WUOMFM

Law

Stories regarding the legal system

FLICKR USER TONY WEBSTER/FLICKR

Starting today, Michigan’s Amber Alert will only be issued for cases of child abductions.

Det/Sgt Sarah Krebs is the Amber Alert coordinator. She says the change is intended to stress the urgency of the alert.

“Unfortunately, when you have a broad set of criteria, you’re going to be putting out more Amber Alerts,” says Krebs. “That’s why we want to reserve it for those really crucial cases, those being children abducted by strangers.”

Under Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit has used federal anti-blight funds for an aggressive demolition campaign.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

We now know the contents of two federal subpoenas issued to the Detroit agencies running the city’s building demolitions program, but they don’t tell us much more than we already knew about an ongoing investigation.

The Detroit Land Bank and Building Authorities received the subpoenas in May.

They demanded the agencies turn over basically everything they have related to federally funded demolition contracts since the start of 2014.

Many Flint residents still rely on bottled water.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A judge has appointed a mediator in a federal case that could dramatically change how the state of Michigan responds to the Flint water crisis.

Last month, U.S. District Judge David Lawson ordered the state to immediately begin delivering safe bottled water to Flint residents. Right now the state provides water and filters but residents have to pick it up or call a hotline to get it delivered.

Liana Aghajanian / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Watered-down legislation aimed at protecting animals from abuse was signed into law yesterday by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. 

Under the new law, animal shelters are allowed to perform criminal background checks on people who want to adopt pets. And the shelters can choose to deny an animal to people who have been convicted of animal abuse in the past five years.

It's not clear there's anything preventing shelters from taking those actions already.

Earlier versions of the bills would have required the background check and prohibited the adoption.

Gov. Snyder speaks at United Shore Financial Services in 2013, when the company announced it was adding 600 new jobs.
YouTube screengrab

A Metro Detroit-based mortgage lender has reached a $48 million settlement with the federal government.

Troy-based United Shore Financial Services was certified to make direct loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration’s mortgage insurance program.

But according to the U.S. Justice Department, USFS knowingly violated a number of FHA program rules, and signed off on hundreds of bad loans between 2006 and 2011—leaving taxpayers on the hook.

Plastic bag caught in a tree.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is signing bills into law while Governor Rick Snyder is out of the state for the winter holidays. One of the laws he signed preempts local ordinances that ban or restrict plastic bags used by retailers.

Business groups say a patchwork of local rules on plastic bags would place a burden on retailers.

But local government officials say it should be up to them to decide how to handle litter and other problems with the common use of plastic bags. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley has signed a bill making it illegal to financially benefit by selling or distributing a fetus or any fetal tissue – a practice that's already illegal.

LucasTheExperience / Flickr

A Republican blogger and activist from West Michigan is headed to jail. Last month a jury found Brandon Hall guilty of 10 felony counts for forging signatures on election petitions in 2012.

Hall admitted to using different pens and hands to forge the signatures to get a judicial candidate on the ballot.

The Grand Haven Tribune reports the 27-year-old Grand Haven man called his actions "the most ignorant thing I've ever done."

Thomas told us the 6th Amendment determines that juvenile lifers should be resentenced by a jury, not a judge.
flickr user Joe Gratz / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the rights of criminal defendants to have an attorney during their preliminary exam.

Gary Lewis was convicted of multiple arson charges in 2014. During his preliminary examination, Lewis’s attorney was taken off the case, but the preliminary exam continued anyway.

Now, the Michigan Supreme Court is going to hear arguments on whether Lewis’s conviction should be overturned. He was found guilty at trial.  

Incoming sheriffs attend a training session in East Lansing.
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

On January 1, 33 new sheriffs will begin their new jobs.

It’s the biggest change at the top of Michigan law enforcement in decades.

Terry Jungel is the executive director of the Michigan Sheriff’s Association. He can’t remember a time when so many of Michigan’s 83 county sheriffs were new to the job.

“I think it’s a new generation coming in with a new expectation,” says Jungel, who adds that many of the retiring sheriffs had difficulty with public demands for greater transparency, including body cams.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - The families of two sisters whose snowmobile plunged off a cliff on Mackinac Island in 2010 will get a chance to take their case to a jury.

The Michigan Supreme Court last week turned down an appeal from Arctic Cat, the snowmobile maker, although two justices wanted to hear the case. It means a key decision by the state appeals court will stand.

Michigan Supreme Court

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The outgoing chief justice of Michigan's Supreme Court is pushing to move the state's jury duty system to one that eases wait times.

  Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. tells the Detroit Free Press that Michigan's jury process is "extraordinarily stupid," as people often get called for jury duty only to sit around in a courthouse before being sent home.

  Young says jury duty is an important obligation for U.S. citizens and that the court shouldn't burden them by wasting their time.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A national humanitarian organization says Michigan's prison system is keeping Jewish inmates from celebrating Hanukkah because they are not allowed to use matches or lighters.

Surfside, Florida-based Aleph Institute says prisoners are unable to light menorahs over the eight-day Hanukkah observance that starts Saturday.

Rabbi Menachem Katz says Corrections officials "should have a little compassion."

Prison policy prevents inmates from possessing candles, lighters and other incendiary devices during group religious services or activities.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A class of new troopers is reporting for duty at the Michigan State Police.

There will be 41 new troopers at posts across the state next week. They graduated Thursday as part of the 131st trooper recruit school.

Gov. Rick Snyder and Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue congratulated the new officers and urged them to do their best. Etue told them, "Treat others the way you want to be treated."

Awards were given for academic achievement, marksmanship and outstanding performance. Trooper Thomas Gladney III was selected to speak on behalf of all the graduates.

Prison bars
powelli / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A former Michigan prison guard is facing charges stemming from the death of an inmate at the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Pittsfield Township.

Janika Edmond committed suicide after she was left unsupervised in a shower at the prison last year.

The 25-year-old allegedly told guard Dianna Callahan that she was going to kill herself and asked to be placed in a protective restraint.

City Hall in Benton Harbor.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - No charges will be filed in the fatal shooting of a Benton Harbor man by a police officer.

Berrien County prosecutor Michael Sepic says the officer acted in self-defense in the death of 28-year-old Darius Wimberly in October.

Video showed Benton Harbor officers outside a house to investigate a report of someone being held at gunpoint. There was no incident, but shots were suddenly fired by someone nearby.

Kevin Matthews
Family photo

Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Wednesday she will not charge two Dearborn police officers with crimes.

The officers were involved in separate shooting incidents that happened about a year ago.

Kevin Matthews was shot dead by a Dearborn police officer in Detroit, after a brief foot chase just after Christmas last year.

About a month later, another Dearborn officer shot and killed Janet Wilson in her car outside Fairlane Mall. Both were unarmed.

Lamarr Monson takes notes in court during final arguments to overturn his murder conviction.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Lawyers made their final arguments in court Wednesday, but it will take more than a month for a Wayne County judge to decide whether Lamarr Monson deserves a new trial.

Monson confessed to the 1996 murder of Christina Brown, a 12-year-old runaway. The two lived and sold drugs together out of an apartment on Detroit’s west side, though Monson and others say Brown told people she was 17.

But Monson later said that Detroit police tricked and coerced him into confessing. And his lawyers say it bears the hallmarks of a false confession.

flickr.com

The Arab American Civil Rights League claims Western Union is discriminating against customers based on their religion and country of origin.

Director Rula Aoun says the company refused service to Dearborn resident and long-time Western Union customer Haidar Abdallah. 

He wanted to send money to the West Bank in Palestine.  Aoun says the amount was not suspicious.

"This was just a couple hundred dollars, just to support his wife and children," says Aoun.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder has signed into law legislation compensating people who’ve been wrongfully imprisoned.

Under the “Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act,” the compensation would amount to $50,000 for every year the individual was incarcerated, in addition to reasonable attorney fees and expenses.

“Michigan’s criminal justice system does a tremendous job, however there is always more we can do to make it better, particularly for those who have been wrongfully imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit,” Snyder said in a written statement.  

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal court is giving the state of Michigan and the city of Flint until Friday to show how they are complying with a court ruling ordering the immediate delivery of bottled water to Flint homes without working water filters.  

michigan.gov

Governor Rick Snyder has increased his legal defense budget for one of his private attorneys to $3.5 million dollars.

Snyder hired Warner, Norcross & Judd LLP last spring to represent him in the investigations into the Flint water crisis.

The contract for their firm at the time was for 249-thousand dollars. Over time, that cap rose to 2 million dollars before its most recent increase.  

Spokesperson for Governor Snyder, Anna Heaton, said as long as the Attorney General’s investigation is ongoing, there is legal work to be done.

LSAT study books.
user Shane S / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A Michigan man wants blind people to be able to opt out of taking the Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT. And now, he’s taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Five years ago, Angelo Binno sued the American Bar Association for disability discrimination.

The Bar says law schools are required, as part of their admissions process, to only accept students that have taken the LSAT or another “valid and reliable test.”

A roundup of our juvenile lifers in Michigan series

Dec 20, 2016
Photos from our series on juvenile lifers in Michigan.
Steve Carmody, Jodi Westrick, and Thomas Hawk. / Michigan Radio and Flickr - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

In the 1990s, Michigan took a tough stand against teens under 18 convicted of violent crimes. Prosecutors in Michigan started locking more of them up for life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life without parole sentences are unconstitutional for juveniles. The justices found that it violated the Eighth Amendments' prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment."

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (left) and Special Counsel Todd Flood, along with Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton and the Flint Water Investigative Team have been investigating the Flint water crisis for most of the year
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Prosecutors say they will announce another round of criminal charges in the Flint water crisis tomorrow.

The announcement does not indicate if there are new charges against the current defendants or if charges are being filed against new defendants.

Nine current and former government employees have been charged so far in the aftermath of the Flint water crisis.

Flint’s former utilities director and a retired state health department epidemiologist have cut deals with prosecutors. 

The other seven defendants face court hearings next year.

Dr. Larry Nassar
Michigan Attorney General's office

A Michigan doctor who formerly worked for USA Gymnastics and is facing sexual assault charges has been indicted on child pornography charges.

The child pornography indictment against Dr. Larry Nassar was unsealed Friday in federal court in Grand Rapids. He's already charged with sexual assault in state court and is a target in civil lawsuits filed by former female gymnasts.

The indictment says Nassar received child pornography and possessed thousands of images, from 2003 through 2016.

A person marking a ballot.
flickr user Michael Dorausch / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The U.S. Justice Department says Eastpointe’s system of electing council members to represent the entire city, at-large as opposed to a certain ward or neighborhood, has resulted in violations of the Voting Rights Act.

City Manager Steve Duchane says local leaders support inclusion and diversity, but disagree with the allegations.

“I think we’re saddened. I think it’s a bit repulsive to be talking about black, white the way we are in this justice department letter and in our conversations with them,” Duchane said.

"If the prosecutors were picking one person and saying, this is the rare one, that would be very different. But they're picking 250 people and saying, they're all rare, without exercising the discretion," Labelle said.
flickr user Thomas Hawk / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court handed down a directive saying that all prisoners sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed as minors, so-called “juvenile lifers,” should get the chance to have their sentences reconsidered.

Today we end our series Michigan's Juvenile Lifers: Who gets a second chance? with a look at Philadelphia's approach, which differs from Michigan's. We also hear why one attorney says it's "basic decency" to give juvenile lifers a shot at parole.

For many Flint residents, trips to a nearby water distribution center is a regular part of life.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals says the state must start delivering bottled water to households in Flint that don’t have working filters.

Pages