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Criminal charge dropped against Lansing man with schizophrenia

Readers may be wondering about the fate of the Lansing man who falsely confessed to a fatal shooting. We discussed the man’s legal battle in our Feb. 20 blog post. Ingham County prosecutors charged him with lying to police, despite evidence that the man was dealing with the symptoms of schizophrenia at the time of his interrogation and was not in control of his actions.

This case likely outraged many readers regarding the authorities’ apparent ignorance of how mental illness can affect behavior, and their insistence on putting the man on trial. In an update to this story, Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III suddenly announced on March 5 that he was dropping the criminal charge against the defendant.

Numerous critics, including former prosecutors, politicians, Lansing residents and the American Civil Liberties Union, had previously called on Dunnings to drop the charge. But Dunnings claimed that he was unconvinced that the man had schizophrenia last year, when police interrogated him over a fatal shooting. The defendant told police that he had pulled the trigger, but the confession was dubious to investigators, and contradicted witness statements. He was never charged with the shooting, but was charged with lying to police.

On March 5, Dunnings announced that he had received a copy of a report from a mental health center that concluded that the defendant was mentally ill at the time of the interrogation. This was enough to get him to drop the charge of lying. Dunnings said that the delay was not his fault; he only got a copy of the report on March 4, months after it was written, he said.

While this story ultimately had a positive ending, it also shows how prosecutors sometimes pursue questionable charges. Without a defense attorney to defend a suspect’s rights and contest the evidence against him or her, an unjust conviction could be the result.

Source: WLNS-TV, “Charges Dropped Against Mentally Ill Man,” Joe Khalil, March 5, 2014

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