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Attorney For Howell Man Charged In Road Rage Killing To Argue Self Defense

Martin Zale
Martin Zale (Booking photo)

HOWELL (WWJ) - The lawyer representing a 69-year-old Howell man accused of gunning down another motorist during an apparent road rage incident says they are preparing a defense under the Michigan Self Defense Act.

Attorney Melissa Pearce says — contrary to erroneous news reports and social media chatter —  Martin Zale is not a retired police officer or military member. She says her client is "a respected member of the community," who will be exonerated at trial.

"The family of Mr. Zale is confident that once the entire story, with the fact and evidence in this case, had been heard in a courtroom before an impartial jury, that jury will return the right verdict," Pearce told reporters. "It is the desire of the family that an impartial jury can be found in this county. Until that time we ask the public to keep an open mind, and to understand that the whole story has not been told."

Pearce did not elaborate as to the details of that story.

She asked court on Tuesday for more time to prepare Zale's defense.

Derek Flemming
Derek Flemming is seen with his two children. (credit: Family photo/

Zale has pleaded not guilty to open murder and weapons charges for the mid-day fatal shooting last week of 43-year-old Derek Flemming who confronted Zale at a stoplight on Grand River at Chilson Road during what has been described as a "road rage" incident.

Flemming was shot in the face and died — while his wife watched from their car just feet away.  She  told police that he husband got out of the vehicle to ask why Zale was driving aggressively.

Polcie said Flemming he died of a single gunshot wound to the face fired from a handgun as he stood next to Zale's pickup truck. Police said Flemming was unarmed, which negates a claim of defense, according to prosecutors.

Pearce disagrees.

"I'm aware that (Livingston County Prosecutor William Vailliencourt) does not believe that this is a self defense case. Mr. Vailliencourt has a job to do,  I have a job to do, and the jury will have a job to do," Pearce said.

The next court hearing is set for Oct. 7.

Zale remains held without bond in the Livingston County Jail.

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