Law

Law
11:28 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Is Detroit safer without a police gang squad? Residents say no

The special police unit could be cut
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Detroit’s gang squad, the special police unit that fights organized street crime, is on the chopping block.

Mayor Dave Bing wants to reassign the 20 or so officers on that squad to regular beat patrol.

He says the only way the city can turn a corner on its crime epidemic is by creating a more visible police presence – and that means some tough calls, given all the recent staff and budget cuts.

Bing is also weighing whether to reassign the officers tasked with protecting city council members.

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Law
10:23 am
Thu February 14, 2013

Michigan AG says federal judge's 'juvenile lifer' ruling not binding

Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for prisoner rehabilitation
Kevin Rosseel morguefile

There’s a difference of opinion between Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the American Civil Liberties Union on how prosecutors should handle a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down sentences of mandatory life without parole for juveniles.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that lifers sent to prison as juveniles are entitled to parole hearings.

Attorney General Schuette then sent a letter to prosecutors that says a federal judge’s opinion is not binding on them.

Schuette’s office did not return phone calls, but ACLU attorney Deborah LaBelle says the letter is out of bounds. She says the attorney general can appeal the decision, but he should not tell prosecutors to ignore it.

“They may disagree with that ruling. That’s fine. I understand, but it’s the law right now,” said LaBelle.

“Once a statute is unconstitutional, it can’t be enforced, and I would think the attorney general would know that, and so the parole board cannot deny jurisdiction to these youth,” she said.

LaBelle says legal arguments are due March 1 on how the state should handle requests for parole hearings by juvenile lifers.

Schuette has opposed extending the reach of the decision to the more than 350 Michigan prisoners sentenced as juveniles to life without parole.

He has said it’s not fair to force the families of murder victims to relive their tragedies.

Law
2:04 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Blood-alcohol limit for drunk driving set to go up unless lawmakers act

user Dinner Series Flickr

The Michigan State Police, Michigan's Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and other groups are urging lawmakers to maintain the state's 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content drunk driving threshold.

As the law stands now, the threshold is set to increase to .10 percent on October 1 of this year.

In the current law, "operating while intoxicated" includes the following:

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Law
3:43 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

TIMELINE: A short history of Michigan's medical marijuana law

Marijuana leaf.
Bob Doran Flickr

Since Michigan voters first passed the state's medical marijuana law back in 2008, there has been a lot of confusion and a lot of legal battles over just how to implement it.

During one court battle in 2010, Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Peter J. O'Connell wrote this:

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Law
2:37 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Michigan auction house owner arrested for sale of rare Korean artifact

After the sale, an investigation was launched into the item, which experts believe is one of three currency plates still in existence from the 1890s. The currency plates ushered in modern currency printing methods in Korea.
ICE

The owner of a Michigan auction house is facing federal charges that he sold a stolen Korean artifact.

James Amato, of Oxford, was arrested today.  He handled the sale of a rare Korean currency plate back in 2010.  

The family of a deceased Korean War vet offered the plate for sale through Amato’s auction house.   The buyer paid 35 thousand dollars for the plate.

Experts believe it's one of three currency plates still in existence from the 1890s. 

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Law
11:33 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Kilpatrick trial wrapping up this week

Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick
Michigan Radio

I wonder if there will be any Kwame Kilpatrick stories in 2014.

For those keeping an eye on this story... the trial is wrapping up this week.

DETROIT (AP) - Kwame Kilpatrick's wife and children have joined him for closing arguments in the former Detroit mayor's corruption trial.

On his Facebook page, Kilpatrick says he's "blessed" to have his "squad" in the courtroom. He says Tuesday is a "victory day."

Kilpatrick's attorney, James Thomas, is speaking to jurors.  Kilpatrick, his father Bernard and city contractor Bobby Ferguson are charged with conspiring to rake in cash through rigged contracts, bribes and other criminal acts.

Prosecutors gave their closing argument Monday, describing Detroit city hall as a "private profit machine" with Kwame Kilpatrick at the wheel.

The jury will also hear from Bernard Kilpatrick's attorney Tuesday. The last arguments from Ferguson's lawyer will be heard Thursday.

Law
10:37 am
Sat February 9, 2013

Bill coming to legalize medical-pot dispensaries in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan lawmaker plans to quickly introduce a bill to legalize medical-marijuana shops after the state Supreme Court said they're not allowed under a 2008 law.

Republican Representative Mike Callton of Nashville, Michigan says he's concerned cancer patients and others won't have access to the drug without dispensaries.

He says many of the state's 125,000 medical-marijuana users can't grow their own and there aren't enough caregivers to grow it for them. Callton says patients will be forced to go underground to find pot.

Developing
4:51 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

Michigan Supreme Court: Medical-pot dispensaries not allowed

boards.cannabis.com

Ever since Michigan voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 2008, confusion over how to implement the practice has reigned. 

In one of the most significant rulings to date, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled today that medical marijuana dispensaries can be shut down as a public nuisance.

Update 4:51 p.m.

MPRN's Jake Neher spoke with Michael Komorn of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association.

Komorn said the ruling is a setback, but that it will be up to local communities to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries.

"I don't think, at the end of the day, that communities - and the people that are within the communities that are going to sit on the jury – are going to convict on these," said Komorn.

"The local authorities have made it clear that they don't want to, nor do they care about, this behavior. They don't find it to be a nuisance and it's not important for them to prosecute," he said.

Neher reports that Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette says he plans to send a letter to county prosecutors explaining how the ruling empowers them to close the dispensaries.

2:45 p.m.

After the Court of Appeals ruling in this case back in 2011, shutdowns and busts followed.

Now we're reading that some dispensaries are being advised to close their doors by their lawyers.

Emily Monacelli reports for MLive on the Med Joint Community Compassion Center in Kalamazoo County. After the ruling, the Center's founder, Kevin Spitler, said his doors would stay open, but that changed:

But less than an hour later, Spitler said his lawyer had advised him to shut down. He said he did not know how long the dispensary would stay closed.  Spitler has seven employees, including himself, all of whom are registered medical marijuana caregivers, he said. He declined to say how many patients they serve. 

"That means everybody has to go to the streets to get their medicine now," Spitler said of the effect of the Michigan Supreme Court ruling.

12:22 p.m.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled today on a case heard before the Michigan Court of Appeals in August 2011.

In 2011, the Court of Appeals found that the Mount Pleasant dispensary, Compassionate Apothecary, was a public nuisance and in violation of the public health code, and that the sale of medical marijuana is not protected under the law.

Many dispensaries closed their doors after that ruling, waiting to see how police might respond. Some departments responded with raids and crackdowns, while others allowed the dispensaries to continue.

It remains to be seen what will occur in the wake of this ruling

The justices who signed the majority 4-2 opinion said their reasoning was different, but the conclusion they reached was the same.

From today's Michigan Supreme Court ruling:

Although it did so for a different reason than the one we articulate, the Court of Appeals reached the correct conclusion that defendants  are not entitled to operate a business that facilitates patient-to-patient sales of marijuana.  Because the business model of defendants’ dispensary relies entirely on transactions that do  not comply with the MMMA, defendants are operating their business in “[a] building . . . used for the unlawful . . . keeping for sale . . . or furnishing of any controlled substance,” and plaintiff is entitled to an injunction enjoining the continuing operation of the business because it is a public nuisance.

11:35 a.m.

We will link to the ruling once we have it.

Karen Bouffard writes for the Detroit News that Supreme Court Justices Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. and Justices Markman, Kelly and Zahra ruled that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008 only protects registered caregivers and their patients.

The justices also ruled patient-to-patient transfers of medical marijuana are not legal under the voter-approved law, appearing to contradict a Court of Appeals decision last week that concluded there's nothing illegal about a medical marijuana user providing a small amount of pot to another registered user at no cost.

Here's more on that appeals court ruling

10:43 a.m.

DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court says users of medical marijuana can't buy it at pot shops.

The 4-1 decision Friday is the most significant court ruling since voters approved marijuana for certain illnesses in 2008. It means the state's 126,000 approved users must grow their own pot or have a state-licensed caregiver grow it for them.

The state appeals court declared dispensaries illegal in 2011, but enforcement has depended on the attitudes of local authorities. Some communities took a hands-off approach while waiting for the Supreme Court to make the ultimate decision.

The case involves a Mount Pleasant dispensary that allowed medical-marijuana users to sell pot to each other. Owners took as much as a 20 percent cut of each sale. Isabella County shut it down as a public nuisance.

Law
4:00 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Law would require registered sex offenders to pay annual fee

The more than 40,000 registered sex offenders in Michigan may soon be required to pay an annual fee.  

They currently pay a one-time $50 charge, but most offenders will be on the registry for 25 years to life.

State Senator Rick Jones says the database costs Michigan State Police about $1 million a year to maintain. He's working on a bill that would require sex offenders to pay $50 or $100  a year.

"I want to keep troopers on the road," Jones says. "This is not too much to ask sex offenders to pay a dollar or two dollars a week."

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Law
2:33 pm
Wed February 6, 2013

Court allows drug charges to stand in worried neighbor case

Police found marijuana growing in Hill's closet when checking on his well-being.
user Laughing Squid Creative Commons

Michigan courts are arguing over one of those gray areas.

A police officer comes into your home to check on you, but then finds something illegal and charges you with a crime.

That happened to a man in Hazel Park.

According to the Associated Press, police came to check on Eric Hill after a neighbor told police Hill had not been seen for several days and his cats were looking out the window.

Once inside, police discovered marijuana growing in his closet and charged him with drug crimes.

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Law
4:48 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Stateside: Michigan's Attorney General talks about human trafficking

Bill Schuette Facebook.com

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

When you hear the term "human trafficking" and let yourself think about what that entails, you might think of it as something that happens overseas, perhaps in exotic places.

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Law
1:45 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Judicial watchdog drops complaint against Hathaway

michigan.gov

DETROIT (AP) -The state agency that monitors judges for misconduct is dropping its complaint against Diane Hathaway now that she's no longer on the Michigan Supreme Court.

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission said Tuesday there's nothing to gain. Hathaway pleaded guilty last week to federal bank fraud for shifting properties and failing to disclose assets while trying to dump her Detroit-area home in a short sale. She could go to prison and lose her law license.

The commission filed an ethics complaint against Hathaway and sought her suspension on Jan. 7 while she was still on the Supreme Court. That led to news that Hathaway had quietly filed retirement papers in December and was planning to quit on Jan. 21.

She was charged with fraud three days before leaving the court.

Law
1:28 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Former Jackson judge pleads guilty to misdemeanor charges

Former Jackson County District Judge James Justin
official portrait

A former Jackson County district judge has pleaded guilty to four counts of willful neglect of duty. The charges are misdemeanors.

The Michigan Supreme Court removed Judge James Justin from the bench a year ago. Justin was suspended in 2010 due to allegations of misconduct.

Justin was accused of fixing speeding and other traffic tickets issued to his wife and his court officers.

Law
6:57 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Former Detroit police officer, convicted in fatal beating, dies

Larry Nevers
Larrynevers.com

DETROIT (AP) - A former Detroit police officer convicted in the 1992 fatal beating of a man near a drug house has died. Larry Nevers was 72.

The Macomb County medical examiner's office says Nevers died Sunday at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital. No details about the cause were immediately available, although Nevers had emphysema.

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Law
5:00 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

8 plead guilty in Michigan right-to-work protest

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Eight people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors after being arrested inside the state Capitol building during a December protest against passage of Michigan's right-to-work law.

Their attorney says they won't get jail time under misdemeanor pleas entered Friday to a Lansing district judge. They will be sentenced in September.

The eight defendants from the Detroit area were arrested and charged with felony resisting and obstructing after police said they tried to push past two troopers guarding the Senate door on Dec. 6.

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Law
12:21 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

How old is too old to be a judge?

This woman is too old to be a judge: former Justice Marilyn Kelly was forced to step down.
http://www.courts.mi.gov/courts/michigansupremecourt/ Michigan Courts

You know how they say 40 is the new 30? According to Michigan's Constitution, 70 is the new senile. 

If you're over the age of 70, you can't be elected or appointed to the bench in this state.

That's a rule that dates back to 1906, according to former Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly, when life expectancies were shorter.

For Kelly, a Democrat, the law means she had to step down when her term ended in January. She's 74. Asked how it feels to be too old to do her job, she laughs.

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Law
10:20 am
Fri February 1, 2013

Feds indict ex-Detroit Public Library contractor

Detroit Public Library
Detroit Public Library

DETROIT (AP) - Federal authorities have accused a former contractor with the Detroit Public Library of bribery in an effort to win a $1.5 million contract.

James Henley was indicted Thursday on charges he bribed a library official in 2007 and 2008. He also has been charged with failing to file tax returns for those years.

Officials say Henley created a company to obtain an information technology contract. The indictment says an unnamed official helped the company win the contract and Henley secretly paid $600,000 in kickbacks to the library official.

The Associated Press left phone and email messages Friday for Henley.

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Law
5:32 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Drunk and near a gun, Michigan court says that's OK

"Open carry" dinner held in Detroit
user westsideshooter Flickr

A gun charge filed against former state House Speaker Craig DeRoche has been dismissed.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled a charge of possessing a firearm while intoxicated violated his Second Amendment rights.
    
DeRoche was charged with being drunk while possessing a firearm in the summer of 2010.

His mother-in-law told police he had locked himself in one of his children’s bedrooms with a 40-caliber-handgun. But, by the time police arrived, she had already taken the gun and hidden it.
    
DeRoche challenged the criminal charge as a violation of his Second Amendment rights.

The Court of Appeals agreed and said, since the gun had been moved away from him to another part of the house, he was only near the firearm – not in possession of it.

The court decision says to rule otherwise would be too restrictive – essentially, people in a residence with a firearm anywhere in it could not consume alcohol.
    
DeRoche served as the state House Republican leader from 2005 to 2008. He says he has quit drinking.

Law
3:41 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Judge opens door for Michigan juvenile lifers

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws that allow juveniles to be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.
US Supreme Court

DETROIT (AP) - A federal judge says all Michigan inmates serving no-parole sentences for murder committed as juveniles are entitled to a chance at release.
 
Judge John Corbett O'Meara says a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory no-parole sentences applies retroactively to Michigan inmates already behind bars.

O'Meara's decision Wednesday trumps a ruling last fall by the Michigan appeals court, which said retroactivity would not apply for most.

Law
11:30 am
Wed January 30, 2013

I-96 shooter suspect found competent to stand trial

Raulie Casteel is accused of a series of shootings along I-96 last October.
Livingston County Sheriff's Department

For 11 days in October, people along the I-96 corridor were on high alert as motorists experienced a rash of shootings. Remarkably 0nly one person was wounded.

Police nabbed the man they say was responsible for the shootings, and today 43 year-old Raulie Casteel was found to be fit to stand trial in Livingston Co.

Casteel faces a separate set of charges in Oakland County, and the Attorney General's office brought a terrorism charge against him.

Casteel's defense lawyers say he is college-educated with no criminal history.

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