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September 28, 2009

MSC Order: People v. Aceval

On Friday, September 25, 2009, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal in People v. Aceval. Leave was denied by an equally divided Court with Justices Cavanagh and Markman and Chief Justice Kelly dissenting. Justice Corrigan recused herself because she has agreed to be a character witness for retired Wayne County Circuit Judge Mary Waterstone.

Aceval, an Inkster bar owner, was convicted of possession of cocaine. During his first trial, Judge Waterstone, the former head of the Wayne County prosecutor's drug unit, and two police officers allegedly permitted perjured testimony to conceal the identity of a confidential informant. The first trial ended in a mistrial, and Aceval was retried. During the second trial, Aceval's counsel uncovered the perjury and the Judge Waterstone recused herself. The replacement judge disqualified one of Aceval's attorneys who had appeared for the limited purpose of filing certain pretrial motions. Aceval eventually entered a guilty plea.

On appeal, Aceval contended that he was denied his right to counsel of his choice and that the use of perjured testimony at his first trial deprived him of due process to the extent that his retrial should have been barred. The Court of Appeals found the conduct at the first trial to be "disgraceful" and "reprehensible," but did not conclude that Aceval had been denied the counsel of his choice or that retrial was barred. The Court of Appeals' decision is here.

Judge Waterstone, the prosecutor, and the two officers have been charged with felonies for permitting the perjured testimony. The Detroit News is reporting that Justice Corrigan has agreed to be a character witness for Judge Waterstone.

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