Stories regarding the legal system

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

The federal government recently released more than 6,000 inmates from custody. It's the first wave of what will be some 4,600 people whose sentences for drug offenses were eased by the United States Sentencing Commission. 

Eighty-three of those federal prisoners were in Michigan when they were sentenced.

A federal judge is allowing the bulk of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a man who died in the Macomb County jail to go forward.

David Stojcevski died in June 2014, after being arrested for failing to pay fines stemming from traffic infractions. His cause of death was determined to be prescription drug withdrawal.

His family’s lawsuit accused county officials, jail staff, and the private contractor who provides medical services at the jail, of not acting to prevent Stojcevski’s  death, even as his health clearly deteriorated and he lost 50 pounds in about two weeks.

flickr user Thomas Hawk /

Over the past few days, thousands of federal inmates were released from prison due to a change in the way the federal government sentences drug criminals.

It adds up to the largest one-time release of federal prisoners.

Brandon Sample is the executive director of Prisology, a national nonprofit movement dedicated to reform of the criminal justice system.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A jury says doctors at a northern Michigan clinic weren't negligent in using tainted steroids that were part of a national meningitis outbreak.

  More than 100 patients sued doctors and the clinic, Neuromuscular & Rehabilitation Associates in Traverse City. The Traverse City Record-Eagle says a jury ruled in favor of the doctors and the clinic Thursday after a civil trial.

Rick Pluta / MPRN

The legal journey for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wrapped up in an Oakland County courtroom, where they finalized adoptions for their children. DeBoer and Rowse are the couple who successfully challenged Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban.

Applause, tears, laughter, and cake were all part of the celebration presided over by Oakland County Circuit Judge Karen McDonald.

The trial of former Inkster police officer William Melendez got underway in Wayne County Circuit Court Wednesday.

Melendez faces charges, including assault and misconduct in office, for beating motorist Floyd Dent during a violent arrest that was captured on dashcam video.

In 2013, Gov. Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy held a news conference to announce $4 million to help reduce a backlog in processing thousands of rape kits. Schuette holds a rape kit box.
Rick Pluta / MPRN

Wayne County plans to use $1 million to help investigate rape kits found six years ago in a Detroit police property storage facility.

County Executive Warren Evans announced Tuesday that the money will be allocated to Prosecutor Kym Worthy's 2015-16 budget.

The move has to be approved by county commissioners. The money would come from a delinquent tax fund.

Evans also says space will be provided in the county's Guardian Building in downtown Detroit for investigators and members of the Sexual Assault Kit Task Force.

Joe Gratz / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a former lawyer for the state of Michigan who lost a defamation lawsuit filed by a gay student at the University of Michigan.

The justices on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that upheld a $3.5 million jury award to Chris Armstrong, a former student government president.

A Macomb County judge found himself at the center of a court hearing Monday.

Eastpointe district judge Carl Gerds III has come under scrutiny for sentencing defendants to jail time for failing to pay fines stemming from civil infractions.

Two of the better-known cases to come out of Gerds’ court include a woman who faced jail time for failing to pay dog licensing fines, and a man who did jail time for failing to pay $1500 worth of traffic tickets.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Drones have many uses. But Michigan lawmakers want to discourage one in particular: delivering contraband to state prison inmates.

Across the country in recent months, people trying to smuggle all kinds of things into prisons have turned to drones. 

Jeroen Bennink / Flickr Creative Commons

Have you ever wondered what happens to your digital data if you die or are incapacitated?  

Legislation has been introduced in Lansing to set rules for how executors of wills and guardians can access digital assets. It also provides for what happens if a person did not sign a will or power of attorney.

Digital assets include photos, financial records, and emails that are held in electronic accounts. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint police are reviewing an incident where a city police officer handcuffed a child at a Flint school.

Flint Police Chief James Tolbert says he has apologized to the mother of the child who was handcuffed. 

Derek Key / flickr

The state Supreme Court has returned 85 criminal cases to lower courts for re-sentencing hearings. That’s because of a recent decision that changed the rules for sentencing defendants.

In August, the state Supreme Court struck down Michigan’s mandatory sentencing guidelines. It said the rules required judges to factor in crimes and evidence that were never proven in court, and that’s unconstitutional.

2-week trial expected in Inkster police beating case

Oct 29, 2015
City of Inkster sign.
City of Inkster

A  judge says a trial is expected to last about two weeks for a police officer seen on video repeatedly punching a motorist in the head during a suburban Detroit traffic stop.

Jury selection begins Monday in the case of 47-year-old William Melendez and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans says that's expected to last two days. The Detroit News reports 90 prospective jurors will be impaneled. Opening statements are Wednesday.

Justice statue
Flickr user Jack / Creative Commons

The Access to Justice Clinic at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School and the 61st District Court are teaming up to help give some criminals a second chance.

Legal experts at the event next week will offer one-on-one legal consultations to help people determine whether their crimes are eligible for expungement.

marazmova / flickr

A new State Police crime lab policy allows prosecutors to charge cannabis users with felonies they didn’t commit. That’s according to medical marijuana activists, who uncovered the policy through a public information request and provided the documents to the Michigan Public Radio Network.

Heroin abuse in Michigan is on the rise. Felix Sharpe of Michigan's Bureau of Substance Abuse and Addiction Services says that 680 people died from heroin overdoses in Michigan last year.
United Nations Photo

A state task force says it should be more important to get medical care for people who overdose on illegal drugs than it is to prosecute them.

“This is a biology issue, not a willpower issue, so the more we can move the discussion into the world of healthcare, I think the better we’ll do in identifying, heading off, and the treating addiction,” says Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, who led the panel. Its job was to recommend ways to combat the spiraling rates of prescription painkiller and heroin addiction and a surge in overdose deaths.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing a suburban Michigan township for denying a zoning permit for an Islamic school. 

Pittsfield Charter Township denied a zoning change to the Michigan Islamic Academy back in 2011.

Township officials said at the time they turned down the request because of concerns that the school would add traffic to an already heavily congested road. But school officials believed their religion played a role.

Gov. Snyder is taking heat regarding decisions made by his Emergency Managers that lead to the Flint water crisis
Gov. Rick Snyder / screengrab

The fallout from the Flint water crisis is far from over.

Yes, the state’s top water official has been “reassigned.”  

And sure, the Department of Environment Quality director admits they bungled the testing of Flint’s water, and failed at setting up appropriate corrosion control measures. Those measures would have prevented lead from leaching from pipes in the Flint’s water.

But there is a deeper anger in Flint aimed at Governor Snyder, and the string of emergency managers he appointed to run the struggling city when it reached a financial crisis.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of cyber security professionals will attend a conference in Detroit Monday.

Rob Davenport is the state of Michigan’s chief technology officer. 

He says there’s been an increase in hacking by organized crime and other nations targeting big business and government computers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s police chief hopes a new federal program will bring additional training and grant funding to fight violent crime.

Police Chief James Tolbert says the Violence Reduction Network will help reduce Flint’s high violent crime rate.  

He says the program will provide training in data analysis to identify individuals most likely to commit or be the victims of violent crime. 

Smart phone
Johan Larsson / Creative Commons

Michigan state police have been using cell phone tracking devices for nearly ten years.

That’s according to documents the American Civil Liberties Union obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

Rebecca Kruth

A soldier with Iraqi heritage has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Michigan Army National Guard.

Lt. Col. Jason Awadi said he was unfairly passed up for a promotion to communications director last summer because of his ethnicity.

Awadi said a panel of senior-ranking military officials nominated him for the promotion "unanimously," and he was given "official military orders" to start the new role in October.

Appeals court to Kilpatrick: "Whatever..."

Oct 22, 2015
Federal Department of Corrections

A federal appeals court has no interest in taking a second look at the corruption case of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

The decision means Kilpatrick will continue serving a 28-year prison sentence unless the U.S. Supreme Court decides to intervene, which is quite the long shot.


Zach Anderson has been removed from Michigan's sex offender registry.

Anderson is the Indiana man who had consensual sex at age 19 with a Michigan teen he met online. She was 14, but said she was 17.

Berrien County Judge Angela Pasula resentenced Anderson under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act to two years probation without requiring sex offender registration. His new sentence permits access to the Internet for schoolwork.

ACLU Michigan

A woman involved in a controversial fight with a mid-Michigan hospital has given birth to a baby girl.

Jessica Mann suffers from a brain tumor. Her doctors advised her that she should undergo a tubal ligation after delivering her baby. 

wikimedia commons

A former Detroit city employee says she was fired after reporting troubling conditions and wrongdoing at the city’s animal shelter.

In a whistleblower lawsuit filed last week, former animal control officer Brittany Roberts claims to have witnessed numerous violations of state law and department policies.

Joe Gratz / Flickr Creative Commons

The Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments for and against local laws that require contractors on public projects to pay union-scale wages. 

The challenge to Lansing’s ordinance was filed by non-union contractors. They say local governments aren’t allowed to adopt local wage laws. 

Family photo

A federal judge should soon decide if a wrongful death lawsuit against Macomb County officials goes to trial.

32-year-old David Stojcevski died of prescription drug withdrawal during a 16-day stay in the Macomb County jail in June 2014.

His suffering and death – captured on video monitors at the jail and released publicly last month – has drawn widespread attention and condemnation.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Detroit City Council has approved a medical marijuana ordinance.

The law outlines licensing and inspection procedures for marijuana dispensaries in the city.