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April 2013 Archives

Second murder trial begins in case of Lansing toddler's death

Trial began last week in the case of a Lansing man charged with open murder, first-degree child abuse, and torture in the death of his girlfriend's two-year-old son. The toddler died April of last year, at a local hospital, and police called his death suspicious. The young boy's mother and her boyfriend were arrested and charged in connection with his death. The two suspects both attempted to place the blame on the other one for the toddler's death.

Michigan grandmother sentenced for murdering grandson

We posted last month about a Michigan grandmother being tried for shooting and killing her 17-year-old grandson in her suburban Detroit home. The 75-year-old woman claimed self-defense, but the jury did not believe her and convicted her of second-degree murder. She was sentenced to a minimum of 22 years in prison-- 20 years minimum for second-degree murder and 2 years for a felony firearm charge that must be served consecutively. She will get credit for the 11 months she spent in jail prior to sentencing. Still, this will likely be a life sentence for the elderly woman. That is what her lawyer argued when he pleaded with the judge for leniency.

Lansing mayor considers decriminalizing marijuana

If Mayor Virg Bernero of Lansing had not considered decriminalizing marijuana in the city, last November's elections certainly got him thinking. In that election, four cities in Michigan voted to make marijuana possession subject only to fines instead of penalties such as potential jail time.

The quest for justice from "the other side"

It is never easy to face criminal charges. Furthermore, the criminal justice system is set up in a way that makes it appear so adversarial. It seems as though it is all about winning and losing. While that may appear to be the case, in reality, prosecutors and defense attorneys should both be striving for the truth.

Couch burning on Michigan college campuses

Several couches were burned at the University of Michigan this past weekend, coinciding with Michigan's NCAA semi-final win in Atlanta, Georgia. One week previously, a number of Michigan State University students were charged for burning couches, coinciding with Michigan State University's NCAA loss to Duke. Couches, furniture and other items are often burned at Michigan State University in connection with NCAA tournaments, which often coincides with a "CedarFest" event or events which occasionally spontaneously erupt in Cedar Village, a student housing complex next to MSU's campus. These charges often result in severe consequences to students and non-students alike. Charges can vary from arson of personal property to rioting, inciting a riot, possession of alcohol as minors, disorderly conduct, assault and battery, resisting and obstructing, littering, noise violations, or many others. The unfortunate upshot of many of these events is that they can often spill over from one area to other areas, and have in the past led to destruction of property in commercial areas, resulting in charges of malicious destruction of property. For many students, depending on the location of the incident, in addition to criminal charges, there may be civil sanctions, such as suspension or expulsion from the University. Jail time often follows from even minor participation in these events, and the courts have historically been reluctant to grant Youthful Trainee Status to minor offenders though they would otherwise be eligible for this status (the status allows minors between ages 17 and 21 who commit certain offenses and plead guilty to be placed on probation and upon successful completion of same, have the case dismissed without entry of a conviction, i.e. no criminal record).

Tomato Sauce Bomber Robs Bank

A Mid-Michigan bank was recently robbed by a woman who claimed to have a bomb in her bag or sack. Apparently, the woman left the bag in the bank after claiming it was a bomb. It was later determined that the bag contained two cans of tomato sauce. Bank Robbery is a crime that carries up to life in prison, whether it is perpetrated with or without a weapon. Armed Robbery, another possible charge, also carries up to life in prison. Frequently, perpetrators of robberies at banks, convenience stores, or otherwise, pretend to possess a weapon. If one or more victims relinquishes possession of property that is thereafter taken by the perpetrator, due to a reasonable belief, (based upon the perpetrator's actions, statements, and the physical nature of the object reported to be a weapon), that a weapon is in fact possessed, that is sufficient to convict the thief of Armed Robbery under Michigan law, even though the perpetrator did not truly possess a weapon. The perpetrator of the tomato sauce bomb hoax is still at large.

Lansing man vows to fight charges of failing to show ID to police

A Lansing man who is facing a misdemeanor criminal charge for not showing his ID to a police officer near his home says he will plead not guilty. He says that he did nothing wrong and that the officer had no right to demand identification from him.

Michigan physician gets 3 years in child pornography plea deal

A one-time doctor and cancer researcher at the University of Michigan Hospital was sentenced on March 21 to three years in prison on a federal charge of possession of child pornography. Three years is the minimum sentence available for child pornography possession under federal law. The judge presiding over the case and the plea deal that led to the sentence concluded that the man was not a threat to children and would benefit from treating his condition in the community upon his release.

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