4:32 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

Schuette asks for grand jury to investigate steroid illnesses, deaths

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Courtesy of Bill Schuette

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has called for a grand jury investigation into an outbreak of meningitis and other illnesses caused by tainted steroids.

The contaminated medicine has been linked to 259 cases of illness and 14 deaths in the state.

The attorney general filed his request with the Michigan Court of Appeals. If the court says yes, a judge and up to 17 grand jurors would conduct the inquiry into whether any crimes were committed. The proceedings would be secret.

It’s an unusual step, but Schuette says the grand jury would have sweeping authority to do its job.

“Now, this grand jury can be empowered to fully investigate this human tragedy, these 14 deaths and painful illnesses, with the greatest power extended under Michigan law. "

The grand jury would meet in secret. It would have the power to compel people to appear and testify. And it could ask a Massachusetts court to order employees of the pharmacy that made the drug to cooperate.

The judge to lead the investigation and the grand jurors would be drawn from Macomb, Genesee, Livingston, and Grand Traverse counties.

Those counties are where the clinics that administered the contaminated steroid injections are located.

4:55 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

University of Michigan affirmative action case at the Supreme Court

SCOTUS will hear two affirmative action cases
user dbking Flickr

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court granted cert to another affirmative action case, agreeing to hear a case involving the University of Michigan's effort to ban consideration of race in college admissions.

The case has been added to the list the Court will begin hearing in their next session which will begin in October.

The justices are already considering a challenge to a University of Texas program that takes account of race, among other factors.

Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta joined Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty to explain what this means for both cases.

Listen to the full interview above.

4:53 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

LGBT discrimination is bigger than you think

Employers can legally discriminate against members of the LGBT community in Michigan Antioch University

The oral arguments for two gay marriage cases will be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court this week.

The court will focus on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Prop 8 case.

Though they are both cases related to same-sex marriage, each case is different.

There are all sorts of infographics that have been created to accompany commentary on shifting support for gay marriage on a national scale, but what's going on in the Michigan LGBT community?

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham spoke with Cynthia Canty on today's Stateside about the lack of legal protection for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in Michigan and what these cases could mean for them.

Graham is working on a series of reports looking at the legal rights of the LGBT community.

You can listen to Graham's first report here.

And you can listen to our conversation with him above.

4:39 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

Immigration law can tear apart 'mixed' families

Garcia's husband was told he committed a crime when he tried to apply for citizenship
nancybechtol Morguefile

There are eight to 10 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, all of whom are central to the heated immigration debate in Washington D.C. 

More specifically, there are undocumented immigrants who are part of a mixed family - in which one family member is undocumented while the rest of the family are American citizens. 

"It's a horrible tragedy and a national shame, but looking on the bright side, [mixed families] have reframed the debates and things are finally looking like something might happen on immigration reform in Washington," said David Koelsch.

Koelsch is an immigration lawyer and a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy Law School.

"You can talk about the eight to 11 million [undocumented immigrants], but all of those people have loved ones and has a much broader effect in our society and economy beyond just those people," he said.

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5:16 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Are kids in the state's care safe? Court monitor says not safe enough

Almost 14,000 kids in Michigan have been taken out of their own homes by the state because of an abuse or neglect allegation.

Those kids then rely upon the state's Department of Human Services (DHS) to keep them safe and put them in an environment where they have a chance to thrive. Most of those kids end up in foster care.

Six years ago the state was sued by the advocacy group Children's Rights over treatment of kids in its care.

The state was back in court today to see where things stand. Everyone agrees things have gotten better since the lawsuit started six years ago, but the court appointed monitor said too many kids are still unsafe.

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5:04 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Will 7 new police officers in Flint help?

Flint Police Deprtment Headquarters, Flint, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There are seven new police officers patrolling the streets of Flint. They were hired as part of a public safety millage approved by Flint voters last November.

The millage is expected to generate $5.3 million this year, but what's going to happen in future years as the population keeps shrinking and property values drop?

With the recent hiring of seven officers, the Flint Police Department now has 124 officers. That is down from an estimated 350 officers when times were better.

Will these new officers help make a dent in Flint's crime rate? Flint is in the unenviable spot near the top of many of the "most violent city" lists.

Kevin Smith is the president of the Flint Police Officer's Association.

He mentioned that the seven new officers won't make a big difference any time soon.  We asked what it would take, in terms of staffing, to make Flint noticeably safer.

To hear the full interview, click the link above.

3:44 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Blame the weather? No helmet law? Cause of spike in motorcyclist deaths uncertain

Number of motorcyclist fatalities in Michigan since 2008.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The number of motorcyclists who died in traffic accidents in Michigan last year rose 18-percent.

About a year ago Michigan became the thirty-first state to allow people to ride motorcycles without helmets.

But Michigan State Police warn one year isn't enough time to say whether the changes to the helmet law had anything to do with this year’s spike in motorcycle deaths.

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2:27 pm
Sun March 17, 2013

Former Detroit city council member and ex-con Monica Conyers working at Detroit auto shop

DETROIT (AP) - Ex-convict and ex-Detroit City Council member Monica Conyers is working at an auto body shop while serving the remainder of her federal prison sentence for corruption.

The wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers has been working about 21/2 months for Metrotech Collision in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood.

Shop owner Sam Hussein tells The Detroit News that the 48-year-old "is doing a great job" and working about 30 hours a week.

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4:31 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Civil rights, or voters' choice? Royal Oak divided over anti-discrimination law

Royal Oak's anti-discrimination law is on pause.
user Tyrone Warner Flickr

A new law in Royal Oak protecting gay and lesbian people from discrimination has hit a bump in the road.

You’ve heard that a handful of cities in Michigan have anti-discrimination ordinances that say you can't fire or deny housing to someone just because they're gay.

And Royal Oak was about to join that club when their city commissioners okayed the new law.

But 200 people recently signed a petition to put that law on hold.

Now opponents of the ordinance need some 700 signatures by April to bring it up for a city-wide vote. 

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5:51 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

House Democrats push for changes to ethics, election laws during 'Sunshine Week'

State Representative Winnie Brinks at a June press conference announcing she'll run.
Courtesy photo Michigan Democratic Party

It's Sunshine Week, an annual push for open government and the public’s right to know stuff.

Democrats in the state House tied the introduction of a package of bills to Sunshine Week. The bills include a number of changes to Michigan's laws and constitution regarding ethics, campaign finance, and elections.

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Newsmaker Interviews
4:42 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Advocates say juvenile prisoners are at risk

user FatMandy flickr

Michigan is one of 25 states that allow convicted teens, under the age of 18, to be imprisoned with adults.

Attorney Deborah LaBelle is a juvenile justice advocate with the ACLU. She estimates nearly 200,000 children have been abused in adult prisons. LaBelle recently returned from Washington, D.C. where the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted a hearing on this issue with representatives from the U.S. State Department. The hearing focused on the physical, sexual, and psychological abuse experienced by children when housed with adults in prisons.

"In addition to the physical and psychological harm that's going on, putting children in the adult facilitates also results in them losing the very two things that makes them children: education and contact with their family and parents," LaBelle said in this interview with Jennifer White.

You can listen to the full interview above.

11:42 am
Tue March 12, 2013

Michigan women lobbying Congress on gun legislation


Several Michigan women are on their way to Washington D.C. to lobby members of Congress for stricter national gun laws.  They’ll be part of a major lobbying effort tomorrow. 

This week marks the three month anniversary of the Newtown massacre that left 27 people dead, including 20 children.

Linda Brundage is with the group Moms Demand Action.  She says the group supports the Second Amendment, but it still sees room for new laws to ban assault weapons and limit the size of ammunition magazines.  

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8:54 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

Federal prison isn't former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's only concern

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (file photo)
Michigan Radio Newsroom

Kwame Kilpatrick’s federal racketeering and extortion convictions may mean the former Detroit mayor will not be able to pay the city approximately $850,000 in restitution in another case.

Monday, Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted on more than 20 counts of racketeering. extortion and other charges.   The former mayor faces up to 20 years in federal prison. 

In 2008, Kilpatrick agreed to pay a million dollars in restitution as part of a guilty plea to state obstruction of justice charges. He also served time in prison.

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8:44 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

Michigan judge extends McDonald's halal meat case 4 weeks

DETROIT (AP) - A Michigan judge has approved a delay in closing a $700,000 settlement between McDonald's and Muslims who were mistakenly told that food at a restaurant conformed to Islamic dietary rules.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald on Monday granted a 28-day extension of a notice period in the case and lifted an injunction against a lawyer not originally connected with the case from making public statements. A final settlement hearing is scheduled April 17.

The Jaafar and Mahdi Law Group filed the suit and agreed to the judge's actions.

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3:01 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

Kwame Kilpatrick found guilty in public corruption case

Kwame Kilpatrick
Kwame Kilpatrick Facebook

In a big court victory for federal prosecutors, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been found guilty of conspiracy racketeering, extortion, mail fraud, and tax charges.

His longtime contractor friend, Bobby Ferguson, was also found guilty on multiple extortion and racketeering charges.

Kwame Kilpatrick's father, Bernard, was found guilty of one tax charge.

Update 3:01 p.m.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds ordered ex-Detroit Mayor Kilpatrick and his longtime contractor friend, Bobby Ferguson, to be held in prison until their sentencing in the corruption case.

More from the Associated Press:

... he was handcuffed and led to jail after prosecutors asked the judge to revoke his bond. Edmunds said it was a "close call" but agreed that the scale under federal law tipped in favor of the government.

The Detroit Free Press reports on the argument federal prosecutors made that Kilpatrick should be detained:

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta argued that Kilpatrick should be detained because he has a history of disobeying orders. He also said Kilpatrick has access to money, as does Ferguson. Bullotta said Kilpatrick lied after his convictions on obstruction of justice charges in the text message scandal that drove him out of office.

“It’s a different ball game now,” he said.

As he was lead away, Kilpatrick spoke to his family:


Update 12:23 p.m.

Some jurors in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial are answering questions from the media right now.

Jim Shaefer of the Detroit Free Press is live-blogging at the courthouse.

When asked if they felt anger toward Kilpatrick for using the mayor's office for personal gain, they said anger doesn't quite capture it - disappointment does:

Juror No. 6: "We had no anger...this was very serious. we had a large responsibility. I think we felt we did that responsibility...we had no anger or any other emotion other than we felt the (impact) this decision would have on the defendants."

Juror No. 11: "I wouldn't call it anger. I would call it more so disappointment, with me voting for the mayor twice. ...I saw a lot that really, really turned my stomach, and I couldn't believe this kind of thing was going on... but there was never any anger. Disappointment is all I feel."

When asked if they felt sorry for the defendants...

Juror No. 11: "I feel bad for the families. There's always a bit of sadness for the children and the families...I don't feel bad for the defendants, because I think you go into things knowing what you're doing."

The Detroit News just pushed this picture of Kilpatrick leaving the courthouse earlier this morning out on Twitter:

12:00 p.m.

Jurors are taking questions from the media now. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is in the courtroom and will have updates for us later today.

The jurors who chose to speak to the media are saying they took each of the 45 counts seriously, and carefully weighed the evidence for each count.

They say they also took the judge's orders to not follow media accounts of the trial very seriously.

Jim Schaefer of the Freep blogs:

Juror No. 7 says she was a social media junkie, but gave it up for the trial.

When asked which charge was the toughest to decide:

Juror No. 12: "We are a nice group of times, arguments got a little heated" but identifying one charge as difficult is tough. All of them were tough. We took good notes, looked through them, worked with good diligence.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing released the following statement regarding the verdict.

“I am pleased that this long trial has ended and we can finally put this negative chapter in Detroit’s history behind us.  It is time for all of us to move forward with a renewed commitment to transparency and high ethical standards in our City government.”

11:28 a.m.

There were 45 charges in all against the three men (30 against Kwame Kilpatrick, 11 against Bobby Ferguson, and four against Bernard Kilpatrick).

Jim Schaefer of the Detroit Free Press reports Kilpatrick was found guilty of 24 of the 30 charges against him.

Bobby Ferguson was found guilty of nine of the 11 charges against him.

And Kwame Kilpatrick's father, Bernard Kilpatrick, was found guilty on one tax charge.

At 1:30 today, the judge will decide whether the men will be allowed to be free on bond until the sentencing hearing.

11:05 a.m.

Kwame Kilpatrick, Bernard Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson have left the courtroom. The following tweets describe the scene:

10:56 a.m.

The Detroit Free Press' Jim Schaefer has been live-blogging the verdicts this morning.

Here's how he described the reactions from Kwame Kilpatrick (KK) and Bobby Ferguson (BF):

KK was shaking his head through some of the guilty verdicts. Now the defendants are all staring at the jury, but everyone is composed.

Jury has left the room. Defendants have sat down. Judge wants to discuss detention.

Judge says that will require a hearing. She will take that up at 1:30. In the meantime, the defendants will remain free on bond.

KK has his chin resting on his right hand as he sits in his chair.

A staggering defeat, obviously, for the former mayor.

BF is slumped a bit in his chair. BK is seated on the edge of his chair.

KK now has his hands clasped in front of him, chin resting on them.

10:51 a.m.

The jury has finished reading their verdicts. There were 45 charges in all against the three men. The jury was unanimous in 40 of them.

The federal government has won its RICO case against Kwame Kilpatrick and his longtime contractor friend Bobby Ferguson.

Kwame's father, Bernard Kilpatrick, was found not guilty in the racketeering charges, but he was found guilty of one tax charge.

Kilpatrick and his longtime contractor friend Bobby Ferguson have been found guilty on multiple racketeering, extortion, wire and mail fraud charges.  Kilpatrick has also been found guilty of mail and wire fraud.

10:40 a.m.

The verdicts are coming in now, Kwame Kilpatrick has been found guilty on the racketeering and extortion charges, more charges are coming in.

10:35 a.m.

Photo of the media waiting for the verdict from the Detroit Free Press' Nathan Bomey.

10:29 a.m.

We are preparing to hear the verdicts in the Kwame Kilpatrick public corruption case.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, and longtime friend and contractor Bobby Ferguson all face dozens of charges, the most serious of which is conspiracy racketeering under the federal RICO Act (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act).

The Detroit Free Press reports the racketeering charges carry "a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison."

We will update this post as we hear the verdicts.

9:38 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Verdict in ex-Detroit mayor corruption trial

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (file photo)
Michigan Radio Newsroom

DETROIT (AP) - A court spokesman says jurors have reached a verdict in the corruption trial of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Rod Hansen says in an email that lawyers for Kilpatrick, his father Bernard and city contractor Bobby Ferguson have been summoned Monday morning to Detroit federal court after 14 days of deliberations.

Read more
11:53 am
Sun March 10, 2013

Beating blight: Michigan lawmaker says cities need to get tough


A Michigan state senator says cities need tougher laws against owners of blighted properties.

A national report found nearly a quarter of all Detroit properties were blighted in 2011.

State Sen. Virgil Smith has proposed bills to hold the landowners accountable for razing or repairing their properties.

Read more
4:41 pm
Fri March 8, 2013

Grand Valley, student reach settlement over guinea pig

A pair of guinea pigs.
Wikimedia Commons

A student who sued Grand Valley State University over the right to keep a guinea pig in her on-campus apartment has reached a settlement with the school for $40,000. reports that Kendra Velzen sued under the federal Fair Housing Act.  Velzen reportedly needed the guinea pig for emotional support. The school allowed her to keep the guinea pig in her room, but she was worried about possible restrictions. Grand Valley denies any wrongdoing.

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4:01 pm
Fri March 8, 2013

Medical marijuana patients say they can't wait for new rules to be written in Michigan

Many medical marijuana patients have been unable to get the drug since the Michigan Supreme Court ruled dispensaries are illegal.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

More than a hundred medical marijuana patients and their supporters turned out for a rally in Jackson today.   They’re concerned that legal wrangling is getting in the way of patient care.

A month ago, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal.

The court's decision came in a case out of Mt. Pleasant.  

Read more
5:05 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

Dead? In jail? No food assistance for you

Credit Alviman / MorgueFile

A state lawmaker wants to automatically discontinue food assistance benefits when people die or go to jail. 

Representative Tim Kelly says he's embarrassed about loopholes in Michigan's Bridge Card program.  

A bill approved by the House this week would order the Department of Human Services to conduct a monthly computer match against the Social Security Death Index database and incarceration records.

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