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Federal Judge That Handles Rare Michigan Death Penalty Trial Dies At 79

Federal Judge
Federal Judge That Handles Rare Michigan Death Penalty Trial Dies At 79 (PHOTO: WOODTV)

Robert Holmes Bell a retired federal judge who presided for 30 years and handled trials including a rare death penalty case in Michigan, has recently died at the aged of 79 years old.

Federal Judge

Federal Judge That Handles Rare Michigan Death Penalty Trial Dies At 79 (PHOTO: Yahoo Finance)

Robert Holmes Bell Dies At The Age Of 79

According to Michelle Benham, the court’s chief deputy clerk declared that on Thursday, federal judge Robert Holmes Bell died at the aged of 79, and his cause of death was not disclosed.

AP News reported that Chris Yates a judge on the state appeals court who usually emerged in Bell’s courtroom as a defense attorney said that Bell was one of the giants on the federal bench.

Bell retired as  Federal Judge in 2017. Bell was also a federal judge in the Lansing area when President Ronald Reagan in 1987 appointed him to the United States District Court in western Michigan, based in Grand Rapids.

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In 1847 The Death Penalty Outlawed In Michigan

The 2002 trial of Marvin Gabrion, who was found guilty of drowning a woman in a secluded lake in a national forest in Newaygo County, was the biggest case Bell presided over out of all the notable ones.

The death penalty was outlawed in Michigan in 1847 but it is available under federal law. Federal prosecutors had the power to apprehend Gabrion because Rachel Timmerman’s murder occurred on government property. The U.S. Justice Department at that time told prosecutors to summon jurors for the death penalty.

The jury unanimously agreed, and Bell ordered it.

Gabrion stays on death row 21 years later while lawyers seek appeals. He could be an intimidating figure in Bell’s courtroom and even beat one of his attorneys in the jaw in front of the jury.

Bell took pride in personally providing encouragement to people who had returned home from prison.

“Usually, I’ll say to their mother, ‘What does your son need? What does your grandson need?’” Bell told The Grand Rapids Press. “I usually spend 10 minutes trying to engage them and tell them I care. They can’t believe it.”

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