FLINT (WJRT) - (12/07/18) - The state's chief medical executive will face a jury trial for her alleged role in Flint's Water Emergency.
It's now the second major ruling in the water emergency criminal proceedings since August. That's when the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Nick Lyon was also bound over for trial.
"The defendant argues that Dr. Wells was not required to perform specific activities such as initiating investigations without a staff or issue public warnings, yet this is exactly the type of factual determination that must be determined by a jury," Crawford said.
The prosecution team successfully convinced 67th District Court Judge William Crawford, II that a jury should decide if the state's top doctor is guilty of obstructing justice, lying to a peace officer and involuntary manslaughter.
"It was the decision that we were hoping for and we are glad it came out the way it did," said Special Assistant Attorney General Paul Stablein.
The judge took a little less than an hour to read his judgement. He cast down the defense's attempt to place blame elsewhere for the deadly legionella outbreak of 2014-2015 that cost 12 people their lives and caused 79 more to become sick.
Prosecutors have worked to connect those tragic deaths to Flint’s water contamination crisis. Wells faces an involuntary manslaughter charge in connection to John Snyders' Legionnaires disease-related death.
Throughout the 10-month long preliminary exam, the defense specifically called out McLaren Flint hospital.
Earlier this year, MDHHS blamed McLaren for its part in an uptick of the outbreak, which the hospital views as an attempt to “shift the blame.”
Judge Crawford addressed that point directly while reading his judgement.
"In Michigan their may be more than one cause of an injury. A defendant cannot escape liability simply because the negligence of others may have also contributed to the injury," Crawford said.
"It's possible, even if McLaren is shown to have a legionella problem, it still could be due to water provided by the city of Flint, and there's evidence to show the defendant has contemplated this possibility," Crawford said.
Although Dr. Wells was appointed as the state's medical chief well into the outbreak, Crawford said her expertise would have required her to know the devastating results that failing to act might bring.
"Based on her qualifications, training, knowledge and experience, there is evidence to support that the defendant was uniquely and exceptionally qualified to know that failure to act would be accompanied by high risk of disastrous results," Crawford said.
Wells has remained in her role with the state with the support of Governor Rick Snyder, who appointed her in May 2015, since the charges against her were announced in June 2017.
Wells' defense team will appeal the ruling in Circuit Court. Judge Joseph Farah is expected to oversee the case.
Neither the defense or prosecution commented about possible changes and delays that may come with the newly elected attorney general.