Jury selection to continue in Howell road rage case

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Howell — Lawyers will return to Livingston County Circuit Court on Tuesday to continue questioning prospective jurors in a road rage case that left one man dead and another charged with murder.

Judge Miriam Cavanaugh sent everyone home after six hours of questioning Monday on the first day of trial of Martin Edward Zale, 69, of Marion Township. He is charged with open murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in the shooting to death of Derek Flemming, 43, after an incident in Genoa Township Sept. 2.

A pool of nearly 200 potential jurors is available to be tapped should there prove difficulties in finding people able to objectively hear and listen to evidence in the case. Jury selection, especially in high profile cases, can take considerable time — even days — but once seated, attorneys would take respective turns giving their opening statements on the case and evidence, or lack of it, to be presented to the jury.

Zale’s attorney, Melissa Pearce, declined to comment on the case Monday. She has said previously there is “a lot more to this story” and also told reporters earlier she is considering self-defense — commonly referred to when a person stands his or her ground in anticipation of a deadly attack.

She described Zale as a loving husband, father and “respected member of the community,” and said the action was out of character for him.

Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Rose referred questions to Prosecutor William J. Vailliencourt Jr., who said he would not have any comment until a jury is seated.

Flemming’s wife said during testimony at Zale’s preliminary examination in November that Zale shot and killed her husband after a short exchange of words following a traffic incident.

Flemming approached the driver’s side of a pickup that had cut him off in traffic on Grand River and asked, “What’s your problem?” or “What’s your (expletive) problem?” Amy Flemming testified.

She said she heard a “pop” and saw her husband’s head snap backward.

Flemming said her husband collapsed on the road “like a marionette puppet having its strings cut.” She said she jumped out of her vehicle and ran to her husband.

She told the court she knew he was dead, but told her husband, whose heart was still beating, “Don’t go. ... I need you. Your children need you.”

Zale, Flemming said during the hearing, had a “stone cold face, staring at me. Emotionless,” after the shooting.

Before the shooting, Derek Flemming and his wife had gone to lunch in Howell and were on their way to pick up their children from school.

The two had traveled east on Grand River around 3:30 p.m. when the driver of a truck was traveling erratically and tailgated them, according to testimony in the preliminary exam.

The truck swerved in front of them before braking twice and then speeding off.

Zale pulled his vehicle off at Grand River near Chilson and was waiting with his cellphone and a business card in his hands when police arrived. Police said they found a 9 mm Ruger in his truck.

He has a license to carry a concealed weapon.

Several bystanders told police Zale was the shooter. Zale also admitted to the shooting, Livingston County Deputy Ray Marino testified at the November preliminary examination.

An autopsy showed Flemming died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Both men had been involved in previous road rage incidents, according to the Associated Press.

Zale was involved in a nonfatal incident in 2008.

Flemming had a history with law enforcement for allegedly making threats to shoot anyone who came on his property and was shoved in a prior road-rage incident.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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