Heroic mother stood off military police assault in 2011 to prevent seizure of her child, administration of dangerous drugs
Received global acclaim, award from Citizens Commission on Human Rights International
By Diane Bukowski
May 30, 2013
DETROIT – A Michigan appeals court has re-instated felony charges against Maryanne Godboldo, a mother who became a world-renowned hero for resisting a Detroit police military team which broke into her home without a judge’s order March 24, 2011, to seize her 13-year-old daughter Ariana Godboldo-Hakim.
The court directed the city’s 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles, who dismissed the earlier charges, to rule on evidence he suppressed as “the fruit of a poisonous tree.” Godboldo’s attorney Allison Folmar said a date for a hearing has not yet been set.
“It is ironic that these charges are being re-instated at the same time that the trial of the officer who killed seven-year-old Aiyana Jones in 2010 is beginning,” Folmar said. “If the police had gotten in, there is no question in my mind that today Maryanne and Ariana would both be six feet under. The police were not coming to get anything cleared up, they were coming with guns drawn, and somebody was about to die.”
After an 11-hour stand-off and Godboldo’s eventual surrender, the police took custody of Ariana at the request of state Child Protective Services worker Mia Wenk. Wenk testified during a custody hearing that she wanted to force Godboldo to administer the dangerous anti-psychotic drug Risperdal to her child, despite a medical order which gave Godboldo the right to take Ariana off the drug at any time.
During the stand-off, police tanks rolled down Linwood, reminiscent of Detroit’s 1967 rebellion, and officers with assault weapons and helicopters surrounded Godboldo’s modest west-side home, where she cared for her mother and her daughter.
The case exposed the State of Michigan Child Protective Services system for seizing children in great numbers without judicial review, particularly in poor communities and those of color. It brought to light the rampant use of anti-psychotic drugs on children everywhere, frequently at the urging of medical institutions funded by the pharmaceutical industry.
Godboldo said, “We are remaining strong in prayer, and Ariana is coming along under the circumstances. But it has been hard, because [my sister] Penny’s husband Steve died in February, and then another brother-in-law died. We lost my oldest sister last year, and now Penny is caring for our mother.”
The Godboldo family is known thoughout the city. Penny Godboldo, who teaches dance at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, has been a mainstay in the Justice4Maryanne Committee.
After the police assault, the family, including the child’s father Mubarak Hakim, fought a battle on two fronts, one for for Maryanne’s freedom, and for Ariana’s release from a juvenile psychiatric facility, where she was held for six weeks and medicated with four different drugs. The hospital also forcibly removed the child’s prosthetic leg, which she has worn since she was able to walk, due to a birth-related amputation, and allegedly subjected her to other abuse.
On the second front, they successfully conducted a lengthy campaign to end family court supervision of Ariana, facing down predominantly white social workers including Mia Wenk, prosecutors, and judges.
On Aug. 29, 2011, the city’s 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles emphatically dismissed the criminal charges against Godboldo, after extensive preliminary exam proceedings. The charges consisted of discharging a weapon in a building, felonious assault, assaulting or obstructing a police officer, and possession of a firearm.
“We are talking about a person’s constitutional rights including the right to liberty, subjecting them to an order that is grossly inadequate and incorrect,” Judge Giles said. “It is ridiculous to go in to remove in this court’s opinion somebody’s children based on THIS order. It does not even express any situation where we have exigent circumstances where it says the child is at risk. There was no imminent threat of death or severe physical harm. Therefore I am going to quash this order and everything thereafter is null and void. It is the fruit of the poisonous tree.”
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Bill upheld the dismissal, reiterating Judge Giles’ concerns.
Despite those rulings, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, herself the mother of a daughter Ariana’s age, pursued an appeal, which was filed far out of the time limits but granted regardless. It was heard by a panel composed of Judges William C. Whitbeck, Donald Owens, and Karen Fort-Hood on July 10, 2012.
“Both the United States and Michigan constitutions ‘guarantee the right of persons to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures,’” the appeals court held May 29, 2013. “To comply with this requirement, police officers must have a warrant to conduct a search, or must be able to establish that their conduct was ‘within one of the narrow, specific exceptions to the warrant requirement.’ If officers violate the Fourth Amendment while obtaining evidence, the evidence is not admissible as substantive evidence in a criminal proceeding.
“However, the trial court need not suppress evidence of crimes that the defendant commits when reacting to an illegal search or seizure: [T]he exclusionary rule does not act to bar the introduction of evidence of independent crimes directed at police officers as a reaction to an illegal arrest or search. If a defendant commits an independent crime in the officers’ presence—even during an otherwise unlawful search or seizure—the officers may lawfully arrest the defendant, and any evidence seized pursuant to that arrest is admissible.” (Click on Godboldo COA decision 1 and Godboldo COA decision for full text.)
The prosecution contended that Godboldo fired a warning shot while inside her house after three officers broke her side door down and ascended a stairwell to break down a second door, which she had barricaded with a refrigerator. Police obtained a search warrant after the fact, and found a gun and bullets in the home.
During the extensive preliminary exam, officers who broke into the home admitted that seizing children at the request of Child Protective Services was not in their scope of duties, and that the only evidence of a shot being fired was plaster dust on one officer’s shoulder, and a loud noise.
Technicians did not conduct a search of the home to find a bullet hole and other evidence until months later. The prosecution did not even attempt to enter any results of that search into evidence.
Since the exam, the Michigan Supreme Court retroactively upheld the “common-law” right to resist unlawful arrests, warrantless home invasions, and other unlawful conduct by the police, in a landmark 5-2 ruling on Aug. 29, 2012, People v. Moreno. They threw out an earlier appeals court decision, People v. Ventura, which held that individuals could NOT resist illegal police conduct.
Several of the charges Godboldo faced involved the statute in question, MCL 750.81d.
“The whole purpose of the preliminary exam is to weed out bad charges,” Attorney Folmar said. “Maryanne couldn’t be guilty of resisting and obstructing the police because they have to lawfully come in the name of the law. Name one law they came in the name of. Once that’s weeded out, regarding the other charges, not one person testified that Maryanne herself fired a gun, including Judge Deborah Thomas, who the appeals court cites.”
Folmar said an appeals court is supposed to give preferential weight to the opinion of the judge who actually heard the testimony in the case. She said she believes Judge Giles “will look at the facts and the law and abide by the law.”
The Justice 4 Maryanne committee has a website at http://www.justice4maryanne . They say more information on events to defend Maryanne Godboldo against this latest attack will be forthcoming.
Video: CCHR Human Rights Awardee Maryanne Godboldo
Maryanne Godboldo receiving a Human Rights Award from actors Danny Masterson and Ethan Suplee at the CCHR International annual human rights awards banquet in Los Angeles. Former Human Rights awardees include members of Congress, state legislators, psychologists, medical doctors, attorneys, whistleblowers, civil and human rights activists.
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