How COVID-19 is Affecting the Michigan Criminal Justice System

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has struck fear across the United States. Despite limited reported cases, the concern has grown drastically due to social media and television outlets. The inconsistency of reports on COVID-19 had led to mass confusion in society and our criminal justice system. To gain insight into how the disease is affecting our state’s criminal justice system, we spoke to top criminal defense attorneys that practice in multiple counties.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has built a firm that is known as the top criminal defense team across the state of Michigan. When asked the impact of COVID-19, Grabel stated, “Our firm does a lot of appellate work. The key to success in appellate work can visit an incarcerated client and review transcripts. Prisons have been locked down due to COVID-19. We all need to error on the side of safety, but for those incarcerated, there is another hurdle to their freedom regained.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus, and Amadeo is Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan. Amadeo has a docket that covers over ten counties and provided commentary on the obstacles created by the virus. Amadeo said, “The reality is we don’t know where we stand right now as a society. I had a trial in Lenawee, County, that was scheduled for March 31 that had been adjourned indefinitely. I had five trials set across the state from March 31 until June 25, and they are all in limbo. With the fear of bringing jurors in, this may be a time where prosecutors, probation officers, and defense counsels can work as a team towards resolutions but that will call for a lot of giving and take from all officers of the court.”

Lane Zabawa is a top criminal defense attorney in both Eaton and Kent County, Michigan. With a heavy travel docket, Zabawa said, ‘We see a situation where every county is addressing their concerns in a different fashion. A system of uniformity would allow us to protect our clients and society but having one court handle matters one way with another court taking a completely different stance can provide more stress to all involved. Many clients do not want to travel to my office right now; instead, we are constantly communicating via text and e-mail because they are scared to leave their homes. It is a time of great concern.”

Scott Grabel went on to add, “Teamwork is essential during stressful times. I agree with Lane (Zabawa) that having a consensus on how to proceed would benefit all involved. During these trying times, we have to continue to fight for the freedom of our clients despite the unknown of when our case will be heard.”

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