WEDNESDAY, July 22 — Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon’s controversial policy to offer plea deals to alleged murderers won’t be put to the test this week after a suspected killer rejected the offer and opted to risk a first-degree murder conviction at an upcoming jury trial.
Siemon’s office confirmed earlier this afternoon that Kiernan Brown, 27, of Delta Township, has since rejected an offer from Siemon to plead guilty to lesser charges of second-degree murder, instead allowing a jury to decide the ultimate severity of two broad charges of open murder.
The recent move opens up the possibility that Brown, who was accused of killing two women in May, could be convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole — something Siemon would have rather seen prevented through a second-degree murder charge.
Siemon’s approach to prosecuting murder cases made waves earlier this year when City Pulse first reported on her internal policies to offer plea bargains that would negate the possibility of serving life in prison without parole by watering down first-degree charges.
Criticism of Siemon’s philosophy toward redemption and rehabilitation was again put on display when her office offered a second-degree murder plea bargain in Brown’s case — an incident that Siemon and other law enforcement officials have recognized as a clear first-degree murder.
Family members pleaded with prosecutors in an effort to have the recent offer pulled from the table. Siemon refused. Brown’s rejection this week largely nullifies the controversy altogether as the ongoing criminal case heads to a trial.
A trial date hasn’t been scheduled, but Brown faces the possibility of life behind bars after he was accused of bludgeoning Kaylee Ann Brock, 26, of Holt and Julie Ann Mooney, 32, of Williamston to death with an unidentified blunt object. A first-degree conviction would ensure it.
Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth said Brown’s “killing spree” was among the “most gruesome homicides” he’d ever investigated. Siemon said it was among the more “hideous and heinous” homicides to pass by her office. Family members contended any mercy wouldn’t be deserved.
Still, the case didn’t necessarily warrant the full force of the law, Siemon had contended. The second-degree murder charge still carries the possibility of a life sentence, but would at least afford Brown the opportunity to appear before a parole board — perhaps in a few decades.
But since Brown rejected the offer, the charge will now be decided entirely by a jury.
Siemon would have rather allowed Brown an opportunity for release, she explained to City Pulse earlier this month, but she won’t likely lose sleep over the rejection. Her philosophy, as she repeatedly explained, is more about providing an opportunity for rehabilitation — not forcing it.
“I think it’s a humane thing to do. I think it’s the right thing to do. And when I ran in 2016, I promised that I would always do what I think is the right thing,” Siemon told City Pulse earlier this month. “It’s not always popular, but I can’t care about that. It’s not that I don’t care about the victims, their families or what people think, but I can’t let it influence me to do the wrong thing.”