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.
Recently, the Michigan Legislature made what some what call a surprising move…they made life a little bit easier for young criminal defendants. For years, criminal defendants aged 17-20 have able to take advantage of HYTA – the Holmes Youthful Training Act – as a way of avoiding a criminal conviction from staining their record. When a youthful offender pled guilty to a certain offense, he or she, upon successful completion of that probation, would have the conviction suppressed from their criminal record. The determination of whether or not HYTA status would be granted was in the sole discretion of the judge. However, the new HYTA statute, while not perfect, has opened the door for more youthful offenders to be granted HYTA status.
Under the new statute, offenders up the age of 24 are eligible for HYTA probation. However, there is a catch…for those aged 17-20, the decision regarding HYTA still resides with the judge. For those aged 21-23, the decision to allow for HYTA rests not with the judge, but with the prosecutor. This gives the prosecutors more leverage in negotiating pleas for those who wish to receive HYTA probation.
Defendants who enter guilty pleas to life offenses, traffic offenses, major drug offenses, or criminal sexual conduct charges, are disqualified from receiving HYTA probation.
Those placed on HYTA probation may be required to complete school, maintain employment, be placed on electronic tether, or be subject to a number of other requirements. There is also the possibility of spending time a special branch of the MDOC, for up to 3 years. However, there are certain offenses for which a defendant may NOT be sentenced to a term of incarceration.
If you or a family member of friend believe you may be eligible for HYTA probation, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law.
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.