Spotlight On: Mary E. Farrell

Please tell us about your background, where you practice, and how long you have been a criminal defense lawyer.

I graduated from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1984 and entered the University of Detroit Law School in the fall of 1985.  I was involved in the night program as I worked full time during the day.  I graduated in 1989 and passed the Michigan Bar that same summer.  I began my career with David A. Dodge, working as an associate in his office doing exclusively criminal work, both state and federal, along with civil forfeiture cases and appellate work at both the federal and state level.  I took some time off to raise a family and eventually started a private practice in Muskegon.  I did contract public defender work for the 60th District Court.  In January of 2014, I took a position with the newly established Muskegon County Public Defender’s Office.

You recently had success in defending a sex-crime case.  Please tell us something about the case.  What were the issues?

My first jury trial in the new office was a young man charged with an Unarmed Robbery and a CSC 3rd with Force.  The alleged victim claimed that the Defendant had forced her to perform oral sex and also had vaginal intercourse with him.  She also claimed that instead of returning to her sister’s home that was 2-3 blocks away, she ran over 1 mile in the opposite direction, that the Defendant caught up to her and sexually assaulted her a second time, and then stole her iPad.

Were experts involved?

The Prosecutor used a Sexual Assault expert witness to explain the multiple stories that the alleged victim had testified too.  Although a SANE exam was performed, there were no laboratory tests performed.

The jury acquitted the Defendant of the CSC charge but convicted him of the unarmed robbery.  He was given credit for time served at sentencing.

Have you noticed any trends in our criminal law?

As to trends in the criminal law: speaking directly as to Muskegon County, I believe that the Public Defender Office has had a tremendous impact on criminal cases in Muskegon County. Our office opened in January with much skepticism by many in the area.  We have a base of excellent attorneys who consult daily on all cases in the office.  We have been able to use our staff of interns and externs to file pre-trial motions and have held the Prosecutor’s office to a higher standard.  Many of the attorneys have years of experience in criminal matters and are able to focus solely on criminal law and not have the distractions that a private practice necessarily brings with it.  I truly believe that our indigent clients are receiving an excellent level of representation on their felony criminal matters.

What advice do you have for other criminal defense lawyers?

Being a criminal defense attorney is a great job.  I’ve never really done anything else and cannot imagine practicing any other type of law.  My advice to criminal defense attorneys is two-fold:  1) Have a sense of humor.  You will go crazy trying to do this job if you don’t.  2) Remember that at the end of the day, you have to have a balance in your life.  Enjoy your family, your hobbies and your personal life.

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor