Spotlight On: Danielle S. Cadoret

Please tell us about your background, where you practice, your areas of practice, and how you came to be involved in criminal defense.

I worked as a Locomotive Engineer for 10 years prior to attending Cooley Law School. After obtaining my law license, I began practicing criminal law in Wayne County. Since I cannot afford to solely practice criminal law, I started taking civil cases and court-appointed criminal appeals. Although I had no intention of practicing criminal law before and during law school, I have found that criminal defense attorneys are ‘my people’ and that I enjoy being the anti-bully advocate that criminal defense requires.

Please tell us about an interesting case in which you were involved.  What were the theories and issues?

I was the court-appointed attorney for a defendant accused of arson, which I now refer to as my Brady case. He had significant mental illness, and the only evidence against him was that his mother told the police that she believed her son started the fire in the vacant home.

The Forensic Center report stated that the doctor could not determine whether or not my client was criminally responsible, and an independent examination found that he was not criminally responsible. The complete report from the fire department, which was kept from me until after the closing of proofs, stated that there were no human factors and that the cause of the fire was undetermined. A fire expert for the police testified about fire science, which I repeatedly called “junk science” throughout the trial, and gave no proof that my client was involved in the fire or if the fire was actually arson. This fire expert also signed off the fire investigation report that stated there were no human factors and the source of the fire was undetermined.

My attempts at having the case dismissed for the Brady [Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963)] violation were denied, and we’re now hoping that the Michigan Court of Appeals remands the case for a new trial. My client, who had no criminal record prior to this, only received probation, but that doesn’t make this injustice permissible.  I look forward to the retrial and real justice for my client.

What trends have you noticed in Michigan criminal jurisprudence?

The continuing trend is that we are losing our constitutional rights at an amazingly fast pace. I am often frustrated when the law is completely on a criminal defendant’s side and dispositive motions are denied and then affirmed by higher courts. I don’t believe that we are innocent until proven guilty; people are guilty once arrested and often must prove their innocence.

How can our criminal justice system be improved?

A complete overhaul that includes getting rid of mandatory sentences and lengthy prison sentences for non-violent crimes, reductions in statutory maximums, removal of the habitual offender sentence enhancement, mandatory in-patient rehabilitation for addicts instead of jail/prison, tougher laws to prevent Brady violations, and a separate system with special prosecutors to make police officers accountable for perjury (and possibly a jury instruction that the officer that testified had perjured him/herself previously while under oath).

A statute that requires all police officers to have working dash cams and body cams is overdue in our current legal system where innocence often has to be proven.

Additionally, and slightly off topic, the law needs to be changed to require that anyone running for election to be a judge in the higher courts must also state their political party on the ballot. I also believe that the voting system needs to change to allow any U.S. citizen that is 18 or older to vote at every election without exception. These defendants should be allowed to vote for fair judges, especially if their election has an effect on their freedom and right to a fair trial.

Do you have any advice for lawyers entering criminal defense?

My advice would be to learn from several different attorneys practicing criminal defense so that they can adopt their own style that is as effective as possible AND to be the attorney they would want if they were in their clients’ shoes.

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor