Articles Posted in Legal

Conviction Integrity Unit Explained

The Conviction Integrity Unit is a department within the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office that seeks to investigate claims of innocence among those who have been convicted and imprisoned for a variety of serious crimes. The Conviction Integrity Unit looks to determine if there is new evidence that is clear and convincing that the person convicted was not the person who committed the alleged crime. The Conviction Integrity Unit has three attorneys working full time, two part time, as well as a full-time investigator and full-time administrative staff member. Since its inception in 2018, the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit has granted 20 exonerations to those wrongly convicted and imprisoned. Among them is Richard Phillips, a man who spent the longest time in prison before being exonerated after 45 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Various groups such as the University of Michigan Law School Innocence Project have been instrumental in investigating and helping bring claims forward for those who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. iStock_000013714975_Double-2-300x217

Prosecutor Seeks Additional Funding

Public Demand for Transparency

In the wake of the heinous death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, the American public has made its opinion known about their demand for police accountability and transparency. Millions have taken to the streets around the world in an effort to help make change in how police interactions with people are handled. Police brutality and accountability are at the top of the list for proposed changes to the system as a whole. It is currently an incredibly high burden to charge police criminally, as well as sue them in civil court for money damages for their harmful conduct and behavior. In response to this outcry, some police departments and prosecutors’ offices have looked to make change in policies that are unfair to the public at large. One such program that was in place before the George Floyd murder was the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit, which has re-opened old cases where there was questionable evidence due to alleged police misconduct. This department has helped secure the release of a number of people who were wrongly convicted and have been sitting in prison for crimes they did not commit. The success of this program has led Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy towards other programs aimed at showing transparency within Wayne County and its police agencies. 13673792_s-300x200

Wayne County Program

“8 Can’t Wait” Explained

“8 Can’t Wait” is an organization and campaign to bring immediate and necessary change to police departments all over the country. 8 Can’t Wait is in favor of more restrictive policies for police when dealing with the use of force. 8 Can’t Wait is based on the implementation of 8 specific policies that research shows could save lives and reduce the amount of people killed at the hands of the police. The 8 policies that are the backbone of 8 Can’t Wait are: iStock_000002709890_Large-2-300x200

1. Banning Chokeholds and Strangleholds: Banned in all situations.

Current Laws and Practice

People enter the criminal justice system in fairly typical ways; they are accused of a crime and convicted either by trial or by plea bargain. Did you know that people also enter the criminal justice system in because they are unable to pay their fines or traffic tickets? Every year hundreds of thousands of Michiganders lose their driver’s license due to low-level offenses and/or not being able to come up with the money to pay their fines, tickets, and court fees. Drivers are often unaware that their driver’s license had been suspended and then get pulled over for a civil infraction such as speeding and end up getting arrested on the misdemeanor charge of driving while license suspended. This typically results in at least one day of jail while they wait to see a judge, along with the car getting impounded. Of course, the costs in getting the car out of impound will be significant, as will the new fine that will be added because of the outcome of the driving while license suspended criminal misdemeanor. In this case, simply being unable to pay fines and court costs led to an unexpected entry into the criminal justice system. iStock_000000687101_Large-2-300x200

Changes Sought by Lawmakers

Makeup of Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court is the highest court in the state of Michigan. It is made up of seven justices who are elected to serve eight-year terms on the bench. The Court is located in the state’s capitol, in downtown Lansing. Justices run as non-partisan candidates that are supported by political parties. While they don’t actually run with a party affiliation next to their names, political ads on all sides make it clear what side of the political aisle they are in line with. It is common to see multiple judges together in ads in an effort to elect multiple justices together when it is possible. If a Supreme Court justice is not able to complete their term for any reason, then the sitting governor will appoint a justice who will serve out the remainder of the term, however long it is. Once that term ends, the seat opens up again, but the appointed Justice gets the honor of running as an incumbent candidate. Running as an incumbent is often seen as a huge advantage in judicial elections, where incumbents usually win. There are two seats on the Michigan Supreme Court that are going to be available for this coming election time. One belongs to Chief Justice Bridget Mark McCormack who is seeking re-election, and the other belongs to Justice Stephen Markman, who will not be seeking re-election because of his age. The Michigan Constitution does not allow judges to seek re-election once they have hit the age of 70. If they turn 70 during their term, they are allowed to finish out that term. Grabel04a-2-300x146

Attorney Profile

The Current Court Makeup

The Michigan Supreme Court is made up of seven justices who are elected for eight-year terms. Judges technically run for office as people without political affiliation. They are, however, nominated by political parties so their philosophical leanings are usually found to be in line with political viewpoints. Four of the seven current Michigan Supreme Court Justices were nominated by the Republican party while three of the seven were nominated by the Democratic Party. The current 4-3 Republican nominee majority might be in jeopardy this fall in the next elections. The last time that Democratic nominees held a majority on the Michigan Supreme Court came in 2010. If openings on the Michigan Supreme Court become available in the middle of a term for whatever reason, then the governor will appoint a Justice to serve out the remaining time on the term. The Justice will then have to run for election at the end of that term. Grabel04a-2-300x146

Available Seats

Original Case Details

A Detroit man is free after spending 8 years behind bars for a cocaine conviction that he was wrongfully convicted of. Darrell Chancellor is now fighting back as he has filed a federal lawsuit against a former member of the Detroit Narcotics team for framing him. This former narcotics officer, Stephen Geelhood, is currently under investigation for allegedly framing innocent people and taking bribes from known drug dealers. Chancellor accuses Geelhood of lying in affidavit where Geelhood claimed that he saw Chancellor selling drugs. The affidavit got a search warrant approved, which resulted in the raid of Chancellor’s mother’s house. Cocaine was found at the home and Chancellor was sentenced to a minimum 14 years and three months in state prison as a habitual offender, fourth offense. Chancellor served 8 years of that sentence before the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit realized that he had been wrongfully convicted based on a false affidavit, which resulted in Chancellor’s exoneration. iStock_000000687101_Large-2-300x200

The Lawsuit

What Will Be on the Ballot?

In the upcoming November elections, voters will have the chance to decide if police should be allowed to access people’s electronic data and communications. This is an update to the Michigan Constitution which would make a constitutional amendment barring police from the search and seizure of private electronic information without a valid warrant. It is important to note that this change would be to the Michigan Constitution and not the United States Constitution. Other states have passed similar legislation overwhelmingly. The state of New Hampshire passed a similar measure in 2018 with over 80% in favor. Missouri did it four years earlier with 75% support. If passed, this would apply to Michigan law enforcement agencies only, not federal authorities. It would also bar Michigan law enforcement from working on behalf of federal authorities in trying to gain access to electronic data without a warrant. Generally, police agencies seek warrants or have other legal justification for executing searches, but this new amendment would make the requirements official. iStock_000002709890_Large-2-300x200

The Fourth Amendment

Original Case Details

Lakeside Academy is a youth center that focuses on helping troubled youths who exhibit negative behavior or get in trouble. Three staff members from this center are being charged with homicide for the death of a 16-year-old boy named Cornelius Fredericks. Fredericks was physically restrained by staff members for 12 minutes. This caused him to lose consciousness and become unresponsive. Witnesses stated that Fredericks was foaming at the mouth and appeared to be choking on his own tongue. Fredericks was transported to the hospital where he died two days later of cardiac arrest. There is video footage of this incident which has not been released to the public.juvenile-crimes-justice

The three staff members, Michael Mosley, Zachary Solis, and Heather McLogan all stand charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of Cornelius Fredericks. Mosley and Solis are accused of knowingly harming Fredericks by laying across his abdomen while restraining him. McLogan is accused of gross negligence for failing to perform her legal duty as a nurse to obtain medical care for Fredericks. All three defendants are also charged with second degree child abuse. Involuntary manslaughter carries up to 15 years in prison upon conviction, while child abuse in the second degree is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The original reason for Fredericks being restrained was because he threw a sandwich in the Academy cafeteria.

What is Expungement?

An Expungement is a legal process where you are able to remove one or more criminal convictions from your record. Not all convictions are eligible for expungement, and surprisingly, most people never seek an expungement when they are eligible. A 2019 University of Michigan study found than less than 10% of those eligible for expungements even apply for one in the first place. If you are eligible for an expungement, you have to file a motion and request that a Circuit Judge remove your conviction from your record. The prosecutor has a right to be present and be heard at an expungement hearing, as do any victims related to the original conviction. If the judge agrees to expunge your conviction, then your fingerprint card is destroyed, and the conviction is removed from your permanent criminal record. Once that happens, you will never have to check the box on a job application ever again stating that you have a criminal conviction. This process may seem daunting, but an experienced criminal defense attorney should be able to help guide you without too much of an issue. iStock_000013860209_Full-2-300x200

Current Rules

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