(WSYM) — A law professor is weighing in after Macomb County Prosecutor Pete Lucido said he will review nursing home deaths from COVID-19, days after saying criminal charges were possible against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Lucido said Thursday he would review the deaths related to coronavirus, questioning whether Whitmer's plan to transfer recovering patients into facilities led other patients to become infected with the virus.
The Republican prosecutor has been outspoken against Whitmer's plan. Last August, when he was still a state senator, he issued a statement, criticizing the governor's decision to bring COVID-19-positive patients into nursing homes, noting at the time more than 2,000 residents died along with 21 staff members.
Larry Dubin, a law professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, said it's likely too soon to be talking about criminal action in this case, and it could appear to be politically-motivated.
"I think in this case, the statement by the prosecutor that there could be criminal actions certainly causes one to examine the potential motivation that there may be a political reason for this type of statement," Doobin said.
“We’ll have to see where it leads us. Charges won’t be determined until there’s a full, extensive, fair, open and honest investigation of the case," Lucido said Thursday. "There could be no charges.”
The plan came from Whitmer and the MDHHS and it required nursing homes to create a unit for those residents who tested positive or had symptoms. Those without a unit transferred them to a regional hub.
"My understanding is that the governor did follow CDC guidelines, so it would seem under the circumstances of the facts of this virus creating all kinds of problems initially that were later discovered in good faith would make a very difficult criminal case," Dubin added.
The Service Employees International Union said that Whitmer's nursing home policies helped save lives.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the dedicated members of SEIU Healthcare Michigan have been on the frontlines working to protect seniors and our most vulnerable in nursing home facilities across Michigan, and we have seen firsthand how Governor Whitmer’s policies have saved lives,” said Andrea Acevedo, President of SEIU Healthcare Michigan. “ We are grateful for Governor Whitmer’s leadership as she worked to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Dubin also said that if Lucido probably shouldn't be coming out this early and speaking about a possible investigation.
"I think that a prosecutor has to be very careful when proceeding against a governor of a state at this juncture where there are so few facts put forward to show criminal activity," he added.
In a statement, Gov. Whitmer's office said:
“Our top priority from the start has been protecting Michiganders, especially seniors and our most vulnerable. The administration’s policies carefully tracked CDC guidance on nursing homes, and we prioritized testing of nursing home residents and staff to save lives. Early in the pandemic, the state acted swiftly to create a network of regional hubs with isolation units and adequate PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within a facility. In addition, we have offered 100 percent of nursing home resident priority access to the vaccine. Both the former head of AARP, as well as an independent U-M study, praised our work to save lives in nursing homes.
“Mr. Lucido’s comments are shameful political attacks based in neither fact nor reality. Even his former colleague, Republican Sen. Ed McBroom, has said they "have not seen any evidence or testimony that says that a nursing home was forced to take someone against their will." And there’s a reason why Mr. Lucido’s colleagues have publicly rebuked this politically-motivated waste of taxpayer dollars. Michiganders are tired of these petty partisan games, and we won’t be distracted by them either.”