Original Case Details

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is set to testify over her handling of Former state senator Virgil Smith’s criminal case. Smith was sentenced to ten months in the Wayne County Jail back in 2016 for a felony charge of malicious destruction of property along with admitting that he brandished a gun and fired shots at his ex-wife’s car. An initial plea deal with negotiated where the Wayne County Prosecutors Office agreed to drop three charges if Smith agreed to resign from the Senate along with agreeing to not hold elected office during his probation period, which would have been set for five years. When the negotiated plea deal went in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Talon, the judge removed both requirements relating Smith’s ability to hold elected office from the deal, stating that the terms were unconstitutional. Prosecutors didn’t agree with a deal that did not include resignation and no elected office so they attempted to withdraw the deal, but Judge Talon would not allow the withdrawal. Prosecutors appealed the Judge’s decision and won at the Michigan Supreme Court in 2018, where the ruling said that the judge should have allowed prosecutors to withdraw from the deal since key parts of it were removed by the judge. After the deal was successfully withdrawn, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy then offered Smith a new deal if he pled to two felonies, which included the previous malicious destruction of property charge in addition to felonious assault. Seeing as Smith had already served his jail time in 2016, and had no new charges or violations, he found this to be vindictive on Worthy’s part since Smith had a deal that included only one felony conviction previously. Smith had also unsuccessfully attempted a run for a seat on Detroit City Council after serving his jail time. criminal-justice-attorney-300x225

What Is The Current Situation?

Original Case Details

Oakland County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Cadotte was recently arraigned in the 50th District Court in Pontiac on a single charge of careless discharge of a firearm causing injury. He was charged for allegedly inadvertent shooting that occurred where he shot a pregnant 16-year-old girl in the shoulder at a traffic stop. The teen was said to have been shot in the right collarbone, and after a few days in the hospital, is now at home recovering. iStock_000068527987_Large-2-300x200

There has been some contradiction in what has been said about what happened in this case as the initial news release about this incident this past March stated that Deputy Cadotte drew his handgun and fired a shot through the front windshield of the stopped vehicle, and hit the pregnant passenger in the shoulder. The current statement says that after Deputy Cadotte positioned his car during the traffic stop, he exited the vehicle and his gun somehow discharged and the bullet struck the teen. What has been consistent is the allegation that the driver of the stopped vehicle was 15 years old and that she attempted to flee to try to avoid trouble for not having a driver’s license or the permission to use the car that she was driving. The driver took off on foot while her passenger had been wounded from Deputy Cadotte’s bullet.

Wrongful Convictions In Michigan

All 50 states across the country have experience in dealing with people being wrongfully convicted of crimes. The state of Michigan has had its fair share of exonerees that have lost many years of their lives sitting in prison for crimes they did not commit. Some of these men have spent in excess of twenty years waiting for their moment for the truth to come out as well as the freedom that comes with that truth.

One such example of these cases is the case of Davontae Sanford, a man who pled guilty to the killing of four men when he was 14 years old in 2007. Police misconduct and the confession of a professional hitman cast serious doubt on the plea from the then-teenager. Sanford spent nine years in prison appealing his wrongful convictions and was released in 2016. Sanford’s mother insisted that the teen could barely read or write back in 2007 and was also blind in one eye. His mother stated that her son only confessed to the murders to please the police officers who had been interrogating him. Grabel04a-2-300x146

Original Case Details

East Lansing Police Officer Andy Stephenson will be reinstated after the Michigan State Police have cleared him after a review of his actions during two different arrests. He was initially suspended for allegations of excessive use of force during multiple specific arrests. While he has had five separate complaints by citizens of excessive use of force since January 2018, none of these complaints have been sustained against him. Stephenson was alleged to have used excessive force on two black men in these incidents by using a “head stabilization” technique that is now up for review and retraining by the East Lansing Police Department. A city news release stated that while the technique has been deemed appropriate, it has been shown to cause harm to arrestees and should only be used in extreme circumstances. All East Lansing police officers will now be retrained on the technique with more of a focus on the arrestee and his or her physical well-being. iStock_000002709890_Large-2-300x200

The Incidents In Question

Original Case Details

Midland County Circuit Judge Stephen P. Carras recently issued a ruling upholding the life sentence of a then-juvenile convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering a 32-year-old female jogger back in June of 1983. Brian K. Granger was 17 years old and considered a juvenile when he allegedly attacked the then-mother of three in Jasper Township near Midland. He was found guilty of first-degree murder by then-judge Tyrone Gillespie back in 1984. Granger, now 54 years old, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after he was tried and convicted for the murder as an adult. With this conviction and sentence, Granger earned the title “juvenile lifer” as too many others have earned the same title. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

What Is A Juvenile Lifer?

Original Case Details

The FBI has long targeted the United Auto Workers (UAW) with an investigation that has spanned years and resulted in over a dozen federal criminal indictments and convictions. While the UAW has been on the defensive with a litany of these charges targeting them, General Motors has been thought to be a target of the FBI’s investigation as well. GM has now been given the official word from the FBI that they are not a target of their ongoing investigation. This type of notification is rarely made, as the FBI is not under any requirement to tell anyone about the status or even existence of an ongoing investigation. Fiat-Chrysler on the other hand, has been on the receiving end of multiple criminal charges as the FBI has targeted them as co-conspirators with the UAW for bribery and kickback schemes. The UAW has separately been dealing with the FBI in an effort to show that those who were involved in any corruption were acting on their own and not in concert with the UAW as an organization. iStock_000006818663_Full-1-300x200

Criminal Charges Involved

History Of The Rule In Michigan Courts

Michigan courthouses have historically only allowed attorneys and court personnel to take their cell phones, tablets etc. inside courthouses past the metal detectors. All other people would not be allowed to bring phones inside. Some courts have small lockers that you can use to lock up your phones, while other courts simply tell you to leave your phone in the car. Leaving your phone in the car is a problem if you don’t have a car or didn’t drive to court. People who take public transportation, bike, or uber to court are often left wondering where they can put their phone since they aren’t allowed to take them inside. Some people even resort to hiding their devices in bushes outside of courthouses. That all changed on January 8th of this year when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled to allow cell phones, laptops, and other communication devices inside Michigan courthouses. iStock_000013860209_Full-2-300x200

How We Got Here

Original Case Details

In the fallout from the Eric Smith scandal, another member of the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office is facing criminal charges. This time it is Derek Miller, who is the suspended chief of operations for the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office. Miller’s ex-boss was former Macomb County Head Prosecutor Eric Smith. Smith is accused of using money from a civil forfeiture fund for personal benefit to the tune of approximately $600,000 over the course of six years from 2012-2018. Smith is currently charged with a litany of embezzlement and public corruption charges. More information about his case can be found here. Derek Miller has served as a state representative and Macomb County Treasurer along with his time in the Prosecutors office. He is fourth person to be criminally charged in connection with the misuse of forfeiture funds. iStock_000009283153_Large-2-300x201

Criminal Charges Involved

Conducting jury trials amid the COVID-19 pandemic has so far proved to be extremely difficult. Even day to day operations at courts have been severely limited amid this crisis. The Michigan Supreme Court has limited access to all state courts and given the judges more authority to handle court proceedings remotely. Wayne County Circuit Court has already suspended jury service through mid-August through emergency orders related to the pandemic. The state of Michigan is reporting nearly 3,000 deaths due to COVID-19 as of this writing. index2-300x129

Details Surrounding Delay Of Jury Trials

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack had previously issued a memo on March 11, 2020 to all state trial courts recommending adjournments. The aim of that memo was to adjourn all jury trials, whether they were civil or criminal unless there was some special reason in a specific case such as a defendant being held in custody for an extended amount of time awaiting trial. This memo coincided with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer State of Emergency declaration due to the coronavirus outbreak. That recommendation to adjourn all trials has continued to the present where the Michigan Supreme Court has now delayed all jury trials until at least June 22, 2020. McCormack stated that emergency action to protect the public takes precedence over day to day operations inside state courtrooms. The Court is also looking into ways to be able to handle proceedings remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, having already used Zoom conferencing to hear oral arguments on four different cases over the course of two separate court dates. The justices participated in the oral argument via Zoom, while the attorneys for all parties had also agreed to argue their cases using Zoom.

Original Case Details

A Detroit man was convicted back in 2008 of second-degree murder after he paid someone $20 to burn down an abandoned house which resulted in the death of a firefighter who went to attempt to extinguish the fire. The man who actually set the fire cut a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to second degree murder and testify against the Detroit man. Due to his cooperation, the man was sentenced to 17 to 30 years as part of his plea agreement. He testified that the man wanted the house burned down to collect insurance money and escape from a mortgage that he was behind on.

The man was later sentenced by Wayne County Circuit Judge Margaret Van Houten to a minimum sentence of 37 years, which far exceeded the minimum sentence set by the Michigan Criminal Sentencing Guidelines manual. The man’s sentencing guidelines were from 19 to 31 years for the conviction. The sentencing guidelines are meant to ensure that people are sentenced consistently across the state no matter if the case happened in a small town or a big city. If a judge wants to exceed or go below the sentencing guidelines, then the judge has to state on the record why he or she is doing so. If the judge goes outside the sentencing guidelines and does not give a proper explanation and finding on the record as to why he or she is going outside the guidelines, then that case can be ripe for an appeal. That is exactly what has happened in this case. The Michigan Court of Appeals has acknowledged the tragic nature of this case, but also stated that the Wayne County judge did not properly explain why the man deserved such a significant sentence that exceeded his guidelines. iStock_000009369669_Full-2-300x247

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