Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Fletcher: A Simple Case of Murder

Trial by Jury

Despite what happens on L.A. Law or Perry Mason, criminal trials are for the most part pretty boring. There is little drama and most of the testimony is dry, routine and technical. Witnesses are asked to go over the same points time and time again, and their time on the stand doesn't merely consist of examination and cross-examination. In fact there is direct examination, cross examination, redirect, recross ad infinitum.

Fletcher standing in court
Fletcher standing in court

Michael Fletcher's trial, by contrast was a lurid tale of sex, power and murder. The key players were all relatively attractive and it was easy to put labels on the good guys and the bad guys. The legal wrangling between defense and prosecution had been going on for weeks before the jury selection and newspapers and television were all prepared to give the trial big play.

Ten men and four women were eventually picked to serve as the 12 jurors and two alternates. Townsend would be the lead prosecutor, and Legghio would serve as chief defense counsel. The judge in Fletcher's murder trial was Judge Jessica Cooper of Pontiac, a tough judge known for handing down tough sentences in violent crimes. She sentenced a Waterford bricklayer, convicted in 1988 of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a union official, to 40 to 80 years in prison. She sentenced Henry Hearns, brother of boxer Tommy Hearns, to 27 to 52 years after he was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of his fiancee. Cooper sent Jack Kevorkian to prison for 10 to 25 years after his second-degree murder conviction last year, and in 1997, she sentenced Monica Nowos of Rochester Hills to 10 to 25 years after Nowos was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of her brother-in-law. Mick Fletcher had been charged with first-degree murder, a crime that carries a mandatory life without parole sentence.

The courtroom was packed with spectators and media on the day opening arguments took place. Court TV gave the trial national coverage.

Townsend spoke first to the jury.

"If this case wasn't so sad and wasn't so tragic, it would almost be a made-for-TV movie," Townsend said. "Except in the movies, actors get to move on to other roles when it's over. Leann Fletcher can't."

Legghio tried to downplay his client's infidelity. "Obviously, Mick is no saint," he said. "But his classic triangular relationship with the judge doesn't make him a murderer."

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