Blogs > Frye on the News

Keeping his eye on the news and offering commentaries and insights on what is happening in Oakland County, around the world, on the tube and in the news.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Murder without a homicide?

I like today's Detroit Free Press editorial about the Farmington Hills murder case involving a lawyer whose death has been ruled an accident.

When murder charges were announced against Laura Lynn Johnson, 46, I wondered why the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office refused to offer a cause and manner of death of her husband, Lloyd Johnson, 47. We were told they were both pending. But it's a murder, police and prosecutors believe.

Well, it's still a murder charge but not a homicide, the Medical Examiner's Office has ruled. The manner of death is accidental and, on top of that, poor health is a contributing factor, not mistreatment or abuse.

Accidents can still be manslaughters, but now that they've gone down the path of second-degree murder, it seems the case against Laura Johnson is over.

Of course, we don't know yet because police and prosecutors won't answer questions about the case. They'll charge murder, but they hide behind the 'ongoing investigation' and feeling they are prevented from saying anything further.

It seems the problem with this case is the secrecy and lack of facts offered to the public. A murder charge is serious business and is noted within the community. They cannot order us from asking about the case and they cannot order you from wondering about what is happening or reading about it.

I've long felt that Prosecutor Jessica Cooper ordering her attorneys to not discuss their cases with reporters is a sign of lack of trust of her staff and even her office. I covered the county courthouse for four years and came to believe the attorneys within the prosecutor's office to be trustworthy, highly skilled, knowledgeable, and very reasonable. Telling them they cannot explain their cases and the law creates a needless barrier in knowing and understanding what is happening and why.

Meanwhile, in Hazel Park, a man was killed after a fight and the death has been ruled a homicide, even though the fighter may have not intended to kill the victim, it could still be murder, or manslaughter, or just assault. It could be that no crime was committed. But here's a case that could be charged murder, because it is a homicide.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Juror's Facebook trouble

Yes, perhaps the juror should not have Facebooked about the Macomb County trial she was watching, but she's human and people do two things: they facebook about their lives with a false expectation of privacy and they form opinions even when ordered not to.

But what is more concerning to me about this case is why the defense attorney's son was searching for jurors on Facebook as part of his clerking duties.

Jurors are sacred in the court system, so much so that someone can get into trouble just talking to them if they know who they are and they are involved in the case the juror is hearing. So searching them out and checking out their profiles, walls, and photos if you're trying the's only a click away from contacting a juror.

The essay and the education are OK for the contempt violation, but the fine might be heavy. Perhaps getting the essay done early should help reduce the fine.

Also, even if she thought the guy was guilty and was ready to convict, if the other 11 jurors were convinced he was innocent or not guilty, she would have agreed. Remember, she's not a one-person jury.

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