Indictments against Flint water crisis officials deemed invalid
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2015 file photo, LeeAnne Walters of Flint, Mich., shows water samples from her home from January 21, 2015 and January 15, 2015 after city and state officials spoke during a forum discussing growing health concerns being raised by Flint residents at the Flint City Hall dome. A judge on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, approved a $626 million settlement for Flint residents and others who were exposed to lead-contaminated water. (Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press via AP, File)
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A procedural error has voided the indictments against several Michigan legislators for their alleged role in the Flint water crisis. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the indictments against nine officials were invalid. 

Initially, the indictments were handed down by a Genessee County Michigan judge acting as a one-man jury. In Michigan, judges are not permitted to issue indictments as a one-man jury without a preliminary examination.

However, a preliminary examination was not conducted, which nullifies the indictments. Prosecutors in the case unsuccessfully argued they had the ability to portend indictments without such an examination. 

Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was originally named in the indictment case. Additionally, Flint health director Nick Lyon was also indicted for his alleged role in the crisis.

The Flint water crisis is one of the worst environmental crises in United States history. When Flint switched from one water source to another, engineers did not properly prepare the pipes, which were corroded and allowed lead to seep in. 

Thousands of residents in the majority-Black community of Flint have ingested contaminated water since the major error. According to the CDC, even a small amount of lead in water sources is unsafe. 

The crisis went on for years, as advocates decried the slow response from officials, and entire families in Michigan faced the effects of water poisoning. Meanwhile, Black and Brown communities are more likely to live near environmental contaminants.  

Such environmental racism goes back to the United States’ history of redlining, in which Black families were not permitted to live in majority-White areas. Black and Brown families were forced to live in areas that often included environmental contaminants, and even former toxic waste sites. 

While Flint residents were awarded financial compensation for the crisis, justice has yet to be served against the officials who allegedly played major roles. However, Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud has vowed to continue fighting the case.

According to Hammoud, “Our team is prepared to move forward… We still believe these charges can and will be proven in court.”

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...

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