dana Nessel in a statement. “Investigators are hard at work to ensure those who harmed you are held accountable.”
Although the charges for the eight people were dropped, Solicitor General Hammoud announced that plan is to still pursue each case with stronger evidence.
In a statement released this June, Hammoud explained that upon assuming responsibility for the cases, her team felt that there were flaws in the case built by former special prosecutor Todd Flood, who was selected by former Attorney General Bill Schuette.
“Dismissing these cases allows us to move forward according to the non-negotiable requirements of a thorough, methodical and ethical investigation,” Hammoud wrote in the statement.
“Our team’s efforts have produced the most comprehensive body of evidence to date related to the Flint Water Crisis. We are now in the best possible position to find the answers the citizens of Flint deserve and hold all responsible parties accountable.”
The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction of a Black man on death row Thursday because a state prosecutor “repeatedly kicked Black people off the jury each time he was tried for the same murders,” NBC reports.
“Equal justice under law requires a criminal trial free of racial discrimination in the jury selection process,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the court’s 7-2 decision.
Curtis Flowers was tried six times for the 1996 murder of four furniture store employees in Winona, Mississippi, NBC reports.
Of the five previous trials, two ended in mistrials, one was thrown out over evidence questions. The other two trials ended after state courts determined that prosecutor Doug Evans intentionally excluded potential jurors on the basis of their race.
In the six trials combined, Kavanaugh said that the prosecutor “moved to strike 41 of the 42 Black prospective jurors and “engaged in dramatically disparate questioning of Black and white prospective jurors.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, the only Black justice on the Court, and one of two justices to dissent, claimed it was unfair to infringe upon how lawyers strike jurors from the pool in a misguided attempt to address racism, NPR reports.
“The majority’s opinion is so manifestly incorrect that I must proceed to the merits,” Thomas wrote. “Flowers presented no evidence whatsoever of purposeful race discrimination by the State in selecting the jury during the trial below.”
Flowers has spent 22 years on death row in Mississippi, and if Thomas has his way, he’ll remain in prison for the rest of his life.
“If the Court’s opinion today has a redeeming quality, it is this: The State is perfectly free to convict Curtis Flowers again,” Thomas wrote. “Otherwise, the opinion distorts our legal standards, ignores the record, and reflects utter disrespect for the careful analysis of the Mississippi courts. Any competent prosecutor would have exercised the same strikes as the State did in this trial. And although the Court’s opinion might boost its self-esteem, it also needlessly prolongs the suffering of four victims’ families. I respectfully dissent.”
Bryan Stevenson’s fight for justice has taken him from the halls of Harvard to a lynching memorial in Montgomery, with work in several cities in between. While others rely on justice being the end result of due process, the long-time public interest lawyer has made it his life’s calling to fight for what is right on behalf of all people, regardless of race or wealth.
On Friday the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative sits down with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt to discuss the work he has centered his existence on and his upcoming HBO documentaryTrue Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality which premieres on June 26.
“When we talk about race in this country, are we missing something fundamental?” Holt asks Stevenson during the interview that airs Friday at 6:30 pm ET/5:30 pm CT on NBC.
“I think we are,” Stevenson replies. “I think we are not talking about the ways in which all of us have been situated to think through this lens in ways that compromise our ability to be fair and just with one another.”
Stevenson goes on to raise concerns about the way in which civil rights are discussed in the United States. He says the conversation has become “so benign” and “celebratory” in some ways.
“You hear people talking about the civil rights era, and– and it’s starting to sound like a three-day carnival. Rosa Parks didn’t give up her seat on day one, and Dr. King led a march on Washington on day two; and on day three, we changed all the laws and racism is over,” Stevenson quips. “And that’s not what happened.”
The brainchild behind The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery points out that for generations of people, including his parents, everyday life was both dehumanizing and humiliating. He calls the signs used to specify where Blacks and Whites could go as “assaults.”
“They created injuries. And we haven’t treated those injuries,” Stevenson insists. “I was crafted in a place where the first thing that I had to manage was the– the thinking, the presumptions around color, around race.”
Holt first interviewed the author of the acclaimed memoir Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, back in October during Nightly News’ “Across America” series. Holt stopped in Montgomery, Alabama, where Stevenson gave him a tour of the lynching memorial dedicated to the victims of America’s gruesome past.