Steven Helton Receives Norris Thomas Award

From the May 2023 Criminal Defense Newsletter
The Michigan Appellate Defender Commission has unanimously voted to honor SADO Assistant Defender Steven Helton with the 2022 Norris Thomas Award for Excellence in Appellate Advocacy.

Steven graduated from Wayne State Law School in 2013 and was on the MAACS roster before joining SADO in 2018. He is a talented and creative attorney who works tirelessly for his clients, an excellent researcher and writer, and a generous and caring colleague. Steven has also trained defense attorneys throughout the state on issues such as other acts evidence, improper expert testimony, and recent state and federal Supreme Court decisions.

In addition to numerous victories in the trial courts and Court of Appeals, Steven has been involved in some of the most significant and complex Michigan Supreme Court cases in the last few years. In October 2021, he argued on behalf of his client Robert Propp. At issue was the proper application of People v Kennedy, 502 Mich 206 (2018) (addressing the requirements for an indigent defendant’s entitlement to expert assistance) and the application of the hearsay rules of evidence to other acts testimony under MCL 768.27b. Earlier this year, Steven was awarded the WMU Cooley Distinguished Brief Award for his brief in People v Propp. 

Additionally, Steven, along with co-counsel Jacqueline McCann, represented Donald Davis and argued on his behalf in November 2021. In Davis, the Court concluded that the deprivation of Mr. Davis’ public trial right was a structural error that necessarily affected his substantial rights and satisfied the plain error standard’s requirements for reversal. Significantly, the Court also held that the existence of a forfeited structural error alone satisfies that third prong of the plain-error standard and creates a formal rebuttable presumption that the fourth prong is satisfied as well. More recently, Steven returned to the Michigan Supreme Court to advocate on behalf of is clients Anthony Veach and Lashawn Monroe.

Steven’s colleagues nominated him for this award. One colleague wrote, “I love working with Steven Helton. He is creative and incredibly generous with his time to colleagues and clients . . . He teed up several monumental cases for Michigan Supreme Court litigation including his brief of the year. I can’t say enough great things about him and the quality of his work.” Another colleague wrote, “[Steven] is always on the cutting edge of new and up-and-coming legal issues in our office. He is also one of the most helpful coworkers – always able to send a case, help with editing, or talk through an issue.”

Katherine Marcuz 
SADO Managing Attorney