Law

Law
4:47 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

State laws allowing life sentences without parole for juveniles unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court
User kconnors MorgueFile.com

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning struck down state laws that allow juveniles to be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. The ruling says life without parole for crimes that occurred when a felon was younger than 18 is excessive and violates the Eighth Amendment.

Michigan is one of several states that allowed juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole. The state has more than 350 people in state prisons serving life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles.

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Law
12:52 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

Abuelazam gets life without parole, other Flint stabbing cases remain

Mug shot of Elias Abuelazam
Arlington, Virginia Police Department

A prosecutor handling charges from a 2010 stabbing spree in the Flint area says he'll talk to victims and relatives about offering plea deals to close the remaining cases.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton says he needs to balance their feelings with the costs of taking eight more cases to trial. Elias Abuelazam was sentenced to life in prison without parole Monday, a month after being convicted in the first murder trial.

Abuelazam still faces two murder trials and six attempted murder trials. He's also charged with attempted murder in Toledo, Ohio.

It's not known if the 35-year-old Abuelazam is even interested in settling the remaining cases. The next court hearing won't occur until near Labor Day.

Law
10:29 am
Mon June 25, 2012

Supreme Court rules life without parole for juveniles unconstitutional

U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that life sentences without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders violates the Constitution's Eighth Amendment (the ban on cruel and unusual punishment).

The ruling has big ramifications on Michigan. The state has one of the highest populations of juvenile offenders serving life sentences---358 out of about 2,500 nationwide.

The ACLU sued the state of Michigan back in 2010. Their press release at the time said the United States is the only country in the world that sentences young people to life without the possibility of parole:

....and Michigan incarcerates the second highest number of people serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed when they were 17 years old or younger. Currently, there are 350 individuals serving such mandatory life sentences in Michigan.

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court drew from two previous cases---one banning the death penalty for youth offenders and the other outlawing life without parole for juveniles in non-homicide cases.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority, said that those previous cases establish that "chil­dren are constitutionally different from adults for sentencing purposes. Their 'lack of maturity' and 'underdeveloped sense of responsibility'  lead to recklessness, impulsivity, and heedless risk-taking."

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Law
3:50 pm
Sat June 23, 2012

How do anti-discrimination laws affect your business, job, and community?

Young people march "until love is equal" in Holland last August. The march was in protest the city council's vote in June 2011 not to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the city's anti-discrimination laws.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Civil Rights is studying how current laws and policies regarding gay and transgender people affect people’s lives, jobs, communities and businesses. Though state laws ban discrimination in housing and employment based on some factors – people who are gay or transgender are not included.

The department will hold a public hearing in Holland Tuesday.

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Law
3:44 pm
Sat June 23, 2012

Genesee County cracks down on unlicensed dogs

A guilty look?
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - After a brief amnesty, Genesee County officials are sending a small army of enforcers door to door to find dogs that don't have a license.

The Animal Control Department predicts the crackdown could raise more than $250,000 in fees this summer. There are 18 full-time workers who will sell licenses on the spot or write tickets.

Chief animal control officer Walt Rodabaugh tells The Flint Journal (http://bit.ly/MfgUWd ) that many roads "have never been touched before." He says some residents haven't seen someone from his department in decades.

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Law
3:43 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

Snyder-appointed commission recommends better public defense for poor

User southernfried MorgueFile.com

A state commission adopted recommendations this morning to help ensure fair trials for people who can't afford to pay for an attorney.

Michigan's county-by-county indigent defense system is considered one of the worst in the country. The report calls for an independent agency to be a watchdog on counties' public defender systems -- and to step in when they fall short. It also calls for more training for public defenders, limiting caseloads and better compensation.
    
Judge James Fisher chaired the Michigan Indigent Defense Advisory Commission. He says the agency would set standards for every county to follow, “so that we can ensure that people have attorneys representing them who are capable, and adequately compensated, qualified, experienced, so forth.”

And the state should step in, he says, when counties don’t live up to the rules.

Republican state Representative Tom McMillin served on the commission. He says the Legislature will begin hearings on the recommendations this summer.

“When we’re looking at taking away somebody’s liberty and putting them in jail, I think that that’s an extremely, extremely high priority to ensure that we have as much equal justice as possible," he said.

He says it’s also critical to ensure that attorneys are independent from the judges hearing their cases.  

“When an attorney is counting on satisfying judges for their next appointment," he said, "there’s a question on whether that attorney is serving the best interests of the client who may end up in jail, or is some of that interest in satisfying the judge?"

McMillin and Democratic state Representative Ellen Cogan-Lipton say they’re already drafting legislation to create a commission and an agency to oversee indigent defense. 
       
Now, it’s up to the Legislature and Governor Snyder to enact the recommendations. Hearings could begin this summer. Fixing public defense in Michigan could cost taxpayers $50 million dollars.
   

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Law
8:02 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Gov. Snyder signs bill outlawing designer drugs

Gov. Rick Snyder, (R) Michigan, signs legislation outlawing designer drugs
courtesy of Gov. Snyder's office

On July 1, the state will launch a crackdown to clear store shelves of a type of synthetic marijuana called K2.

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Law
4:16 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court allows lawsuit to move foward on Gun Lake Casino

Rishad Darwoowala Flickr

Michigan's Gun Lake Casino is under threat to shut down after less than two years in operation.

The U.S. Supreme Court said a lawsuit challenging the west Michigan casino can move forward.  The suit said the casino increases traffic and hurts the aesthetic of the rural area.

It said the U.S. Department of the Interior should never have reserved land for the tribe that runs the casino. That's because the Gun Lake tribe was not federally recognized during the Indian Reorganization Act. The Act was passed in 1934. It spells out land ownership rights for tribes.

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