ACLU Opposes Cox's Support for Elimination of Preliminary Examinations

May 10, 2005

DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan expressed great concern and opposition today to news that Attorney General Mike Cox is pushing for legislation that would significantly alter the judicial process and seriously jeopardize due process rights.

“We’ve learned that you Mr. Cox plans to support a bill, soon to be introduced, that would eliminate preliminary exams for most defendants charged with felonies,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director. “There are many reasons that this is a very bad idea, not the least of which is that we are all entitled to a fair trial.”

In a letter sent to Mr. Cox, the ACLU points out that preliminary exams provide an important screening/discovery procedure making it easier for judges to weed out cases which are not supported by probable cause or appropriately reduce the charge in those cases in which the defendant has been over-charged. They also provide an important opportunity to identify information in order to prepare a defense, and provide both the prosecution and defense the opportunity to assess the credibility of key witnesses in a case.

“Preliminary exams are valuable to the truth-seeking function of a trial to ensure that memories of events are fresh and not changed over time,” added Moss.

According to the ACLU letter, the argument that police and civilian time is wasted because of preliminary examinations is not valid and concerns about efficiency can be addressed through pre-exam conferences, which some courts currently use.

“Streamlining the judicial process may seem like a good idea,” said Moss.  “But streamlining our rights to a fair trial is not.”

To read the entire letter sent to Attorney General Cox, go to:  www.aclumich.org/attachments/prelimexamcox.pdf

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