Michigan prosecutors announced Tuesday they were forced to close the criminal cases against former Governor Rick Snyder and other government officials in the Flint water case. The decision to drop the charges, made after a series of decisions against the prosecutors by the Michigan Supreme Court, seems to end the last chance for anyone to face serious legal consequences for the mismanagement and deception that killed at least a dozen people and may have permanently damaged many more.
Prosecutors said they could not continue their cases against Snyder and eight other state or city officials charged with neglecting their duties. However, a ruling last year by the state’s Supreme Court threw out the charges, and the court declined to reconsider the case on Tuesday, effectively ending prosecutors’ chances of revisiting the charges. The prosecutor’s statement said, “The residents of Flint deserved their day in court,” adding that “to deny the opportunity to present the evidence and to let the victims tell their story is truly heartbreaking.”
The cases stemmed from the decision made nearly a decade ago to switch the water supply for Flint, a predominantly Black city, to a cheaper and unsafe source. The polluted water in Flint led to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the city, killing at least 13 people and possibly dozens more, as well as leaving many more sick. The long-term impact of the water contamination may not be known for some time. Still, the lead and pollution exposure by Flint residents could lead to neurological damage for children who drank the water, among other health concerns. In a statement by Democratic Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee on the Supreme Court’s decision, he stated, “Former Governor Snyder’s administration knowingly exposed Flint to high levels of lead that will have lifelong impacts on families and children.”
This latest development is one of many officials involved in the case have escaped consequences. In 2019, for example, manslaughter charges were dropped against Nick Lyon, the former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director. Snyder, meanwhile, misled Congress about his role in the crisis despite evidence demonstrating that he and other officials ignored complaints about the contaminated water. And several officials who had previously been charged with covering up the contamination of the city’s water were even given the option of returning to their jobs after charges against them were dropped against them in 2019.
Mezon Green, a Flint resident whose family continues to suffer significant health effects from the polluted water, was not surprised that the courts yet again failed to hold anyone responsible.
“Very rarely do we get a fair chance in anybody’s court,” Green told CBS News after the Supreme Court’s latest decision.
Flint residents continue to deal with the illnesses and long-term damage of the contaminated water and the lack of trust in the government that resulted from the mismanagement and lies. And so the overall consequences of the Flint water crisis continue to fall on the city’s residents and not the officials who brought about this disaster.