Client acquitted on all charges.
Criminal defense attorney Chris Kessel patted his client on the back as she in tears while the jury foreperson read the verdict. After what must have seemed like an eternity (approximately 4 months), the nightmare was finally over. Our client had been found not guilty on charges of Felonious Assault, Domestic Violence, and two counts of Malicious Destruction of Property. It took the jury an entire 15 minutes to reach their verdict…though to be fair, they were not given a verdict form until approximately 10 minutes into the deliberation.
The charges stemmed from allegations made by the “victim” that Mr. Kessel’s client had punched and scratched and thrown a heavy dinner plate and a large stick at him, all of which caused several cuts and bruises. After that, the “victim” said that our client broke several windows and caused extensive damage to “victim’s”. Our client claimed that the only injuries that her (now) ex-boyfriend sustained we as a result of her defending herself against his attack. During cross examination, defense attorney Chris Kessel pummeled the complaining witness with all of the changes in his story. The ex could not keep straight from where he had been before he came home, what damage had been done to his car, how our client had sustained injuries to herself, and even how many children he had in common with our client…the answer of which is actually zero. At one point, while Mr. Kessel questioned the complaining witness, the judge, jury and audience burst out into laughter at some of the explanations given for the inconsistencies.
The mood turned serious as Mr. Kessel’s client took the stand. She testified how the “victim” had been abusing her for years while the two had been in a relationship. She described, through tears, how the “victim” had come home intoxicated and began yelling at her. When she told him she wanted to leave him, the verbal assault became a physical one, as he cut her wrist and knocked a tooth out. Our client even brought the short she had been wearing, covered in blood, to show where she had bled after she had been attacked.
Thankfully the jury was able to see the sincerity in the client’s face. When contrasted against the ridiculous story of the “victim”, as shown by attorney Kessel, there was no doubt in the jury’s mind.
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.
Defense Attorney Chris Kessel Files Motion and Gets Case Dismissed.
A Third Circuit Court judge agreed with criminal defense attorney Chris Kessel that a Highland Park police officer violated his client’s 4th Amendment rights, thereby causing the case t be dismissed. The client was thrilled when she realized that the charged against her were to be dropped because the prosecutor no longer had any evidence to support the charges. The case was unique in that an officer was totally and completely honest when he described how he violated the client’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. What was not unique was that the officer still did not believe he did anything wrong.
In his testimony, the officer described how he watched the client (legally) park her vehicle on the side of the road and then remain in the vehicle for several minutes. The officer admitted that he had no reason to suspect that the client was engaged in any criminal activity, whatsoever. Despite that fact, the officer activated his emergency lights and performed a traffic stop on the client. According to the officer, he was conducting a “wellness check.” Oddly enough, when cross examined by attorney Chris Kessel, the officer was forced to admit that he was not able to see anyone in the vehicle acting in a manner that would indicate anyone was in distress. The officer also testified that when he approached the client he asked her for her license and registration. His reason; “I wanted to know who I was talking to.” However, the officer was unable to respond when Chris Kessel asked, “if you wanted to know who you were talking to, why didn’t you just ask her for her name?”
After argument, the judge sided with Mr. Kessel, agreeing that the officer had no authority to stop the client. As such, the evidence recovered as a result of the traffic stop was suppressed and the case was dismissed.
After Re-Trial Defendant Found Not Guilty.
After less than a day of deliberation, a jury returned a “not guilty” verdict for the client of criminal defense attorney, Chris Kessel. The client was charged with one count of CSC – 1st under 13; meaning that the alleged victim was under the age of 13 at the time of the alleged assault. It was alleged that the client had woken up his 11 year old niece in the middle of the night, took her into his bedroom, and raped her. The was based almost exclusively upon the testimony of the complaining witness, who made the allegations.
The case had actually already been tried once, with the jury unable to reach a verdict. At the end of the previous trial the jury was deadlocked at 11-1, for guilty. After the prosecutor’s office decided to re-try the case, the family of the client reached out to Chris Kessel to ask him to represent the client. The trial lasted three days, during which Chris Kessel carefully and meticulously took apart the complaining witness’s story; piece by piece. The girl had told a number of differing versions of the event, each differing from the other. Some of the differences were significant, while others were more minor. However, after cross-examination, it was clear that the young girl was not being truthful. In fact, when confronted with one of the version of the story, even she was forced to admit that what she had previously stated “didn’t make any sense.”
Even with the multiple holes in her story, the prosecution argued that because the client had previously been convicted of a CSC – 1 under 13, he was predisposed to this kind of activity. Thankfully, Chris Kessel was able to tease out testimony from the complaining witness’s sister that both of them knew that the client had been convicted of this crime over 20 years ago…making him an easy target for the lie.
Cross-examining a 12 year old girl about an alleged rape is not something you learn over night. It is something you learn with countless hours of study and experience. Criminal Sexual Conduct cases are not cases that just any attorney can handle. It takes an experienced criminal defense attorney, who knows what buttons to push and when to push them, to successfully defend against this type of charge.
If you or a family member has been charged with allegations of criminal sexual conduct, contact Nessel and Kessel Law today.
Last week, after a hearing before an officer of the Secretary of State’s, Chris Kessel helped to secure the restoration of full driving privileges for a client. What made this result particularly pleasing was that the hearing officer, instead of sending her ruling out via US mail, granted full driving privileges on the spot!
The client had three drunk driving (OUI) offenses on her record and was currently driving on a restricted license. This meant that she was permitted to drive to and from work, religious services, and hospital emergencies. Her license had been restricted just short of three years when she approached license restoration attorney Chris Kessel. At Nessel and Kessel Law, we have a comprehensive approach to drivers license restoration hearings. As part of the license restoration, Chris Kessel reviewed several letters that were submitted on behalf of the Client and went over all the corrections with the Client. After the letters were perfected, Chris sat down with the Client for a mock hearing, where he went over the questions Mr. Kessel would ask and the types of questions the hearing officer may ask. Then, just prior to the license restoration hearing, Chris Kessel and the Client met one more time to make sure that Client was fully prepared.
At the hearing, the Client testified beautifully and answered all of the questions posed by the hearing officer. The usual practice is that the hearing officer will conclude the hearing and then notify the parties by mail of the decision. But in this case, the hearing officer was so convinced by the Client’s testimony that she granted the petition on the spot. Several days later the Client received the officer order that her full driving privileges had been restored.
If you or a friend or family member is eligible to have the drivers license restored, contact the attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law.
Even as I sit down at my keyboard today, writing this seems counterintuitive to that which the attorneys of Michigan’s Nessel & Kessel Law, and their clients are traveling to the nation’s capital next week to argue, but the more I think, and the more I type, the more I realize the issues are one, and the same.
For years same-sex couples and activists have fought a system stacked ever-so-clearly in favor of heterosexual couples for the right to marry — and the right to divorce.
Considering same-sex divorce
The D-word. It’s not a word any couple wants to think about considering. But it happens. Same-sex couples love the same as straight couples; they cohabitate the same; they fight the same; and sometimes, they seek same-sex divorce.
Just as marriage equality is poised to sweep the whole of the nation once and for all, same-sex divorce is poised to boom. And that’s no surprise, for the simple fact of the matter that more couples are eligible to be married, and so more are eligible to be divorced.
A recent study done by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that out of the 640,000 total same-sex couples in the United States, 50,000 of those couples married in 2011.
Imagine that number today, four years later.
What the Williams Institute also found was that, in states where it was allowed, the marriage rate among homosexual couples was rising quickly toward that of heterosexual couples (e.g., In Massachusetts, in 2011, 68 percent of gay couples were married, compared to 91 percent of heterosexual couples).
Durability and longevity of same-sex marriage
Some have argued: But the evidence shows that same-sex marriages are more durable, and last longer than straight marriages! Well, yes. For now.
While what Williams Institute researchers found backs up this claim (About one percent of gay marriages dissolve each year, while that number is double for straight couples.), that just can’t last. People are fickle, and fight; people cheat, and they lie. People get married, and stay married for all the wrong reasons.
Love is love, no matter the sex of the lovers.
But just as true is this:
Irreconcilable differences are irreconcilable, no matter the sex of the couple.
That is why, just as heartily as we will argue for same-sex couples’ right to wed, we will open the doors to our office in Ann Arbor, Michigan for couples seeking a same-sex divorce.
In a hearing at Third Circuit Court in the City of Detroit, attorney Chris Kessel was able to convince a judge to terminate a PPO in place against his client. The PPO (Personal Protection Order) was ordered ex parte, meaning at the time the PPO was ordered the client had no chance to contest the allegations. The Petitioner claimed that the PPO was necessary because the Respondent (our client) had sexually assaulted her. Standing alone, the allegations certainly warranted the issuance of the PPO, however, the allegations would have to stand up to cross examination by attorney Chris Kessel.
Chris Kessel, after discussing the matter with his client, immediately filed a motion to terminate the PPO. A hearing was scheduled where the Petitioner would be forced to defend her story under cross examination. Chris confronted the Petitioner with dozens of text messages sent between the Petitioner and her ex-boyfriend, where she attempted to explain the details of the sexual assault. Unfortunately for the Petitioner, she was unable to explain why her allegations changed (i.e. got worse) as the conversation progressed. The Petitioner was also forced to confront the fact that she appeared more upset that her ex-boyfriend did not believe her story, as opposed to being more upset about being sexually assaulted. Most importantly, Chris Kessel was able to establish that the Petitioner had never had any kind of problem with the Client before the allege incident and had no problems with him since. This final fact was incredibly important…and here’s why.
Upon her ruling, the judge commented that even if she had believed the Petitioner’s story, she would still have to deny the issuance of the PPO. The judge went on to say that a PPO is put in place to prevent harassing behavior that has taken place and may continue to take place, not to simply protect the “alleged” victim of a crime. Because Chris Kessel had walked the Petitioner into admitting that she had never had a prior problem with the Client, nor had she since the alleged assault, there was no basis to show that there was any harassment behavior that had take place, or would likely take place in the future. And with that, the PPO was terminated.
The Nessel and Kessel Approach
At Nessel and Kessel Law, we have extensive experience defending our client against the ordering of a PPO. Our approach includes getting a detailed history of the relationship between the petitioner and respondent as well as speaking with any necessary witnesses or other parties with crucial information. We will also gather phone records, emails, and any other documents that will help prove that you have not been engaged in any of the prohibited activities as outlined by the law.
At the hearing, the court will allow both sides to present their case, which includes allowing the attorneys to question the parties. Depending on the facts and their presentation, the court will also engage in its own cross-examination of the parties involved. The court’s questions will almost certainly be aimed at issues raised by the questioning of the lawyers.
Often times a petitioner will want a PPO issued simply because they are mad at someone, because they don’t want the respondent to have access to mutual children, or because there is a pending divorce and they want to use the legal system to their advantage. Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember that a PPO is a court order, the violation of which can result in jail time. A PPO may seem “routine”, but it is an incredibly serious matter that can interfere with school, work, and other activities. If you have been served with a PPO, you need experienced attorneys who can show the court that the petitioner’s allegations are false. Contact Nessel and Kessel Law today for a free consultation.
In November of 2014, Nessel and Kessel Law began our representation of a local college student who felt he was being targeted because of his homosexuality. Briefly, the facts of the case are as follows; the week before the incident in question Mr. McMurray had been assaulted by a number of other students. After the assault, Mr. McMurray called the police and made a report. Several days after making the report Mr. McMurray was confronted by the complaining witness in this case. The complainant showed up, unannounced, at Mr. McMurray’s dorm room and an altercation ensued. Here is a link to the previous blog post on the case.
Our client was charged with Assault by Strangulation, a felony charge with a maximum punishment of up to 10 years in prison. For any of us, especially a young man, just starting college with a spotless record, this charge would cause an incredible amount of nervousness and anxiety. After being charged, our client was suspended from school, expelled from school, faced harassment (both in person and in social media), all while being terrified of being sentenced to prison.
Thankfully, after months of negotiations, we at Nessel and Kessel Law are happy to report that this case has come to a conclusion. The felony charge was dismissed, in exchanged for a plea to a very low-level misdemeanor. But more importantly, the client will have the conviction suppressed his record completely clean after completing a brief term of probation. It is important to note that this resolution could not have been reached without the cooperation and assistance of the very hard working and fair minded prosecutor who was handling the case. Equally important is the idea that the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is open to the understanding of the plight of members of the LGBT community.
At Nessel and Kessel Law, we are intensely committed to the protection of the rights of members of the LGBT community. Will have never, nor will we ever, shy away from a fight involving the defense of those who are being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently we are in the middle of a fight over the constitutionality of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. But denial of the right to marry is not the only way in which LGBT rights are being denied and is not the only way in which member of that community are being discriminated against. Thankfully, we at Nessel and Kessel Law are committed to fight for the rights of all members of the LGBT community.
If you ask any criminal defense attorney, they will tell you that OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) charges are some of the toughest to beat. The witnesses are, almost always, police officers. The physical evidence is often scientific in nature; i.e. blood tests or BAC measurements that were conducted by machines. And generally, people detest people who drive drunk. Yet despite all that, in the district court for the city of Highland Park, Chris Kessel was able to achieve a not guilty verdict in a trial where he fought against police officer testimony and scientific evidence.
Our client was stopped by a member of the Highland Park Police Department at approximately 1:30am. Based on the stop, the client was charged with OWI and Possessing a Firearm while Intoxicated. The latter charge, if convicted, carried a punishment involving forever losing the client’s CPL.
According to the officer, the client had run a red light, almost lost control of the vehicle, almost hit the officer, attempted to evade the officer, run a stop sign, and had parked his car on the sidewalk…all in that order. The officer then claimed that our client had glassy eyes, slurred speech, that he had failed several field sobriety tests. All of these claims were made by the officer in his police report and during his testimony at trial. The officer also testified that, upon reaching the police station, the client blew a .11 into the DataMaster. The legal limit in Michigan is .08.
However, like most officers, he did not count of having to defend his claims in open court, against the scrutiny of intense cross examination, and in front of a panel of jurors.
During cross examination, Chris Kessel asked why the officer did not activate his emergency lights after the client ran a red light and almost hit the officer. The officer had no explanation. Chris then asked why did the officer not activate his lights when the client began to try and evade the officer. Again, the officer had no explanation. Chris then asked why the officer did not activate his lights after the client ran a stop sign. You guessed it, the officer had no explanation. Making matters worse for the officer was that he did not know that the client had a surveillance camera outside his house, showing that the client parked on the street and did so on his own, without being stopped by the officer. When confronted with the video, the officer began to panic. When asked by Chris why he would say the client parked on the sidewalk when he clearly parked on the curb, the officer replied “I’m from Trinidad and Tobago. The words ‘sidewalk’ and ‘curb’ are interchangeable.” The final question asked was “if those two words are interchangeable, why, in your report, did you say my client moved from the curb to the sidewalk…?” The silence following the question seemed to last minutes. The officer had no answer.
In his closing, Chris Kessel argued to the jury that if there were 7 distinct points in the officer’s story that either defied common sense or could be proven as lies, how could you prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the same officer correctly and honestly operated the DataMaster.
After less than 20 minutes, the jury came back with a not guilty verdict.
The art of cross examination is one that is finely crafted over years and years, and after conducting many, many jury trials. When you retain the law firm of Nessel and Kessel Law, you are ensuring yourself of representation of the highest caliber. The criminal defense attorneys and Nessel and Kessel Law have the experience and knowledge to make sure your rights are protected. Especially in a case where it is your word against that of the police, you need an attorney who can ask the right questions and get the right answers. Don’t be fooled into thinking any attorney can handle your case because they have some experience in the realm of criminal defense law. The ability to execute a thorough and effective cross-examination takes years of practice to perfect. When you retain a criminal defense attorney at Nessel and Kessel Law, you get an attorney who knows exactly how to get what the want from an adversarial witness.
Issue of Same Sex Marriage Headed to D.C….We Hope.
As most of you have heard by now, the trial court’s ruling in our marriage equality case, DeBoer v Snyder, was overturned by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The original opinion of the trial court, written by Judge Bernard Friedman, held that Michigan’s ban on same sex marriage was violative of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Predictably, Attorney General Bill Schuette, appealed the decision to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Oral argument was heard on August 6, 2014, in our case and several other cases from different states. All of the cases from the various states surrounded the issue of same sex marriage. The court, which was comprised of 3 different judges, listened to argument from all sides on all cases. After waiting almost 3 months, the 3 judge panel issued it’s opinion…which was the ruling of Judge Friedman would be overturned. In his opinion, Judge Jeffery Sutton, a Bush II appointee, wrote (in part) that it was not the place of the court to override the will of the electorate. In a blistering dissent (which of course we enjoyed), Judge Martha Daughtrey, a Clinton appointee, wrote that because the right decision was “so obvious” she thought perhaps the majority reached its opinion solely to create a split among the circuit courts that had tackled the question. For those of you who missed it, Judge Daughtrey was the judge who threw her pen down in disgust as one attorney tried to explain why same sex marriages would discourage other married couples from having children.
Because of the decision of the 6th Circuit, Dana Nessel and the other attorneys have filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court. The question presented is simple: whether a state violates the 14th Amendment by denying same-sex couples the right to marry. Our best guess is that the Supreme Court will inform the parties whether or not it will take the case in early January 2015.
Here are several links to the story from a variety of news outlets.
The Washington Post
The Detroit News
Local 4 WDIV
A local college student was charged with Assault by Strangulation after an altercation that took place in his dorm room. DeMario McMurray, a freshman at Wayne State University, faces up to 10 years in prison because of the charges. Mr. McMurray, who may have been targeted because of his homosexuality, is now represented by the criminal defense firm of Nessel and Kessel Law.
What is undisputed is that the week before the incident in question Mr. McMurray had been assaulted by a number of other students. After the assault, Mr. McMurray called the police and made a report. Several days after making the report Mr. McMurray was confronted by the complaining witness in this case. The complainant showed up, unannounced, at Mr. McMurray’s dorm room and an altercation ensued.
At the preliminary exam, held in the 36th District Court, the complaining witness faced a vigorous cross examination by Chris Kessel, one of the criminal defense attorneys representing Mr. McMurray. She testified that she wanted to confront Mr. McMurray about his police report, which involved a friend of hers. She testified that she heard Mr. McMurray on the phone with the police when she began banging on his door. The witness claims that she was let into the room, only to have Mr. McMurray begin strangling her for no apparent reason. When Mr. Kessel began to press her for details, she was unable to describe several key pieces of information surrounding the event. At one point, clearly frustrated, the witness actually cursed at Mr. Kessel.
A police officer was also called to testify at the exam. Upon being questioned by Dana Nessel, the officer was forced to admit that no investigation was done into the actions of the complaining witness; who is appears committed multiple felonies herself (those being home invasion, breaking and entering, and interfering with the filing of a police report). It seemed that despite the witness’s actions, the police and the university determined that only Mr. McMurray was to blame.
As a result of the incident Mr. McMurray was expelled from Wayne State University. No action was taken with respect to the complaining witness…until the story reached the media, at which time the complaining witness was suspended.
Despite the inconsistencies in the complainant’s story, the case was bound over for trial.