When Daniel Pittao goes on trial next month in the 1997 beating death of his wife, his will be one of a string of old murder cases Oakland County, Mi., prosecutors have pursued recently, racking up convictions and leveling fresh charges in others once thought unwinnable, says the Detroit Free Press. It marks a new, aggressive and controversial approach that so far has been successful.
Prosecutors last year convicted a man of murder five years after he set a house on fire, killing five children. Another man who shot and killed a girl in 1995 also was convicted. Four more cases — one dating to 1981 — are set to go to trial later this year or in early 2008. Defense attorneys complain that prosecutors are dredging up marginal cases, often with no new, or improved, evidence to support the charges. State law changed to give prosecutors more latitude to present evidence of previous domestic abuse to bolster cases against certain defendants, information jurors usually were prohibited from hearing. Veteran trial prosecutors are now brought in early in cases and help make decisions about whether a case is strong enough to go to trial, a job once left to warrant prosecutors, who often lacked courtroom experience. “It’s a whole change of philosophy,” said Deborah Carley, chief deputy prosecutor. “You have to have excellent prosecutors who are not afraid to try an intimidating case.”