As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through Michigan, jails and prisons became epicenters of contagion, and public health experts urged officials to decarcerate as much possible. As soon as the crisis began, the ACLU of Michigan created a template motion that could be used by criminal defendants and their attorneys to argue in court for pretrial release. The template was used by defense attorneys around the state to get their clients out of jail, and in several cases we provided direct representation on appeal. In March 2020 we won an appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals on behalf of Moneasha Ferguson, a single mother who was sent to jail by a trial judge because she was 20 minutes late to court due to public transportation delays. And in May 2020 we won an appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court on behalf of Donald Chandler, who had been denied pretrial release despite suffering from serious medical conditions. But in a third case, filed in April 2020 on behalf of a man in his sixties with no criminal history who could not afford to pay his bail, our appeal was denied.
(People v. Ferguson; People v. Chandler; People v. Tesfai; ACLU Attorneys Phil Mayor and Dan Korobkin; co-counsel Will Nahikian, Michael L. Steinberg, and Marcus Chmiel.)