A Michigan Judge Does What A Texas Judge Can't And Vacates A Plea-Bargain Deal
But when it comes to victims' rights, there's no place like ... Michigan?
That's right, those folks way to the north seem to have a leg up on Texas when it comes to enforcing the rights for victims of crime.
Last month we brought you the story of Debbie Brooks, whose son was shot at two years ago by former U.S. Congressman Craig Washington. Washington eventually admitted to illegally firing and cut a plea deal with the prosecutor for two years of probation. Brooks claims that the prosecutor made the plea bargain behind her back and never properly told her about deal, violating her and her son's victims' rights.
In Texas, once a plea deal has been finalized, that's it. It's a done deal regardless of whether the DA told the victim about it and violated the victims' rights.
Recently though, a judge in Branch County, Michigan vacated a plea deal because the prosecutor did not tell the victim about it beforehand.
According to WTVB in Coldwater Michigan, Judge Brent Wiegle "said it would be a miscarriage of justice for the court to continue with the plea that he approved without the Prosecutor's office having had a full opportunity to sit down with the two ... victims. He said the right of victims to be consulted is not just a statutory, but a constitutional right."
The case, which involved an alleged drunken driving crash, will now essentially begin from scratch, WTVB reports, and we assume that the victims will have a say in the plea process and at the very least be told about any deals before they're made.
City of Houston Crime Victim Advocate Andy Kahan says he hopes Texas judges and prosecutors will take note of what happened in this case.
"I think the Michigan case is a clear cut example of where we need to be in Texas," he tells Hair Balls. "When victims feel they are not privy to the plea or plea bargaining process, there is an outlet for justice that's available, and that is the judge. And the judge can make the call whether a victims' rights have been violated. This case clearly shows that other states have that option and Texas needs to have it as well."