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MI Supreme Court says duress allowed as defense in some murder cases

Michigan Supreme Court
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Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court says the fear of being physically harmed can be used as a defense against charges of second-degree murder. That decision was released Thursday

Theresa Gafken was fleeing police in a car chase at speeds that exceeded 100 miles an hour at times. During the chase, she ran a red light, resulting in a crash where one person was killed and several others injured.

Her defense against a charge of second-degree murder was that a passenger was holding a gun to her ribs and threatened to kill her if she stopped. Two counts of driving while intoxicated were dropped. But the murder charge was not and she was convicted.

In a split decision, the Supreme Court majority overruled lower courts and held Gafken was entitled to make the argument that she was acting under duress, which was previously not allowed in murder cases. The case goes back now to the Saint Clair County Circuit Court.

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