Mom accused of killing kids lashes out in court

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mitchelle Blair, a Detroit mother accused of killing two of her children and stuffing their bodies in a freezer, lashed out in court Friday against an independent examination meant to determine if she is fit to stand trial.

"I have a very big problem with this," said Blair, 35. "It is not right. (The doctor) only talked to me less than a half-hour."

Blair repeatedly interrupted 36th District Court Judge Dana Hathaway as the judge attempted to adjourn the hearing to Monday morning, saying she and lawyers for both sides needed time to review the results of the exam.

"This (exam) is irrelevant," Blair said. "I know my rights, I'm pleading to life in prison."

Hathaway told Blair the delay was needed to ensure her rights were protected. Blair interrupted again, pushing back against the results of the exam.

"But how much weight does this (exam) carry?"

The judge entered a not-guilty plea on Blair's behalf, despite the woman's requests both Friday and during an earlier hearing last week to scrap the trial and send her straight to prison.

"This is ridiculous," Blair said as she was led from the courtroom on Friday.

Blair calmly made the unusual request last week: "I'm already saying I did it. I'm freely giving myself ... expecting to get life in prison. My son (the surviving 8-year-old) is worth that."

Blair's attorney, Wyatt Harris, said after the hearing Friday that Blair remains firm in her plan to plead guilty.

"She's still consistent with what she said last week," he said Friday. "As any lawyer would, I've counseled her as to what the punishments would be for taking any plea. She would like to move forward."

Harris said the results of the second exam came back early this week, giving all parties little time to adequately review it.

"The judge wants the opportunity obviously to review the file, and we'll come back Monday for the pretrial," he said. "This gives the judge a chance to get up to speed."

Last week, 36th District Court Judge Kenneth King told Blair her request to plead guilty was an "unusual circumstance" and the court needed both reports from the two doctors who performed competency exams before a decision is made on her request to plead guilty to first-degree murder.

One doctor's report last week declared Blair competent to stand trial. Neither the judge nor Blair's attorney revealed the contents of the second, independent exam referenced in Friday's hearing.

King last week told Blair he wanted her to think carefully before pleading guilty. Blair said she did not need to think about her decision to protect her surviving son from averse publicity and the gruesome details of the case.

Harris last week said that while Blair's request to plead guilty was "an unusual" move, his client is of a "very sound" mind to do it.

Blair is "absolutely" remorseful over the deaths of her children, Harris said, adding that the details about the murders of the children would come out "at some point." He would not address his client's claims her older children were raping younger siblings.

Blair is charged with torture and murder in the deaths of her 9-year-old son, Stephen Berry, and 13-year-old daughter, Stoni Blair. Their bodies were found in March inside a standalone freezer at the family's home at the Martin Luther King apartment complex. Blair also is charged with child abuse.

Blair also is in the midst of a custody case brought against her by the state of Michigan regarding possible termination of her parental rights. She and the fathers of her children, Alexander Dorsey and Steven Berry, will find out Tuesday from Wayne County Judge Edward Joseph if they have lost the rights over an 8-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl. The three have attended several days of hearings in the matter at the Wayne County juvenile court.

The woman's parental rights were suspended after she was charged with felony murder, premeditated murder and torture in addition to child abuse offenses.

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office has not commented on Blair's request to plead guilty, only saying through its spokeswoman Maria Miller that "at the appropriate time we will consider the defendant's desire to plea guilty."

"I'm not going to change my mind," Blair said last week. "It just is what it is."