Spotlight On: Takura N. Nyamfukudza - June, 2015

Please tell us something about your background, where you practice, your areas of practice, and how long you have practiced criminal defense.

I was born and raised in Zimbabwe until the age of sixteen.  My sister led the way, mom followed, and then I came to the United States.  I have been practicing criminal defense for two years and a couple of months. I practice all over the State of Michigan and in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan.  In addition to criminal defense litigation, I represent clients during PPO hearings, child protective proceedings, and driver’s license appeals and restoration hearings.  So, I’m not quite a one-trick pony; almost everything that I have done for my clients to date has been at least tangentially related to a criminal law matter. For twelve years, I have defended the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic; I’ve since exchanged the rifle I used and the boots that I wore as a Soldier for, primarily, the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments.

What brought you to practice criminal law?

When I started law school, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would spend my career as an attorney in the court room.  Criminal law and procedure were fun, and I earned excellent grades for both during school.  Still, I planned to go into personal injury (PI) litigation after graduation.  I am now thankful that every PI firm that I applied to rejected me.

Thankfully, a dean from my alma mater played matchmaker when she found out I was still searching for employment.  She introduced me to Mary Chartier and Natalie Alane. After a mentally challenging and emotionally taxing interview process without peer, they welcomed me to Alane & Chartier, P.L.C. ( as Ms. Chartier’s number two.

In all honesty, I was merely open to the idea of practicing criminal law when I started.  But I have grown to love it more with each passing day.  Working at “the unicorn of law firms” has afforded me opportunities that some people who have practiced for a decade have not been privy to.  I am provided with purpose, direction, and motivation to do only the best work for each of my clients daily.

Please tell us about an interesting case you worked on.

Ms. Chartier and I tried an attempted murder case earlier this year.  Our client asserted self-defense after he shot the mother of his child during a parenting time exchange.  Nary a person thought that we stood a chance.  But, we prevailed.

I handled all of the government’s fact witnesses.  Many of them offered spirited testimony.  Fittingly, Ms. Chartier handled the law enforcement personnel and the complainant.  The jurors paid very close attention to all of the evidence and in the end justice was done.
 It took well over a year for the case to finally go to trial and it lasted a week when we started.  Nonetheless, it has been said that the interest in fairness and reliability protected by the right to a jury trial – a common law right that defendants have enjoyed for centuries and is now enshrined in the Sixth Amendment – has always outweighed the interest in concluding trials quickly.

You were recently awarded the Regeana Myrick Outstanding Lawyer Award from the SBM Young Lawyer’s Section. Tell me about that experience and what that meant to you.

News of the honor was unexpected but well received.  It’s a good thing that I was not driving when I took the call.  My mother spread the word beyond the Atlantic before dusk that same day.  She has continued to tell anybody who will listen.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard H. Bernstein – a former recipient of the Award – was the keynote speaker at the luncheon and he delivered a stirring speech.  Prior to my receiving the award, Ms. Chartier gave one of the most entertaining yet poignant introductory speeches that I’ve ever heard.  My first roast.

I exceeded the time that I was allotted for my remarks.  I don’t think the committee members had the heart to stop me while I gushed with emotion.  Before I sat down, I made sure that I recognized my family, the partners and my coworkers at my firm, as well as a few others.  I can only hope that I communicated my gratitude effectively; I would have given each of them a block of it if my trophy had been made out of Lego.  It was on their behalf that I accepted the honor.

Regeana Myrick was lauded for her overwhelming commitment to public service, exemplary service to the State Bar, and exceptional professional accomplishments.  It was truly humbling to be selected to receive this award so early on in my career.  I thrive on the unity that we criminal defense attorneys share.  The odds are frequently stacked against us and it is for that reason that we celebrate each other’s victories fervently.  Accolades cannot be the wind in our sails.

In the words of Michael Combs, “I’m happy as I go along life’s journey, I’m reaping better than I sow, I’m drinking from my saucer because my cup has overflowed.”  My family, everybody at Alane & Chartier, and I will cherish this Award forever.

Do you have any advice for lawyers just starting to practice in criminal law?

Get a mentor.  Stay current on the law.  Push for the hard yes rather than settle for the easy no from prosecutors.  Try cases and run exams.  Finally, by no means should we take what we do lightly; but do have fun.

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor