(Lansing, Michigan)–On May 9, 2019, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed two applications in the Michigan Supreme Court, asking the state’s highest court to review two very important pro-life cases. Both cases involved Red Rose Rescues at abortions centers located in Michigan. Both cases resulted in convictions for trespass.
In both cases, we are seeking review of the trial court’s refusal to instruct the jury on two viable defenses to the trespass charges: the defense of necessity and the defense of others.
In September 2017 and again in December 2017, our clients entered abortion centers in Sterling Heights (Northland Family Planning Center) and West Bloomfield (Western Women’s Center), armed with red roses and a message of love and hope.
In the waiting rooms of these centers were women and unborn babies who were in imminent harm from abortion. In fact, we proffered evidence in support of our requested defenses that coerced abortions were about to take place. Coerced abortions are illegal in Michigan.
As we argued in the applications filed in the Michigan Supreme Court, the necessity defense has long been recognized under the common law, and it is particularly applicable in the context of these cases in light of Michigan law and Michigan’s strong public policy favoring the protection of human life. And related to the defense of necessity is the defense of others, which also has application in the context of these cases under Michigan law. The lower courts refused to provide the requested instructions, thereby depriving our clients of their due process right to present a defense.
The West Bloomfield case raises additional issues.
First, despite the controversial nature of abortion and its direct relation to the case (a trespass at an abortion center), the trial court would not permit us to inquire during voir dire (the questioning of potential jurors prior to jury selection) into juror bias on the abortion issue, thereby depriving our clients of the right to an unbiased jury.
And second, during sentencing, the trial court imposed several draconian probation conditions that deprived our clients of their rights protected by the First and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These conditions included, among others, provisions that our clients not “picket any facility that performs abortions,” and that they not “appear within 500 feet of medical facilit[ies] where abortions are performed.” These conditions amounted to a nationwide restriction on the right to free speech.
In the applications, we argued that the Michigan Supreme Court should review and reverse both cases in order to preserve fundamental constitutional rights. We further argued that the grounds for granting review are two-fold. First, review is proper because the issues presented have significant public interest as they involve the violation of fundamental rights. And second, review is proper because the issues presented involve legal principles of a major significance to the state’s jurisprudence.
Sterling Heights and West Bloomfield will have until June 6, 2019, to file their responses.