FLUSHING (WJRT) (7/11/2018) - Judge David Goggins has two weeks to make a difficult decision -- should Michigan's top public health official, Nick Lyon, go on trial
Lyon is charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office for his handling of a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Flint during the water crisis.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director is accused of delaying notification to the public for nearly a year after the outbreak was identified. Prosecutors argue that led to the deaths of Robert Skidmore and John Snyder.
Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, who is working on behalf of the Michigan Attorney General's Office, and Lyon's defense counsel give closing arguments on Wednesday in a 10-month preliminary hearing.
Over nearly 25 days of testimony since last September, both sides argued the case should or should not be sent to trial. Goggins said he will decide whether the case will move forward on July 25.
Flood called relatives of Skidmore and Snyder to the stand over the last 10 months, explaining how the two were active people before they were treated at McLaren Flint hospital during the summer of 2015.
That’s a little over a year after the city’s water source switch to the Flint River. Flood adds that was just months after Lyon says he became aware of a Legionnaires' disease outbreak the previous year in January 2015.
Flood said Lyon didn’t make a public announcement about the outbreak until he stood with Gov. Rick Snyder in January 2016.
John Bursch, one of Lyon's defense attorneys, argued neither Skidmore nor Snyder’s death certificates state they died of Legionnaires' disease.
Bursch added that even if they did, it was McLaren's responsibility to warn patients they we’re dealing with an uptick in cases.
After detailing a timeline of communication between the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services employees, the CDC and Genesee County Health Department, Bursch said there’s no way Lyon is at fault.
"You have to ask yourself, was there ample disclosure to the medical community such that director Lyon's failure to disclose didn't matter? And the answer to that is unequivocally yes," Bursch said.
He isn't convinced the case will move forward.
"When you've got someone that's the head of a 14,000-employee organization and has taken a serious problem and given it to his best people, who are experts in the subject, they should not be held criminally liable because that's a terrible consequence for the individual defendant. But it's also bad for government," Bursch said.
He said clearly something went wrong, so he welcomed Attorney General Bill Schuette's investigation. But Bursch said there has not been enough evidence to prove Lyon is to blame.
Flood said he has 2.5 million documents of evidence. He just had to prove probable cause -- and he believes he did that over the past 10 months.
Flood called nearly two dozen witnesses, but left out significant pieces of information he plans to present to a jury if the case goes to trial.
"We're not gonna stop this fight," Flood said. "This is a fight for and I really meant it -- for the people, the city of Flint and the people. And as it came out in this court you all heard it several times. We'll never know how many people died. So we've gotta fight the fight."