The Michigan Supreme Court threw out charges against former Gov. Rick Snyder and others in the Flint water scandal, saying a judge sitting as a one-person grand jury had no power to issue indictments under rarely used state laws, the Associated Press reports. It’s an astonishing defeat for Attorney General Dana Nessel, who took office in 2019, dismissed a special prosecutor and put together a new team to investigate whether crimes were committed when lead contaminated Flint’s water system in 2014-15. State laws “authorize a judge to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants” as a grand juror, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday. “But they do not authorize the judge to issue indictments,” the court said in a 6-0 opinion by Chief Justice Bridget McCormack.
The challenge was filed by former health director Nick Lyon, and the decision also applies to Snyder and others who were indicted. Snyder, a Republican, has long acknowledged that his administration failed in Flint, calling it a crisis born from a “breakdown in state government.” He was out of office in 2021 when he was charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty. Lyon and Michigan’s former chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, were charged with involuntary manslaughter for nine deaths related to Legionnaires’ disease when Flint’s water might have lacked enough chlorine to combat bacteria.