KALAMAZOO, Mich. — When defense attorney Eusebio Solis arrived to the Kalamazoo County Courthouse Monday morning, he thought jury selection for his client’s trial would continue, he said.
However, his client Jason Dalton, who’s accused of shooting and killing six people and injuring two others in 2016, wanted to talk to him in private.
Dalton wanted to plead guilty to murder.
“It took me a little by surprise, because throughout our discussions he was intent on going to trial,” Solis said during an interview at the courthouse. “I think he was influenced these last few days by his family."
Solis said Dalton told him he did not want to put his family or the victims’ families through trial, and his family had spoken with him over the weekend to stop the case from going to trial.
“It’s a decision that he made,” Solis said. “It was against my advice. Going to trial, I always take the position that if they don’t make any offers, I couldn’t do any worse than what the plea was.”
During court proceedings, Dalton, in a gray shirt and black slacks, stood before Judge Alexander Lipsey. Standing between Solis and a deputy, Dalton raised his right hand and said that he was not coerced into pleading guilty.
“I’ve thought about this quite a lot,” he said to Lipsey.
Lipsey then went on to read each of the charges and the names of the victims. Dalton pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree premeditated murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder, and an additional eight felony firearm counts.
“It’s unusual for a person to plead guilty to first-degree premeditated murder, because the consequence is mandatory,” said Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting during a press conference. “It’s life in prison without the possibility of parole. We don’t typically see that happen.”
Getting said he was also shocked by Dalton’s decision. “We’re very happy that we’re able to reach this resolution in the case,” Getting said. “Doing this is best for the people of this community. It’s what’s best for our victims and their family.”
On Thursday and Friday, jury selection began with a group of over 200 potential jurors for the trial. Monday morning, around 100 of them returned for the continuation of jury selection. However, when Dalton informed the court of his decision, all the victims and the victims' families were called and told to head to the courthouse.
Families are scheduled to return to court for Dalton’s sentencing on Tuesday, Feb. 5. A few may deliver victim-impact statements.
Solis said Dalton may speak at that time as well.
“He has been remorseful,” Solis said. “The public is only seen him in the courtroom when the pressure is on. And, obviously, people react differently when they’re under pressure. But I can tell you in private that he has been remorseful during several of my meetings with him.”