In The News

In The News

Monday, January 11, 2016

Not Guilty! Prosecutor Adds a Count of Child Abuse to Leverage Client - Client Stands Tall and Jury Agrees

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Michael J. Nichols

"1 part stretching the truth and 1 part stretching the law" that is the theme that Mike Nichols and Bill Livingston used to defend successfully an Alma man accused of Child Abuse 4th Degree and Domestic Violence in Gratiot County before Judge Stewart McDonald. The jury agreed: returning 2 unanimous not guilty verdicts on Friday night, January 8th, 2016. Nichols says: "these are the types of cases in which the jury has to believe the version of the accusers to be so credible that it tips the scales beyond a reasonable doubt - and that is hard especially when the accused citizen gives a calm, cogent and credible version of what happened."

The man got to know the work and effort of the Nichols Law Firm when he was an eyewitness in a moving violation causing death case and the team from NLF tracked him down and served him with a subpoena. Bill Livingston reflects on his reaction back then "he may not have been happy about getting a subpoena from us a few years ago, but I bet he is now." The man was a key to a not guilty verdict in that case in Jackson County in 2014. After he got to know the Nichols Law Firm, he called on the NLF team when he and his ex-girlfriend went to court over custody, support and parenting time for their child in common.

Nichols says: "the mother of his child is from Tennessee and she filed a motion to go home. We filed the pleadings necessary to get an order rejecting the motion because she was welcome to move back, but just not with their child. The law requires a very good reason to change a custody order that already exists. The judge in the domestic relations case agreed. It was within 3 months that an incident occurred during which her teenage son accused our client of striking him and she accused our client of trying to grab their 3 year old from her arms and thereby committing a battery against her.

On the eve of jury selection, the prosecutor took a 2 count domestic violence complaint against the ex-girlfriend and her son and added a charge of child abuse against the teenager. Livingston says "the problem with what the prosecutor was trying to do is that he had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that our client had care, custody or authority over the alleged victim even if he did commit an act that put the child in danger of an injury." The parties had been split up for nearly a year at the time of the incident and the client was not living in the house: our client and this teenager had the furthest thing from a stepparent-child type of relationship or principal-agent relationship.

The keys to the verdict were staying disciplined in cross and making the prosecutor play the entire 9-1-1 call for the jury. The mom could be heard telling the teenager what to say on the call. It was clear that she controlled him. It was clear that she was no shrinking violet. It was clear that this case was indeed "1 part stretching the truth and 1 part stretching the law." Nichols says "fortunately the jury saw that as a recipe for injustice and did the right thing with a not guilty verdict."

For the lawyers who are committed to results, contact the Nichols Law Firm at 517.432.9000.

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Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.