Dedicated defense attorney wins victory for rights of accused in high profile case

prev
next

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Anastase “Tase” (pronounced TAH-zee) Markou of Levine & Levine in Kalamazoo is completely comfortable with the place defense attorneys hold in the legal system.

“You have to fundamentally believe that our system is the best in the world,” he says. “The outcome will be decided fairly if everyone plays their role. And my role is not to decide who’s guilty or not, that’s up to the jury. My role is to provide the best defense I can for someone accused of a crime.

“Because we have somebody standing beside the defendant, we have a better system that ensures more fairness.”

Markou is a self-professed “big advocate for people’s constitutional rights,” and he recently won a victory for those rights in a case that was the subject of much media coverage and public
discussion.

Many will remember the vivid news reports about a Kalamazoo Uber driver who was taken into custody after an alleged killing spree, with deaths sandwiched between his taking many customers to their destinations without incident, including some who asked him point blank if he was the killer as the word got out.

Many will also remember his reported statements that the Uber app made him do it, displaying a devil’s head and taking over his body when it turned from black to red.

Those statements have now been ruled as stemming from illegal interrogations after the arrest of the Uber driver in question, Jason Dalton.

According to the record of the facts in the July 31 Court of Appeals (COA) decision by Judges Joel Hoekstra (presiding), Jane Markey, and William Murphy, Dalton was initially interviewed starting at 1:00 a.m. At the outset, after he was read his Miranda rights, Dalton stated explicitly, “I would prefer not to say anything.” He would go on to say something similar “approximately 40 times.”

The interrogation continued, lasting over three hours.

Some ten hours later, another law enforcement official began questioning Dalton. His Miranda rights were again read to him, and the following exchange occurred, according to the COA review of the transcript:

“[Defendant]: I think I probably need to talk to a lawyer.

Det. Gorham: Okay. So you want to talk to an attorney before you speak with me about anything?

[Defendant]: Yeah. It’d probably be nice, yes.”

Once again, the questioning continued, and a while later, Dalton agreed to waive his rights.

Though the trial court did agree to suppress many of the statements obtained in the first interrogation, it allowed for some of the first interview to be included due to the “public safety exception.”
The COA disagreed, saying that the questions asked about whether there might be additional victims who needed assistance did not fall under that exception. The opinion reads, “..the public safety exception’s application is limited to situations when the only questions asked relate solely to neutralizing an immediate danger. ... Indeed, considering the three hour interview, the vast majority of questions had nothing to do with public safety, and in the context of the interrogation at a whole, it is plain that the purported public safety questions—most of which came late in the interview—were simply another means of... eliciting incriminating statements from defendant.”

This therefore negates the argument that the public safety exception allowed  law enforcement to ignore its charge to  “scrupulously honor” an invocation of Fifth Amendment rights not to incriminate oneself. “The right to remain silent and to cut off police questioning are considered critical safeguards against compelled self-incrimination, and an accused may exercise these rights at any time by unequivocally asserting that he or she wishes to remain silent,” the COA opinion states.

The same is true of the second interview, the COA judges said; though the interrogator claimed that he was just making small talk after Dalton asked for an attorney, the COA opined that he should have ceased the interview immediately upon Dalton’s request. (As Markou pointed out, this cessation was mandated by Edwards v. Arizona.)

Commenting on the COA’s decision to remand the motion to suppress to the trial court for an order granting it, Markou stated,  “In our system of justice, everyone – no matter the severity of the crime – is entitled to their constitutional rights. As a criminal defense attorney, our fundamental role is to help to preserve everyone’s constitutional rights and the constitution itself.”

It is clear that Markou has spent his entire career believing this. In practice for 24 years, after attending University of Michigan for both his undergraduate and law degrees, Markou has spent 22 of them with Levine & Levine, a six-attorney Kalamazoo firm  specializing in criminal defense, family law, and other business matters.

Markou, originally from downriver Detroit, previously clerked for Kalamazoo Judge John Foley. “Within three months of being here, I had an epiphany,” he says. “I had previously had no idea what I wanted to do, but almost immediately I knew I wanted to be a criminal lawyer and I wanted to do it here.” After a few years as a sole practitioner, he joined Levine & Levine based on knowing about Randy Levine’s excellent reputation.

Markou spends 100 percent of his practice in litigation, though it is not all appeals work. Markou was asked by Dalton’s attorney Eusebio Solis to take the case because Solis does not do appellate litigation. He says he will not be involved in the Dalton case any longer unless there is an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, and he does not know whether Solis will pursue an insanity defense for Dalton.

Markou, named a “Michigan Super Lawyer” every year since 2014, and one of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” by the National Trial Lawyers Association from 2012 to the present, also serves as the local representative for the national Innocence Project.

He clearly loves his work and takes his role seriously. “It’s great,” he says. “It’s hard to describe how much I enjoy being an advocate for somebody that almost no one else wants to defend. Most have redeemable qualities, and treat me respectfully and courteously,”

Markou says that at Levine & Levine, the attorneys follow up on their clients to be sure they meet with success, sometimes for years. “We try to work very hard to get people back on the straight and narrow,” he says.


Randall Levine, co-founder and managing partner, states, “This is a tragic and horrific event for the City of Kalamazoo and its citizens.  Our hearts go out to the victims of this senseless crime spree. It is important to recognize that in a free society everyone accused of a crime must be afforded due process of law.  This includes strict adherence to constitutional principles, which serve to preserve our democratic society.  The Court of Appeals addressed the issues which were raised by Attorney Anastase Markou in a thorough and comprehensive manner.”