Mike's standard for being a defense lawyer is simple: "A good lawyer represents clients, but a great lawyer fights for people." With almost 20 years of experience as a criminal defense attorney, Mike is no stranger to legal battles. Having defended thousands of people, charged with crimes ranging from minor infractions to capital murder, Mike has fought for the accused in numerous trials and hearings as lead counsel. He has defended business people, military officers, school teachers, engineers, and law enforcement officers. He has fought on behalf of those with the means to defend themselves, as well as the poor. He has waged battles for people in high-profile cases and, more often, for the accused who received no media attention.
Mike is certified as a Specialist in State Criminal Law by the NC Bar Board of Legal Specialization since 2004 and a Specialist in Criminal Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 2007. His practice is devoted exclusively to criminal defense at the trial and appellate levels in both the State and Federal courts of North Carolina. He has appeared in cases in all of the regions of North Carolina.
Mike grew up in Wilkesboro, NC, and obtained his B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1992) and his J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law (1995). He began his career as an Assistant Public Defender in the State of Illinois, first with the Office of the Kane County Public Defender in St. Charles and then with the Office of the Cook County Public Defender in Chicago. In 1998, he returned to Wilkesboro,NC and entered private practice. In 2002, Mike joined North Carolina’s Office of the Capital Defender, where his work focused exclusively on death penalty trials. He joined the Wake County Public Defender’s Office in 2007, where he worked in the felony unit of that office handling major felony cases until he joined Cheshire, Parker, Schneider, & Bryan, PLLC in June, 2010.
In October, 2007, Mike, along with his co-counsel, Kelley DeAngelus, were successful in obtaining the freedom for Floyd Brown, a mentally retarded man from Anson County, NC who had been wrongfully charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery and who was confined to a state mental institution for 14 years due to his incapacity to stand trial. For their successful four-year legal battle, in 2008, Mike and Kelley were awarded the ACLU of North Carolina Award, as well as the Kellie Crabtree Award, presented by the NC Advocates for Justice.
On February 17, 2010, Mike, along with attorneys Joe Cheshire and Christine Mumma won the freedom of Gregory F. Taylor, who had been wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder and incarcerated for 16 years. Mike and the team won a declaration of innocence from a three-judge panel convened via the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission. It is believed that the three-judge panel’s ruling is the first time in U.S. legal history that a court of law has declared a person “innocent” of the crimes with which he/she was convicted.
In June, 2010, Mike was again awarded the Kellie Crabtree Award by the NC Advocates for Justice for his work in the Gregory Taylor case, thus achieving the distinction of being the only attorney to have received the Kellie Crabtree Award more than once. The cases of Floyd Brown and Gregory Taylor were featured in the CNN Presents documentary “Rogue Justice,” which aired in January, 2011 and Gregory Taylor's case was the subject of a documentary, "6,149 Days: The True Story of Greg Taylor," which aired on WRALTV in April, 2012. The WRAL documentary can be viewed at WRAL.com.
Mike constantly strives to become better at defending people accused of crimes and does so by both attending and teaching at continuing legal education seminars in North Carolina and around the U.S. Mike has served as a faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of Government’s NC Defender Trial School, the NC New Felony Defender Program, the National Institute for Trial Advocacy’s Southeastern Regional Trial Skills program, and has presented at numerous lectures and seminars on topics relating to criminal defense and criminal trials throughout the State of North Carolina. In May, 2011, the North Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense Services presented Mike with The Professor John H. Rubin Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Indigent Defense Training Programs.
As a criminal defense attorney, Mike has also fought for the accused through professional organizations and the legislative process. He has served two terms as Chair of the Criminal Defense Section (2004 – 2006) of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ) and was a member of that association’s Board of Governors from 2004 to 2007.Due to his work with the forensic science issues in the case of State v. Gregory F. Taylor, Mike was asked by the NCAJ to chair the NCAJ SBI Crime Lab Task Force, a position which he held from 2010 to 2011.He has worked with NCAJ to lobby the North Carolina General Assembly for increased funding for the Office of Indigent Defense Services and for discovery reform.Mike has also served as Vice-Chair of the Committee on Law Enforcement/Prosecutorial Misconduct of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Mike has published several articles on criminal defense related topics for both state and national publications, including including: Piercing the Rape Shield: The Confrontation Clause and Rule 412 in Sex Offense Cases (published in TRIAL BRIEFS, June 2003); Discovery in Criminal Cases: A Need for Reform (published in TRIAL BRIEFS in December 2003); Advocating For Those Left Behind: The Need for Discovery Reform in Non-Capital Post-conviction Cases (co-authored with Bradley J. Bannon, published in TRIAL BRIEFS, February 2005); Brady v. Maryland and Its Legacy—Forging a Path To Disclosure (co-authored with Bradley J. Bannon, published in The North Carolina State Bar Journal – Summer 2006, Volume 11, No. 2); State v. Gregory F. Taylor and Law Enforcement Misconduct in the NC SBI Crime Laboratory (published in “The True Bill,” NC Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2010); and State v. Taylor and the NC State Bureau of Investigation Lab Scandal (The Champion, published by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Vol XXV, No. 4, 2011).
He is also the author of the Klinkosum on Criminal Defense Motions, a 700 plus page manual, published by LEXIS and the NC Advocates for Justice, which is now in its 3rd edition and now edited by Attorney Sarah Jessica Farber.