Criminal defense attorney and civil rights icon, Dana Nessel, will be recognized next week by Wayne State University’ Law School. At the annual Treasure of Detroit ceremony, Ms. Nessel will be recognized with several other promenent members of Detroit’s legal community who have made significant contributions to the practice of law
As a graduate of Wayne Law’s class of 1994, Ms. Nessel began her career with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office, where she served in several specialized units. During her tenure Dana Nessel successfully prosecuted dozens of murder cases, specialized in “shaken baby” cases, and prosecuted major auto theft and chop shop rings, to name only a few of her areas of practice.
2005, Dana Nessel left the prosecutor’s office to enter the world of private practice, where she has become renowned as a staunch defender of constitutional rights. In her criminal practice, Ms. Nessel has vigorously defended hundreds of criminal cases, from petty theft to first degree murder. Dana Nessel’s extensive knowledge of the law and her personal experience with the judges, prosecutors and police officers in the area makes her ideally suited to best advise her clients on their concerns, and to know how to approach their cases. As a result, she is able to achieve results unmatched by most attorneys’ practicing in the area, making her one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Michigan.
While Ms. Nessel’s practice has a heavy emphasis on criminal defense, she also handles civil rights actions, family law matters, and general tort litigation. Ms. Nessel is recognized as one of the premier litigators of LGBT issues in Michigan. In 2010, Ms. Nessel brought the matter of Harmon v. Davis, in which a Michigan court, for the first time, held that a non-biological parent in a same-sex couple could establish custodial rights to the couple’s children. Ms. Nessel also successfully petitioned for the first second-parent adoptions for same-sex couples in Oakland and Wayne Counties. She has defended and acquired exonerations for scores of defendants wrongly targeted for prosecution based on sexual orientation and has represented various clients terminated from employment based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2012, she spearheaded the precedent-setting case, DeBoer v. Snyder, which challenged the bans on adoption and marriage for same-sex couples in Michigan. Deboer was later consolidated with its affiliated Sixth Circuit cases into Obergefell v. Hodges in the United States Supreme Court. This landmark case legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. In 2014, Ms. Nessel, along with her co-counsel on DeBoer, was honored with the “Champion of Justice” award by the Michigan State Bar Association. In 2015, she was designated as “Woman of the Year” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Ms. Nessel is also an officer for Fair Michigan, an organization dedicated to the equal protection of women and LGBT residents under the Michigan Constitution.
Here is a link for information regarding the Treasure of Detroit ceremony.
Multiple counts of Armed Robbery and one count of Felony Firearm were dismissed against M.D., a client of criminal defense attorney Chris Kessel. It was alleged that our client, while armed with a pistol, approached two men and demanded their money and their vehicle. As the alleged robbery took place at night, the identification of the assailant would prove to be the main issue in the case.
At the preliminary exam, held in the 36th District Court, the prosecutor succeeded in having the complaining witness point to our client and identify him as the man who pointed the gun at him and demanded his belongings. While the man admitted that the assailant was wearing a hood and the area was “somewhat dark”, he still claimed that he could positively identify the man who robbed him. When asked to do so, he pointed at our client and claimed he was the man who robbed him. However, this positive identification would not last for long.
Upon cross-examination by defense attorney Chris Kessel, the complaining witness began to shy away from his identification of our client. He was forced to admit that because the robbery took place at night and because the only light source was across the street he was not actually able to get a good look at the assailant. The witness then admitted that he was more focused on the gun being pointed in his face than he was on the face of the person pointing the gun. Chris Kessel also got the witness to admit that the hood the robber was wearing covered a substantial portion of the upper half of the robber’s face. Finally, after going over line after line of his written description of the assailant, the witness agreed that our client did not match all portions of the description given only hours after the robbery. After approximately 30 minutes of cross-examination, the witness readily admitted that he was not sure if our client was actually the man who robbed him.
The prosecution argued vigorously that the complaining witness had already identified the defendant, thus the case should be bound over. However, Mr. Kessel pointed out that if the only thing that mattered was what a witness stated on direct examination, there would be no need for a Sixth Amendment right to confront one’s accuser. The judge agreed and the case was dismissed entirely.
The Nessel and Kessel Approach
At Nessel and Kessel Law, we have decades of experience dealing with assault charges. Because we are top criminal defense attorneys, when a client retains Nessel and Kessel Law we immediately begin to develop a comprehensive strategy for success. Sometimes success means convincing the prosecutor to dismiss the charges completely, or have them greatly reduced. Other times it means a motion to suppress evidence to have the case dismissed by a judge, or fully preparing for trial and securing a not guilty verdict. Robbery and Assault charges are often fueled by emotional and hostile witnesses. More often than not, a verdict will hang solely on the testimony of a complaining witness. The means that you need an attorney who is skilled in the art of cross examination, who can force a witness to admit things that may contradict earlier statements, police reports, hospital records, and other witnesses. Other times a case will turn on what the defendant’s intent was during the alleged assault. It can often times be difficult if not impossible to prove what someone’s intent was. At Nessel and Kessel Law, we have the experience needed to persuade a prosecutor, judge, or jury that you did not have the necessary intent to convict. If you or a family member has been changed with an assaultive, contact the defense lawyers at Nessel and Kessel Law today.
Dana Nessel was asked by Fox 2 to be a panel member on a recent episode of Let It Rip. Ms. Nessel was asked to participate as an expert on the judicial nomination process and its political ramifications. Specifically, the panel discussed the new potential United States Supreme Court appointment by President Trump.
Here is a link to the episode.
This week in The Detroit Jewish News, their cover story was about Dana Nessel and her Fair Michigan Project. The article is a profile of civil rights attorney Dana Nessel and the story behind her creation of the Fair Michigan Project, an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and the LGBTQ community.
Here is a link to the story.
In the 36th District Court, criminal defense attorney Chris Kessel won a significant legal victory for his client, resulting in multiple charges, some of which required mandatory jail time, being dismissed. Our client was charged with possessing a vicious animal, owning an unlicensed animal, and allowing a dog to walk without a leash. The possessing a vicious animal charge required a mandatory jail sentence. These charges stemmed from an unfortunate incident where our client’s dog got off its leash and bit a local teenager.
Regarding the possession of a vicious animal charge, it was attorney Chris Kessel’s position that in order to be convicted for possessing a vicious animal, the prosecution needed to prove that the client had some actual or prior knowledge that the dog in question was actually vicious. It was the City of Detroit’s position that, despite the fact that the animal in question had NEVER been involved in any type of biting incident prior, that our client could still be convicted because the crime is a “strict liability” crime. A strict liability crime is one where there is no requirement of the defendant to have the intent to commit a crime, but only to have the intent to commit an act that later turns out to be against the law. Thus, it was Detroit defense attorney Chris Kessel’s position that because our client didn’t know the animal was capable of being vicious she could not be convicted of possessing a vicious animal.
At a motion hearing before Judge Bryant-Weekes, Mr. Kessel presented argument citing the Michigan court of appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court, and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Kessel argued that at its most basic, common law level, unless specifically noted otherwise, all statutes should have some requirement of “bad intent” before a person is convicted of a criminal offense. After lengthy briefs were filed and arguments were made, Judge Bryant-Weekes issued her written opinion siding with Mr. Kessel. Thus, because there was no way the City of Detroit could prove our client had any knowledge that the animal was “vicious”, the charges were dismissed.
Members of the LGBT community have often found themselves the targets of crime. Unfortunately, with the advent of technology, the range of these crimes has significantly broadened. Recently, a number of gay men have become the focus of a blackmail scam.
These men would meet other gay men online and then engaged in consensual sexual acts. However, almost immediately afterwards, these men would be contacted by a third party who would tell them that the person with whom they just engaged in consensual sexual acts with was a minor. In Michigan, statutory rape is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The third party would then tell these men that he would report them unless they paid him off. Sometimes the payment was a few hundred dollars, but in other instances the payment would be upwards of $70,000.00.
Many of these men contacted Dana Nessel, of Nessel and Kessel Law and founder of Fair Michigan, a nationally known civil rights attorney. Ms. Nessel advised these men to contact the police because it was clear that they had been targeted by a scam artist. Thankfully some of the men did and one man has been taken into custody.
Here is a link to a story done by Channel 7 WXYZ, in which Michigan LGBT attorney Dana Nessel spoke about the matter.
Yesterday, at the Third Circuit court in Detroit, our client let out a sigh of relief as the jury foreperson read the verdict. Our client was found not guilty of felonious assault, a 4 year felony, and malicious destruction of property, a misdemeanor. The complaining witness was actually the uncle of our client, with whom the entire family has been feuding for years.
The allegations were that our client went over to the complaining witness’s home with a bat and a rock and began yelling at the complainant. It was then alleged that our client threw the rock at the witness and then swung that bat at him, damaging his vehicle. During cross examination, defense attorney Chris Kessel was able to confront the witness with his conflicting versions of events. In one instance, he claimed that he needed an ax to defend himself. By creatively using the rules of evidence, Chris was able to show the jury that the first time he told this story to police there was no mention of an ax, nor was there any statement about seeing the client throw the rock. Later, during cross examination by criminal defense attorney Chris Kessel, another witness admitted that damage that was alleged to have been done by out client had been done months ago.
Assault cases almost always rest solely on the testimony of eye-witnesses. At Nessel and Kessel Law, we have the necessary skill and experience to cross examine these witnesses and find the holes and cracks in their story, thereby allowing us to expose the lies and fabrications in their story. At Nessel and Kessel Law, not only do we know the law and how to use it to your advantage, but we know how to expose witnesses who are being less than honest.
Regardless of the issue, if you’ve been charged with an assaultive offense in the State of Michigan, you need a top criminal defense attorney. Contact Nessel and Kessel Law today if you or a friend or family member has been charged with any crime.
Last night in the City of Detroit, a store owner shot and killed a man who reportedly attempting to commit a robbery inside the store. There was no weapon recovered from the victim of the shooting. I was asked a number of questions about the shooting by a young attorney when I was in court today, which made me realize how little most people (even attorneys) understand about the law of self defense.
Citizens in the State of Michigan have the right to use force to defend themselves. However, as a criminal defense attorney in Michigan, I can promise you that the right of self defense is not absolute. In order to legally use force to defense yourself: 1) you must be in a place that you are legally allowed to be; and 2) the force you use must be proportional to the force being applied to you. In other words, if someone shoves you, you cannot pull out a gun and shoot that person. The force used to defend one’s self must only be force that one “honestly and reasonably” believes is necessary to fight off the impending threat. Another important note is that you may not be in the course of committing a crime when you use self defense. This means that someone who broke into a house and was confronted by a homeowner possessing a gun could not take out his/her own gun and shoot that home owner and claim self defense.
When it comes to the use of deadly force, the same rules apply. This means that a person who “reasonably believes” that they are faced with the risk of death or great bodily harm may use deadly force to combat that risk. A person may also legally use deadly force is they reasonable believe that force is necessary to stop/prevent a sexual assault. However, again, if there is neither of these risks, deadly force may not legally be used.
Finally, Michigan is now a “stand your ground” state. This means that so long as you are in place where you are legally allowed to be, there is no “duty to retreat” before using force to defend one’s self.
Here is a link to Michigan’s self defense statute.
At a hearing in the Third Circuit Court, after argument by defense attorney Chris Kessel, Judge Bruce Morrow declared that the actions of the Taylor Police Department violated Mr. Kessel’s client’s constitutional rights and then suppressed evidence recovered by the officers. The end result of the ruling was that the charges against Mr. Kessel’s client were dismissed.
Attorney Chris Kessel filed a motion alleging that the police had violated his client’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights by coercing consent to search the client’s home and by questioning him without Mirandizing him. The hearing saw testimony from a member of the Taylor Police Department, a member of the DRANO task force, and Mr. Kessel’s client. The officers testified that they had a positive hit by a drug dog on the client’s vehicle. They then testified that the client, after being taken into custody, had given consent for the officers to search his home. On cross-examination, Mr. Kessel established that no narcotics were recovered from the vehicle (that it was not a positive hit) and that his client was in custody while he was being questioned, and that the consent that was granted for the search was done after the officers threatened the client.
Judge Morrow asked for supplemental briefs on the issue of custody and consent. At today’s hearing, the judge agreed with Mr. Kessel’s argument that the officers had violated the client’s Fifth Amendment right to receive his Miranda rights before being questioned. The judge also agreed that the client only gave consent to search his home because he had been coerced by the officers. With the evidence suppressed, the prosecution was left with no choice to allow the court to dismiss the case.
Drug cases tend to be the most complicated cases because of all the different issues that may come up. That means you need a drug defense attorney who knows the law and how to use it to your advantage. When a client retains Nessel and Kessel Law we immediately begin to develop a comprehensive strategy for success. Sometimes success means convincing the prosecutor to dismiss the charges completely, or have them greatly reduced. Other times it means a motion to suppress evidence to have the case dismissed by a judge, or fully preparing for trial and securing a not guilty verdict.
There are almost always 4th Amendment issues when dealing with narcotics charges because the arrest usually stems from a stop on the street or while driving, from the execution of a search warrant, or because of the use of a confidential informant to secure information used to perform a stop or obtain a warrant. Many times your case will hinge on whether or not your 4th Amendment rights have been violated.
Narcotics charges also hinge heavily on police officer testimony. Generally there will be multiple officers who take part in a “raid.” At Nessel and Kessel Law, we have the necessary skill and experience to cross examine these officers and find the holes and cracks in their story, thereby allowing us to expose the lies and fabrications in their story. At Nessel and Kessel Law, not only do we know the law and how to use it to your advantage, but we know how to expose witnesses who are being less than honest.
Regardless of the issue, if you’ve been charged with a drug offense in the State of Michigan, you need a top criminal defense attorney. Contact Nessel and Kessel Law today if you or a friend or family member has been charged with a drug offense.
Tragedy struck Ferndale, Michigan recently where a man allegedly killed his ex-girlfriend and then himself. The woman, who at the time of the story had not been named, had expressed concern regarding the man’s behavior. In fact, she had recently filed for a PPO against the suspect. Channel 7, WXYZ Detroit reached out to Chris Kessel, an expert in the area of PPO law, to discuss the case.
Here is a link to the story.