Law

Stories regarding the legal system

Counterfeit sports championship rings
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Pro athletes: If you're going to put a ring on it, make sure you've got the real thing.

Customs and Border Protection officials say they seized $680,000 worth of counterfeit sports championship rings at Detroit Metropolitan Airport last April.

The rings were found in a shipment that originated on a flight from China.

They had the names and logos of several pro sports teams, including the Oakland Raiders, the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

The campaign trying to legalize marijuana in Michigan has filed a lawsuit challenging the state's six-month time limit to gather petition signatures.

The MI Legalize drive is still trying to either get the Legislature to adopt a law or place the question on the November ballot after its petitions were rejected by a state elections board last week because too many signatures were too old under the 180-day rule. 

M-I Legalize attorney Jeff Hank says what the state’s doing is not allowed.

Flazingo Photos / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Laws that ban criminal background questions on job applications have backfired, according to a study from the University of Michigan and Princeton University.

So-called "Ban the Box" laws are meant to give job seekers with criminal records a better shot at finding employment.

The study suggests that while such policies may produce that outcome, they also increase racial discrimination by employers.

U of M researcher and study co-author Sonja Starr says this unintended outcome relates to a theory called "statistical discrimination."

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

The Michigan Department of Corrections faces a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit that alleges sex discrimination against female guards at the state’s only prison for women.

The lawsuit is based on 28 complaints filed by female officers who work, or once worked, at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility near Ypsilanti. The lawsuit says the corrections department is stretching its female workforce too thin by assigning women to jobs that can be handled by male guards because they don’t involve direct or private contact with inmates.

Attorney General Bill Schuette
(Courtesy of the Michigan Attorney General's office)

The U.S. Supreme Court has stymied the Michigan Attorney General’s second bid to put some new air pollution rules on hold.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette spearheaded a case, Michigan v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that challenged the EPA’s proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Those rules limit mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants.

In 2015, the Supreme Court handed Schuette a victory when it narrowly ruled the EPA didn’t properly consider the cost to polluters when making the rule.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Lance Armstrong plans to be in Kalamazoo for a "Finishing the Ride" event in honor of the five cyclists killed when they were hit by a pickup truck.

Armstrong told the Detroit Free Press  the collision on June 7 in Kalamazoo County's Cooper Township, 160 miles from Chicago, is the worst he's seen and he's not sure he's emotionally ready for the ride. Armstrong says a fear of being struck by a vehicle is shared by all cyclists.

Armstrong plans to join Kalamazoo-area cyclists in a 28.5-mile ride Tuesday from Kalamazoo to Plainwell and back.

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There are new efforts in Michigan to crack down on those who hurt people with special needs.

Rep. Frank Liberati, a Democrat, and Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican, have sponsored bills that would increase penalties for assaulting a person with a developmental disability.

Jones says people with disabilities can often have difficulty caring for themselves and protecting themselves. And he contends all Michiganders deserve to live with respect and dignity.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A plan to create a pilot roadside drug-testing program in five of the state's counties will soon be on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder.

  The Legislature approved bills Thursday that would allow law enforcement officers who are trained to recognize impairment due to drugs or alcohol to test drivers' saliva.

  The state police would choose five counties to start the yearlong pilot program.

  A bill analysis says the results of the roadside saliva test could be allowed as evidence in criminal prosecutions or administrative hearings in some cases.

FLICKR USER FREEDOM TO MARRY https://flic.kr/p/6toGYr

This coming Sunday, June 12 is Loving Day.

It marks the 49th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Loving v. Virginia. The landmark decision struck down the criminality of interracial marriage in this country.

They'll be celebrating Loving Day this Sunday in Grand Rapids with a full day of film, music and theater from the Ebony Road Players, a Grand Rapids theater company.

Davontae Sanford with family and supporters after his release.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A young Detroit man who spent nine years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit says he’s ready to make a new life for himself.

Davontae Sanford was just 14 when he confessed to four murders.

But a hit man confessed to the same crimes just a year later. Advocates for the wrongfully incarcerated have fought to free him ever since.

This week, following a Michigan State Police re-investigation of the case, a judge vacated Sanford’s convictions and freed him.

A bike painted white in memory of a cyclist
Matthew Peoples / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A Michigan prosecutor has charged 50-year-old Charles Edward Pickett Jr. with five counts of second degree murder after a pickup truck crashed into a group of bicyclists and killed five people.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting also charged him Thursday with four counts of reckless driving resulting in serious injury to four others near Kalamazoo.

The bicyclists were part of a group that called themselves "The Chain Gang," who ranged in age from 40 to 74.

user A7nubis / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A state elections board has rejected petitions filed by the campaign to legalize marijuana in Michigan. The action by the Board of State Canvassers tees up a court battle over time limits for petition drives to gather signatures.

  

Thomas Lavigne is an attorney with MI Legalize. He says a requirement that petition campaigns collect signatures within a 180-day period violates the state constitution. He says the framers did not envision this sort of barrier.

Kym Worthy (file photo).
waynecounty.com

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy defended her office’s handling of the Davontae Sanford case today.

Sanford confessed to four Detroit murders in 2007, when he was just 14 years old.

But a judge overturned Sanford’s convictions and freed him this week.

Worthy says that became possible only after a recent Michigan State Police investigation she requested found a Detroit police officer lied about key aspects of Sanford’s confession.

Questions about Sanford’s guilt arose as early as 2008, when a hit man named Vincent Smothers confessed to the same crimes.

Davontae Sanford
Michigan Department of Corrections

He was just 14 years old when he confessed to and was convicted of a quadruple murder.

But today, 23-year-old Davontae Sanford walks out of Ionia State Prison a free man.

His conviction was vacated Tuesday by Wayne County Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan, who agreed with arguments that Sanford's case had all the hallmarks of a false confession.

David Moran is with the Michigan Innocence Clinic and was co-counsel on this case.

Shayan Sanyal / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Legislation up for a vote in the state Senate tomorrow would compensate felons who are exonerated for the time they were wrongfully imprisoned. It would allow $50,000 for every year of wrongful incarceration. It would also offer aftercare services to freed inmates.    

State Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, says Michigan is one just a handful of states that does not compensate people for wrongful imprisonment. He says it offers a measure of justice.

morguefile

Grand Rapids saw a drop in serious crime between 2014 and 2015.

The department's annual report says violent crimes dropped 9.5%.

David Rahinsky is the Grand Rapids police chief.

He says this drop in crime is a result of the department having built trust and rapport with the community.

"I think we recognize that the issues that confront us now are not issues that we're going to arrest our way out of," Rahinsky says. "They are issues of relationships, they're issues of trust."

James Tolbert
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s fired police chief may face criminal charges for his involvement in the wrongful conviction of a Detroit teen nine years ago.

James Tolbert was Detroit’s Deputy Police Chief in 2007. That’s when 14-year-old Davontae Sanford supposedly confessed to murdering four people.

Sanford was convicted in 2008. But serious questions about the case arose soon after, when a confessed hit man named Vincent Smothers said he had committed the crimes -- and had never heard of Sanford.

Davontae Sanford
Michigan Department of Corrections

After spending eight years in prison, a Detroit man convicted of murdering four people has been cleared and ordered released.

Davontae Sanford confessed to the murders in 2007, when he was just 14.

But soon after Sanford’s conviction, a hit man confessed to the same crimes, and insisted Sanford was not involved.

Now, following a Michigan State Police re-investigation of the case, Wayne County Judge Brian Sullivan has vacated Sanford’s convictions, and ordered him released immediately. Prosecutor Kym Worthy had agreed to dismiss Sanford’s case Tuesday morning.

Jake Neher / Michigan Public Radio Network

The state Elections Bureau says the petition drive to legalize marijuana in Michigan has failed to gather enough signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

The bureau rejected many of the signatures because they were gathered outside a 180-day window for collecting names of registered voters. The bureau’s recommendation will be voted on Thursday by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers.

Fred Woodhams  is spokesman for the elections bureau. He says many of the signatures turned in were gathered outside the 180-day window for collecting names of registered voters.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - President Barack Obama has shaved years off a Detroit-area man's sentence for a drug crime.

Kareem Martin has been in prison since 2007. His 23-year sentence now will expire in 2018. Obama commuted the sentence Friday along with the sentences of 41 others.

In 2006, Martin pleaded guilty to possession with intent to deliver cocaine. Federal Judge Lawrence Zatkoff noted a "long history of criminal conduct" and said a "significant sentence" was appropriate.

Justice statue
Flickr user Jack / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Innocence Clinic has filed a motion asking for relief from judgment for a man convicted of murdering his friend in Detroit 24 years ago.

Attorneys say new evidence and problems with ballistics testing raise questions when it comes to Desmond Ricks' guilt in the 1992 case.

flickr user Joe Gratz

A judge has issued a temporary restraining order preventing the state School Reform Office from appointing a chief executive officer to oversee four academically low-performing East Detroit Public Schools.

Macomb County Circuit Judge Joseph Toia ruled Friday there is a risk that allowing a takeover would cause the school district "irreparable harm." He has scheduled a hearing on the issue for June 13.

Local governments say the "dark store" approach to valuing big-box stores has cost them dearly.
Daniel Incandela / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Local governments are cheering a state Court of Appeals decision that could mean millions of dollars in property taxes. Big box retailers like Lowes, Menards, and Meijer have successfully argued that assessors should look at vacant stores to determine their value. The strategy has led to dramatically lower taxes. 

Critics say it’s a tax dodge that’s not fair to other taxpayers who have to pay more in fees and tax millages.

MICHIGAN SUPREME COURT / COURT.MI.GOV

DETROIT – The Michigan Supreme Court has announced amendments to state rules aimed at keeping people from jail time because they can't pay court fines or fees.

The Detroit News reports changes announced Wednesday take effect Sept. 1. The court says job status, available cash, basic living expenses and other special circumstances can be considered.

Earlier this year, a Detroit-area judge accused of sending poor people to jail if they couldn't immediately pay fines agreed to end so-called pay-or-stay sentences after an American Civil Liberties Union challenge.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING – Michigan is paying criminal defense bills for two state employees charged amid Flint's crisis with lead-tainted water.

The state Department of Environmental Quality is paying fees for Stephen Busch and Mike Prysby, who are charged with evidence tampering, misconduct in office and safe drinking water violations.

The Detroit Free Press reports Michigan must provide or pay for defense for state employees sued in connection with their jobs, but not those facing criminal charges.

LANSING – Coercing a woman to have an abortion would be a misdemeanor in Michigan, under a bill sent to Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Senate approved the legislation, 26-11, Wednesday with all Democrats and one Republican voting against it. The bill would make coercion a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000; $10,000 if the accused is the father of the embryo or fetus.

FLICKR USER PLEIN https://flic.kr/p/du7adQ

Republican Senator John Proos of St. Joseph is proposing legislation that would require individuals with solar panels to sell their energy back to the utility companies at a wholesale rate and buy it back at a retail rate. This is also known as net metering.

HTTP://WWW.WAYNECOUNTY.COM/PROSECUTOR/

DETROIT – Charges have been filed in two shootings that killed a child and injured another in Detroit.

Prosecutor Kym Worthy defended her decision to charge relatives of victims who shot themselves after finding unsecured guns at home. She says adults who "adopt, bear or look after children" must be held responsible.

Five-year-old Mariah Davis shot herself in the neck after finding a gun under a pillow on May 11. Her grandparents were charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes.

TomCasperson.com

LANSING – A Michigan senator has introduced legislation that could stop transgender students from using bathrooms that don't match their "biological sex."

Sen. Tom Casperson, a Republican, unveiled a bill Wednesday that would offer accommodations to transgender students with parental consent. But the accommodation can't include a bathroom, locker room or shower used by students "of the opposite biological sex."

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof says the legislation is not a priority for the Senate. It's been assigned to a committee.

Courser/Gamrat websites

LANSING – Two Michigan lawmakers who were forced from office in a sex scandal face a key hearing on charges that they committed felony misconduct in office.

The preliminary exam scheduled to begin Wednesday in a Lansing courtroom will determine if there is probable cause to go to trial. Todd Courser resigned last September and Cindy Gamrat became the fourth legislator to ever be expelled.

The conservative Republicans had an extramarital affair.

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