2017-03-09 / Front Page

Will jurors learn of ‘save planet’ website?

Bank heist trial likely delayed
By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

MINORE MINORE Suspected bank robber William F. Minore’s jury trial will likely not start next Wednesday, March 15, as scheduled.

And still to be decided when the trial does begin is if jurors will hear about Minore’s bizarre online efforts to “save the planet.”

Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Thomas G. Power was to rule on that motion and several more at a hearing set for 2 p.m. today.

Minore, 69, is charged with armed robbery, unlawful driving away of an automobile and felony firearm possession in connection with the Sept. 7 robbery of the Empire Huntington Bank in which $36,966 in cash was taken.

One motion submitted by prosecutors asks that testimony regarding the defendant’s “manifesto and desire to save the planet” be excluded. Prosecutors argue that the material is irrelevant and “designed to sway some on the jury to sympathize with his agenda and refuse to convict him.”

TAKEN FROM video cameras outside of Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor, this shot shows the Kia Soul before it was allegedly driven away by William F. Minore, who has been charged with robbing the Huntington Bank in Empire at gunpoint. TAKEN FROM video cameras outside of Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor, this shot shows the Kia Soul before it was allegedly driven away by William F. Minore, who has been charged with robbing the Huntington Bank in Empire at gunpoint. Willam G. Burdette, Minore’s court-appointed attorney, asserts that Minore’s concerns for the state of the planet are relevant to show a jury what kind of person he is.

Minore had launched a campaign about two years ago on the GoFundMe crowdfunding website in a effort to raise thousands of dollars for an environmental film he wanted to make about an earth in crisis. The campaign shows that it was updated in January.

Minore has not raised any money on the updated page. He raised $10 on the original page.

Prosecutors and Burdette have been filing motions that could have major effects on the trial — and when it might be held.

Burdette on Monday filed a motion to adjourn. He is asking for more time to prepare for trial.

Burdette argues in his motion that he has received “voluminous records, reports and tapes, let alone 100s of pictures” from the Prosecutor’s Office and he spent an entire weekend responding to “a plethora of pre-trial motions.”

Burdette is also in the process of securing four witnesses from the FBI who are located in Virginia, but have not confirmed their availability, according to the motion.

He is a sole practitioner, Burdette writes, and is “fending off four attorneys at the Prosecutor’s Office, the Leelanau County Sheriff ’s Department and the FBI,” in addition to serving his other clients.

Burdette was also called for jury duty in Grand Traverse County, where he resides, on March 14 — the day before the trial is scheduled to start.

Leelanau Prosecutor Joseph T. Hubbell said he would rather see the trial delayed to give Burdette time to prepare than to have Minore later file a claim of ineffective assistance of council.

“It’s important that the defense has adequate time to prepare,” Hubbell said. In the meantime, Hubbell said the prosecution is ready to proceed.

Burdette’s motion said Minore has been advised of his right to a speedy trial and has agreed to waive the 180- day speedy trial rule.

Minore has been held in the Leelanau County Jail on a $1 million cash/surety bond since his Sept. 8 arrest.

In addition to the bank robbery, Minore is accused of taking a Kia Soul from Glen Arbor, driving it to Empire to commit the robbery and then returning it and parking it about a block from where it was taken.

He rejected an offer from prosecutors last month that would have had him pleading guilty to armed robbery, with other charges dismissed. In that deal he would have had to admit to two robberies of the Honor State Bank in Lake Ann in April and December 2015 and return all the money he is accused of stealing, none of which has been found.

Last month Power granted a motion to allow prosecutors to admit into evidence four diversionary 9-1-1 calls believed to have been made by Minore in the two Benzie cases.

Those calls are very similar to two calls they believe Minore made in the Empire case that falsely reported a shooting at the Leelanau School and a robbery in progress at a Lake Ann bank.

Several witnesses have identified the voice in those calls as Minore’s and Hubbell plans to call them to the stand during the trial.

Power will also rule on a prosecutor’s motion to have special instructions read to jurors regarding witness identification.

Prosecutors have had several laypersons ask them about “voice recognition” tests or “voice print analysis,” being used to positively identify the defendant’s voice, the motion states.

Both the Michigan State Police and the FBI say that despite Hollywood portrayals and the “CSI effect” on jurors, the human ear is the most acute instrument available, the motion states.

Jurors need to be made aware of the fact that Michigan law does not recognize voice recognition science as sufficiently reliable to admit in a court of law, according to the motion.

Return to top