KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Jury selection began Thursday at the Kalamazoo County courthouse for the upcoming trial against Jason Dalton. Opening statements are expected to be delivered next week. Like many people in Kalamazoo, criminal defense attorney Randall Levine will be paying close attention.
“This is an important case for the city of Kalamazoo,” said Levine during an interview at his law office Levine and Levine. “What happened here rocked this city.”
Dalton is accused of killing six people and injuring two others during a shooting spree on Feb. 20, 2016. Since then the case has gone through the court of appeals to make sure that Dalton’s constitutional rights are protected, Levine said. However it caused a lengthy delay.
“This case has taken three years to bring into the courthouse for trial,” Levine said. “That's an inordinate amount of time. It’s an unusual long period of time.”
According to the Kalamazoo County Courthouse, trial will begin Wednesday. Levine said he predicts it’ll last a few weeks and he already foresees the challenges ahead.
“I think the interesting part of this case is going to be the insanity defense,” Levine said. “In order to prevail on an insanity defense in Michigan the defense would have to establish that the time Mr. Dalton acted, he was mentally ill.”
Then they’d have to prove that he was not able to abide by the law due to his mental illness, Levine said, and that he is incapable of “appreciating the wrongfulness of his actions.”
“Those are difficult burdens to meet in a case like this,” Levine said. “It’s going to be an uphill battle for Mr. Dalton in my opinion.”
Since the shootings had a major impact on the community, Levine believes it will be hard to seat a jury. He said everyone has heard about the case and may have already formed opinions about it.
“Just because a person has knowledge of the case doesn’t disqualify them,” Levine said. “The question is can they set aside the knowledge that they gained outside the courtroom and decide the case based on the evidence and the instructions that the court gives them.”
Levine said if the jurors can do that without bias and prejudice, then it’ll help ensure that Dalton is given a fair trial.
“It’s important that as a society we honor the Constitutional right to a fair trial, notwithstanding the fact that this is the most heinous event that has occurred in this city for a number of years,” Levine said. “Mr. Dalton is entitled to all the Constitutional safeguards that are available to American citizens. He is accused but he is presumed to be innocent.”