Danielle Stislicki, on the left, and Floyd Galloway Jr., on the right (Farmington Hills Police Department; Michigan Department of Corrections)
Key evidence in a high-profile murder case cannot be used against the defendant because it came to law enforcement from an expert hired by his former lawyer and violates the attorney-client privilege, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled late last week.
Floyd Galloway, Jr., 36, stands accused of one count of premeditated murder in the first degree over the December 2016 abduction and slaying of Danielle Stislicki, 28, whose body has never been found.
Now, in a decided blow to the prosecution, several pieces of circumstantial evidence will never see the light of open court.
Long considered a suspect, murder charges were filed against the defendant in March 2019 – after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel took over the case.
The Farmington Hills Police Department had considered Galloway a person of interest from early on in their investigation due to his former position as a contracted security guard at the MetLife building where both Stislicki and her mother worked. He is also said to be one of the last people seen with the victim before she vanished.
Galloway took a lie detector test in late 2016 – on the advice of his then-counsel. The polygraph operator was former FBI agent James Hoppe. Afterward, apparently distressed by what he learned, Hoppe called then-Troy Police Chief Gary Mayer and told him several things about the case. Highly damaging to Galloway, the information was then relayed, by Mayer, to Farmington Hills Police Chief Charles Nebus.
“A caller said the security guard did it,” Nebus wrote on a tip sheet during the phone call with Mayer. “He drove the victims [sic] car from his house in Berkley to her apt., then walked to Tim Horton’s at 10 and Halsted where he called Shamrock cab or something that sounds like Shamrock where he received a cab ride to within walking distance from his work where his car was parked.”
The FHPD chief was also told that Stislicki’s Fitbit and keys should be found in “a grassy area” near the coffee shop in question.
Police did find that evidence. And then some.
Based on the game of telephone Hoppe played with Mayer and Nebus, the FHPD also recovered what the court described “as surveillance footage of defendant’s movements on the night of Stislicki’s disappearance.”
Furthermore, according to the tip, Galloway threw Stislicki’s cellular phone into a trash can at Tim Horton’s and disposed of her body in a “beige and brown comforter.” The phone has also never been recovered.
But none of the evidence – the Fitbit, keys, surveillance footage allegedly showing Galloway near the disposed-of items or testimony – can ever be used against him if and when he goes to trial.
Prosecutors knew or should have known the genesis of the tip to Nebus by early 2017 and never tried to mitigate the breach of the attorney-client privilege, the Court of Appeals determined.
“The issue was all but ignored until the Attorney General took over the case in early 2019,” the opinion reads.
Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Phyllis McMillen suppressed the evidence – and any potential evidence that might be gathered from the potential recovery of Stislicki’s cellular phone in an order issued in November 2022. The appeals court reigned in the trial court for the cellular phone evidence – reasoning that since the phone had not been found, her order was somewhat too broad.
Otherwise, however, the trial court’s rare suppression order was affirmed for violating Galloway’s due process rights.
Mayer, in particular, knew better, the court said.
“Despite objective awareness that Hoppe’s tip was protected by attorney-client privilege, Mayer immediately turned the privileged information over to the investigating agency with the expectation that the FHPD would investigate the tip and recover important evidence before it could be lost or destroyed by inclement weather,” the opinion reads. “This is precisely what occurred; Nebus rallied his troops, the locations identified in the tip were searched, the FHPD found Stislicki’s keys and Fitbit, and evidence regarding defendant’s movements on the night of her disappearance was discovered.”
And, the court reasoned, one set of local law enforcement cannot benefit from another agency’s bad actions.
“Allowing the evidence derived from Mayer’s misconduct to be used at trial on the basis of the FHPD’s ‘good faith’ would completely undermine the exclusionary rule,” the appeals court continued. “Rather than deterring police misconduct, such a ruling could actually encourage misconduct where FHPD officers could use information obtained in violation of attorney-client privilege, as long as Mayer never revealed the source. We conclude that the trial court did not err by excluding the evidence derived from Mayer’s disclosure of the privileged information.”
Galloway is currently serving prison time for attempted sexual assault and kidnapping in a separate case from June 2017.
He eventually took a plea deal and agreed to serve between 16-35 years. Evidence from that case – including his admission – cannot be used against him in his eventual murder trial, the court of appeals previously ruled, because the cases are too dissimilar.
His trial date is pending in Oakland County.
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