By NIKKI YOUNK
CRYSTAL FALLS - Court proceedings are moving forward in the case of a former Michigan State Police trooper who won an appeal last year on his 2011 criminal sexual conduct conviction.
David Morikawa, 40, is still scheduled for a four-day retrial from April 22 through 25.
On Thursday, Morikawa's defense attorney Elizabeth LaCosse and special prosecutor Lauryl Scott of the Michigan Attorney General's office met in Iron County Trial Court for a pre-trial conference. Morikawa was not present.
The hearing was conducted off the record in judge's chambers.
After the pre-trial concluded, LaCosse confirmed that no further court dates, except for the trial, have yet been set. However, she noted that there could be a need for a motion hearing as the case progresses toward trial.
If acquitted in the retrial, Morikawa would no longer be a felon and he would no longer have to register as a sex offender. If reconvicted, he likely would not have to serve any additional time.
LaCosse explained that Morikawa has already served the maximum penalty for his charges as determined by Michigan sentencing guidelines. In order to impose more time for the same charges, the judge would have to find reason to deviate upward from the guidelines, she added.
Morikawa was sentenced to serve one year and eight months in prison after he was convicted in July 2011 on two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct-second degree.
He had served his sentence and was out on parole when the Michigan Court of Appeals granted him a new trial in August 2013.
Appeals Judges Michael Talbot, Kathleen Jansen, and Patrick Meter determined that Morikawa had ineffective assistance of counsel during his original 2011 trial. They cited two incidents in which they felt that Morikawa's attorney, Grant Carlson, had failed to properly object.
The first incident occurred when one juror was excused from deliberations for not disclosing his own experience of being accused of sexual misconduct.
An alternate juror was recalled to take his place, but the court failed to instruct the jury to begin deliberations anew. The appeals judges pointed out that Morikawa's attorney did not object to the court's improper action.
A second incident occurred when Morikawa's attorney did not "object properly to improper character testimony" from one of Morikawa's former co-workers.
The co-worker had testified to Morikawa's character, saying "he is not credible."
According to the appeals judges, character evidence is highly prejudicial and strictly limited at trial.
As a result, the case was reversed and remanded for a new trial.
The criminal sexual conduct charges against Morikawa stem from a July 2009 incident in Crystal Falls, in which he is accused of inappropriately touching a 12-year-old girl at his home.
At the time, he was employed as a trooper at the now-closed Michigan State Police post in Iron River.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is email@example.com.