Hearing held on Maryanne Godboldo’s right to resist an unlawful home invasion by police
By Diane Bukowski
DETROIT — Thirty-Sixth District Court Judge Paula Humphries stayed all criminal proceedings against Maryanne Godboldo April 6 after a hearing on a defense motion, according to court documents. Godboldo’s attorney Allison Folmar argued during the hearing that a similar case involving resistance to an illegal police home invasion is currently pending before the Michigan Supreme Court.
Michigan Court Rules require that similar cases not be adjudicated until the high court hands down its ruling on the seminal case.
As a result of the stay, Godboldo’s April 8 preliminary exam on eight felony counts related to her stand-off with police on Mar. 24 has been canceled, along with all other court actions, until the high court decides People v. Moreno 488 Mich. 1010 (2010). The Supreme Court granted leave to appeal Moreno on Dec. 29, 2010.
“The charges stem from police unlawfully and forcibly entering her home on March 24 without a search warrant,” reads the motion filed by Folmar. “Defendant asserts she can claim self-defense for resisting this unlawful and forcible entry into her home.”
In its grant of leave to appeal on the Moreno case, the state Supreme Court said three factors are to be decided, which the motion quotes as follows:
“The parties shall address 1) whether a person present in his/her own home can lawfully resist police officers who unlawfully and forcibly enter the home, without violating MCL 750.81d; 2) If not, whether so interpreted MCL 750.81d is unconstitutional. 3) Whether a defendant prosecuted under MCL 750.81d for resisting a police officer who unlawfully and forcibly enters defendant’s home can claim self-defense.”
The investigator’s report in Godboldo’s file makes it clear that the officers involved, Lt. Michael Nied, and P.O.’s Thomas Trewell and Kevin Simpson, did forcibly enter Godboldo’s home, located on Blaine near Linwood. It says first of all that they responded to a “patrol run” to meet Wayne County Child Protective Services, with a “court order” and a “petition” to remove Ariana.
The report identifies the case worker as Mia Wenk.
“A Black female who was later discovered to be the child’s mother came to the door and refused to unlock the security gate,” says the report. It says a supervising officer came to the scene and entry was again denied.
“Officers forced entry to outside door and officer attempted entry into inner door,” says the report. “Gunshot was fired at officers. Drywall sprayed onto Lieutenant Nied. Officers exited and declared a barricaded gunman situation.”
Subsequently numerous armored vehicles, helicopters and Special Response Team (SRT, previously known as SWAT) officers descended on the lone mother and child in their home. Members of Godboldo’s family and community organizers came to the scene, along with Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Deborah Thomas.
At about 5 a.m., Godboldo emerged from the home after Judge Thomas spoke with her, and was taken into custody, as was her child. Thomas said in published remarks, “We talked that day mother-to-mother. I asked her to come out on her porch and I promised I would come here today to walk out with her. I never dreamed [the bond] would be set so high and she wouldn’t be free to care for her daughter.”
Thomas was speaking outside 36th District Court after Godboldo’s arraignment Mar. 30. The newspaper (The Detroit News) also said, “Thomas said she eventually talked Godboldo out with a promise her daughter would be turned over to a relative, but family members say the girl was taken into protective custody anyway.”
Another story later said Thomas indicated there were defects in the documents police used to force their way into the Godboldo home.
Godboldo was later freed on a $200,000 personal recognizance bond by Humphries.
In the Angel Moreno case, the defense’s argument, summarized in the Appeals Court decision last June, was:
“Defendant contends that police lacked probable cause and that exigent circumstances did not exist to justify a warrantless entry by officers into defendant’s home. As such, defendant asserts he had a constitutional right to refuse entry and resist an illegal and forcible entry into his residence. Defendant also argues that due process was violated because no reasonable person would have known he could be charged under MCL 750.81d for defending his home from an aggressive police officer acting without a warrant or pursuant to any recognized exception to the warrant requirement. In addition, defendant asks this Court to declare that a person’s right to not retreat and defend his home constitutes . . . a defense to MCL 750.81d.”
In the case, officers from the city of Holland, Michigan forced their way into Angel Moreno’s home after he told them they could not enter without a warrant. The officers had told another individual they wanted to enter to “secure the residence while they obtained a search warrant.”
“Defendant came to the door and, using vulgar language, refused officers entry into the home,” says the opinion. “Defendant told the officers to ‘get off his porch,’ and demanded that the officers obtain a warrant to enter. Defendant moved to close the front door. At this point, [officers] DeWys and Hamberg were not inside the house, but were positioned on the sill of the front door. The door was almost closed when Hamberg placed his shoulder to the door to prevent it being closed and a struggle ensued between defendant and the officers. During this physical confrontation, Hamberg and defendant were struggling in the doorway and may have crossed the threshold. Ultimately, the officers were able to physically subdue defendant and remove him from the home’s doorway and effectuate his arrest.”
The officers then entered the home and searched it, allegedly obtaining marijuana in the process.
Moreno’s attorney, Craig Haehnel, of Grand Rapids, said, “It would be outrageous and offend sensibility to think the police can break into a home without a warrant, or that when they knock you to the ground and you defend yourself you could be charged with a felony. It’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
He said the MCL 750.81d statute currently on the books was amended from previous law.
“We used to have a resisting and opposing law in which a recognized defense was if it was an illegal arrest,” he said. “We grew up with the notion that you should be able to walk away from an officer conducting such an arrest. But even under the current statute, the definition of ‘obstruction’ requires that it involves lawful activity [by the police].”
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
He said that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared it illegal for states to pass laws that violate the Fourth Amendment.
MCL 750.81d is a state statute that has been frequently disputed by defense attorneys, who believe it is unconstitutional, partially because of its vagueness.
It reads in part, “(1) Except as provided in subsections (2), (3), and (4), an individual who assaults, batters, wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.”*
Maryann Godboldo is charged with three counts under that statute, pertaining to officers Neid, Trewell, and Simpson.
Neither Attorney Folmar nor family members were available for comment on Humphries’ ruling as this article went to press.
To read an excellent article by Darrell Dawsey of MLive.com, “Was a Detroit mother right to resist efforts by Child Protective Services, police to take her child?” click on http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2011/03/was_a_detroit_mother_right_to.html