Defense lawyer removed in man’s trial in infant’s death

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — A new attorney was appointed Monday for Emmanuel Hatchett, the 19-year-old Detroit man accused of killing his girlfriend’s 8-month-old daughter, after a judge removed the previous one from the case.

Attorney Lillian Diallo will serve as Hatchett’s new defense attorney, according to an official with the Third Circuit Court. A final conference is scheduled for June 24 and a trial date rescheduled for Aug. 8.

Earlier Monday, Judge Qiana Lillard removed court-appointed attorney Lyle Harris from the case and adjourned the trial until new counsel could be found and brought up to speed.

Lillard cited “a major loose end that had not been fully addressed or confirmed” — the appointment of an expert witness for the defense, which unraveled the week before trial — as her reasoning for Harris’ removal.

“Under these circumstances: given the nature of the offense, the age of the defendant, and the complex nature of the traumatic brain injury to the trial, I have some concerns going forward,” Lillard said. “I’ve discussed this matter with the presiding judge of the criminal division, Timothy Kenny, and this was the conclusion we came to.”

Hatchett is charged with one count of felony murder and one count of first-degree child abuse for the October 2015 death of his girlfriend’s 8-month-old daughter on Detroit’s southwest side.

Lillard said she would appoint a defense attorney who has experience in homicide cases where a baby victim has traumatic brain injuries. Harris told The News he had no such experience in his 27 years as an attorney, despite having tried many homicides.

When Harris met with the defense’s expert — Oakland County Medical Examiner ​Ljubisa Dragovic — on April 11, he was told Dragovic didn’t have all the necessary slides from the autopsy, which Harris said he had subpoenaed from the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office. Five were missing; they’d not been sent over. Dragovic, Harris said, couldn’t reach a conclusion without the necessary materials.

The next day, Harris said, he told the court about the problem. A little less than a week later, Lillard removed him from the case.

Harris says he had gotten a new expert and had a number of dates in May when he would’ve testified, if given an adjournment. Harris said he still hasn’t received the missing slides.

He said he tried to make that point in a conference with assistant Wayne County prosecutor Jennifer Tink at Judge Lillard’s bench, but the conference was kept short.

Afterward, Lillard made her ruling.

Staff Writer Candice Williams contributed.