The defense attorney called a judge a racist. The judge threatened to sue for defamation. The prosecutor wants to drop the whole thing. That's the backdrop for the felonious assault trial in Macomb County that Tabitha Larkin, 21, of Highland Park faces next month.
Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga is trying to drop the criminal case he initiated against Larkin; he now says she was defending her family against a racially motivated attack when she stabbed Ronald Pomeroy, 20, of Hazel Park outside a Sterling Heights motel in 1997. Larkin is black, Pomeroy is white.
On Oct. 20, Circuit Judge Mary Chrzanowski refused to dismiss the case against Larkin, who could spend 10 years in prison if convicted.
Chrzanowski later excused herself from the case amid public accusations of racism from Larkin's attorney, Miranda Massie. On Oct. 30, Chrzanowski announced plans to sue Massie for defamation and bring charges against her if she did not retract her statements to the press within a week. Massie refuses to take back the accusations, saying she was within her free speech rights.
Western Wayne County NAACP President Leonard Mungo said Monday he and other area NAACP leaders along with Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition support the dismissal of charges against Larkin and support Massie's decision to voice her opinion about the judge's decision.
Chrzanowski was not available for comment.
Marlinga says he will renew his motion to dismiss the Larkin case before Dec. 15, the day Larkin is to begin trial before Circuit Judge George Montgomery.
Marlinga says the law generally allows prosecutors to decide which cases they will pursue and that Chrzanowski does not have a basis for denying his motion.
Sometime between the night of Aug. 3, 1997, and the next morning, a crowd gathered outside the Larkin's family's room at the Villager Lodge on Van Dyke, according to police.
Larkin's attorney says the crowd had been shouting racist slurs and throwing bottles; someone had punched Larkin's brother in the face; someone had kicked in the door to the Larkins' room; and a tricycle had come crashing through the window.
It was at that point, Marlinga says, that Larkin grabbed a knife, and with her two small children huddling in the room, she ran out in a panic and eventually stabbed Pomeroy.
The police arrived at the motel and arrested Larkin while the crowd dispersed. Meanwhile, Pomeroy was treated at a hospital for a stab wound to his left shoulder.
According to court records, Chrzanowski said she had difficulty understanding why Marlinga would bring charges if he didn't believe he had a case. She denied Marlinga's motion to dismiss the case after learning from a police detective that the police still believe the case should proceed.
Marlinga told the judge he decided to drop the case after Larkin passed a polygraph test during which she said she grabbed the knife only after the tricycle came crashing through the window.
"If the bicycle does not come through the window first and she exits her room to join a fight voluntarily, it's a different situation than if she feels that she is significantly under attack," Marlinga told the judge, according to court records.
Marlinga says he rarely disagrees with police in front of a judge. But he says Larkin "is not the kind of culpable wrongdoer that I would like to see go to prison. I think of her as a 19-year-old mother of two children who panicked."