Saturday, September 1, 2012

John Norman Collins' Nemesis - Washtenaw County Sheriff Douglas J. Harvey - Part One

Sheriff Doug Harvey seated with detective.
The most controversial figure in the John Norman Collins' case, other than the defendant himself, was former Washtenaw County Sheriff, Douglas J. Harvey.

Repeatedly during the pretrial hearings and the trial itself, the defense team attempted to undermine the credibility of the sheriff, the highest ranking police officer in the county.

Joseph Louisell, sometime Detroit Mafia lawyer, and his junior partner, Neil Fink, wasted no opportunity to scrutinize and criticize Harvey's every move openly in the courtroom and afterwards with the press.

Prospective jurors were asked during the jury selection process if they would give more weight to something Sheriff Harvey testified to just because he was the sheriff. Even more pointed were questions like, "Do you think Sheriff Harvey would misrepresent the truth?" Louisell would say while standing behind Collins with his hands resting on his client's shoulders. The defense was doing their damnedest to shift attention away from their client and onto overzealous law enforcement in the guise of the sheriff.

Douglas J. Harvey first came to public notice as a public figure after winning an upset victory over his old boss. He was a thirty-two year old Democrat who was sworn in on January 1, 1965, the second youngest man ever to hold the office of county sheriff in Washtenaw county, a county that hadn't elected a Democrat for sheriff in thirty years.

Harvey's relative lack of experience for the position was offset by his popularity on the local stock car racing circuit. Originally sponsored by a service station owner, Harvey won over 100 races. He would keep the trophies and his sponsor would get the prize money to put back into the cars. I say "cars" because Harvey has demolished eight cars. He was a fan favorite which helped him defeat his former boss.

Before "The Battle of Ann Arbor" street riots and the "Co-ed Killings" of the late sixties, Sheriff Harvey and his department made the news with a less harrowing human interest story, "The Great Michigan UFO Chase." It was widely reported that on March 17, 1966, Sheriff Harvey ordered all available squad cars to the scene of a UFO sighting in Dexter, Michigan. Officers gave chase down Island Lake Rd. See the link for more details.

(Sheriff Harvey - To be continued...)