Michael Fletcher: A Simple Case of Murder
In the jury room, certain elements of what happened that day nearly a year before in Hazel Park were quickly sorted out. But reaching a verdict did not come easy for the jurors and they were forced on one occasion to ask a procedural question of the judge.
"Can we find the defendant guilty of first-degree murder if we determine the victim did not shoot herself?" they asked, prompting a great deal of speculation among court observers. Cooper told them to re-read their instructions.
Behind the closed doors of the jury room, it took the jurors deciding Mick Fletcher's fate 15 minutes to determine that Leann Fletcher did not commit suicide. They ruled out an accidental shooting shortly thereafter.
She had too much to live for, jurors told the media after the trial was over. She had a 3-year-old daughter and a loving family. It wasn't characteristic of her to want to kill herself. And thanks to the self-proclaimed "gun enthusiasts" on the jury, they were able to rule out accidental shooting because of the position of the weapon near her body. The kick from a .45 caliber weapon in a woman's hand should have caused the gun to land behind her, not next to her head where it was found.
But when it came to deciding whether or not Mick planned the killing, they had a more difficult time.
After four days of deliberation, the jury announced that it had reached a verdict. Judge Cooper called all of the parties back to her courtroom and once they were assembled, called for the jury to enter the courtroom.
"It's first degree or nothing," said one veteran attorney who was on hand to watch the proceedings. "There wasn't any evidence this was a spur-of-the-moment, heat-of-passion kind of thing."
Cooper asked the foreman if the jury had reached a verdict and when he responded in the affirmative, she asked for the verdict forms. In Michigan, unlike Hollywood movies, it is the judge, not the jury that announces the verdict. A bailiff handed Cooper the forms and she looked them over. Clearing her throat, she read the formal parts of the charges and then, looking directly at Mick Fletcher, who stared stoically ahead, announced that the jury had found him guilty of second-degree murder.
There was little commotion in the courtroom, and for an instant, Fletcher's head dropped into his folded arms and then he resumed his forward stare. His mother erupted into sobs, as did Gloria Meisner and other members of Leann's family.
"It clearly looks like the jury was looking for a compromise verdict," Legghio told the media, vowing an appeal. He had argued in favor of an all-or-nothing first-degree murder only charge to the jury, but Cooper had agreed with the prosecution that the jurors should be able to examine what are called "lesser included offenses."
As Mick Fletcher was led away in handcuffs and leg irons, Leann's sister sarcastically called out "Good bye, Mick."