Cartoon by Daily Kos shows (clockwise from above left) rich commentator, candidate Joe Biden, candidate Pete Buttigieg, rich commentator putting in emergency rescue call to Bloomberg


February 15, 2020


LAS VEGAS (AP) — As early voting surged in Nevada’s nominating contest, former Vice President Joe Biden lashed out at Democratic rival Bernie Sanders on Saturday for not doing enough to control his most aggressive supporters.

Biden’s attack during an interview for NBC’s “Meet The Press” came as he fights to rescue his struggling presidential bid and Sanders works to strengthen his strong standing with the contest speeding into a new phase. Biden also sought to downplay expectations for next Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, telling reporters that he did not need to win.

In the interview, the former vice president seized on reports that Sanders’ supporters insulted and made online threats against leaders of an influential union that declined to endorse any of the eight candidates still in the Democratic race.

“He may not be responsible for it, but he has some accountability,” Biden charged. He continued: “If any of my supporters did that, I’d disown them …flat disown them.”

The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Biden’s assertion. But Thursday in an interview with PBS, Sanders distanced himself from such behavior. “Anybody making personal attacks against anybody else in my name is not part of our movement,” Sanders said, denouncing such behavior in all campaigns.

Earlier Saturday, the fiery progressive senator went on the offensive against his moderate competitors for accepting campaign cash from billionaires, although he declined to go after his opponents by name.

“Democracy is not candidates going to the homes of billionaires raising money,” Sanders charged during a rally at a suburban Las Vegas high school.

Both Biden and Pete Buttigieg have aggressively courted wealthy donors over the past year. Buttigieg met with donors behind closed doors in Seattle at roughly the same time Sanders made the comments.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Does “Lady Justice” prevail at Oakland County Circuit and higher courts?

Former Detroit police officer Burt Lancaster, with long history of  mental illness and family suicide, killed girlfriend intending to kill himself 

First conviction in Oakland Co. in 1994 overturned due to racial bias in jury selection 

Judge denied “diminished capacity” defense in 2005 due to MSC’S controversial ‘Carpenter’ ruling in 2001; original crime occurred in 1993 

Sixth Circuit Court overturned 2005 conviction, ruling that Lancaster had been denied ‘due process’ by the retroactive application of ‘Carpenter” 

U.S. Supreme Court overruled 6th Circuit, found against defendant in 2012 

By VOD Editor Diane Bukowski and Field Editor Ricardo Ferrell

 February 11, 2020

Burt Lancaster, now age 59. MDOC photo

Detroit, MI – The first-degree murder convictions of former Detroit police officer Burt Lancaster, first in 1994 and then in 2005, for killing his girlfriend Toni King in 1993, raise broader issues.

They include racism in the Oakland County judicial system, and discrimination against the mentally ill in the Michigan state judicial system, evidenced by the 2001 elimination of a defendant’s right to raise a “diminished capacity” defense.

U.S. District Court Judge Avern Cohn dismissed Lancaster’s first conviction in 2003, based on the prosecution’s elimination of a Black juror at trial. At Lancaster’s bench re-trial in 2005, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge John McDonald refused to allow his defense of “diminished capacity.” He cited the Michigan Supreme Court’s controversial 2001 ruling eliminating the defense in People v. Carpenter (627 N.W.2d 276), despite a decades-long history of its use in the state.

McDonald contended Carpenter was retroactive. State courts and the U.S. District Court agreed, but the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court granted Lancaster a second writ of habeas corpus. They agreed that the trial court violated Lancaster’s right to due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by applying Carpenter retroactively. However, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit, citing the state’s right to determine its own laws.

Lancaster’s former attorney Kenneth M. Mogill won the overturn of the 1994 conviction in U.S. District Court, and represented Lancaster at his 2005 trial as well as subsequent appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Attorney Kenneth M. Mogill

“To me the situation was fundamentally unfair,” Mogill told VOD. “My client went to trial the first time in 1993, but the verdict was overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct, the improper use of a juror challenge based on race. But then he was deprived of the right to raise the ‘diminished capacity’ defense at retrial. If we had been allowed to raise that, he would have had a good chance [for a reduced charge]. He would have been eligible for parole by now.”

He added, “Carpenter was a horrible ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court, based on an extremely faulty analysis of the legislative scheme. Since then, it has been hurting defendants, who are no longer allowed to have a jury consider different crimes in different categories based on different mental states.”

Prominent criminal defense attorney Kimberley Reed Thompson agreed. In a 2003 Michigan State Bar Journal article on Carpenter she said,

“The dissenting justices [in Carpenter] conclude that evidence of mental abnormality or illness should be admissible to negate specific intent and thereby afford the defendant the right to present a meaningful defense, the requirement that the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt each and every element of a charged offense, and the presumption of innocence. . . Perhaps the presentation of these significant arguments, which focus upon the basic concepts of fairness and due process in our system of jurisprudence will resurrect diminished capacity as a viable defense in the state of Michigan.”

Atty. Kimberley Reed-Thompson in shirt celebrating NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s protest. Facebook 

Lancaster remains in prison today, at the age of 59. He is among many other victims of the Carpenter ruling, which left only Michigan’s insanity and guilty but mentally ill statutes in place. Neither mention the use of mental abnormality to negate the specific intent necessary for crimes like first-degree murder. Lancaster continues to deny that he intended to kill Mrs. King and says he should have been charged instead with second-degree murder.

“I am a native of Detroit and a graduate of Mumford High School,” Lancaster wrote to VOD in Dec. 2019. “I started working for the Detroit Police Department in 1985 and received a departmental citation for saving several families in a burning building on Linwood and Richton. I was disabled Dec. 13, 1986 in an on-duty scout car accident while going to a shots-fired run. I sustained injuries to both knees and a closed head injury, after which I suffered with bouts of depression.”

Trial testimony and forensic reports on Lancaster also show that he was diagnosed much earlier with major depression and bipolar disorder, attempted suicide several times, and was hospitalized for his illness at least eight times between 1987 and 1993, multiple times during his incarceration. His uncle and his younger brother both committed suicide, with Lancaster identifying his brother’s body at the medical examiner’s office while he worked for DPD.

One psychiatrist in 1987 reported that Lancaster told him the DPD had falsely charged him with conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder after he told officials that another officer was planning to kill a drug dealer. The charges were later dropped, but worsened Lancaster’s symptoms.

Lancaster said he met Toni King, then 30, in 1992. She was separated from her husband, but not yet divorced. Lancaster and King had a tempestuous 0n-again, off-again relationship for over a year, with Ms. King periodically returning to her husband and then going back to Lancaster. Lancaster claims she repeatedly hid the medication he was on, Lithium, a powerful anti-psychotic, saying, “I don’t want my husband taking crazy pills.”

In the days leading up to the killing, Lancaster told VOD, Mrs. King left for the fourth time. He said he put her belongings out on the back curb, and her brother came to the condo they shared to pick them up. Lancaster says that afterwards, her family stole his belongings from the building.

The night before the shooting, Lancaster told VOD, he went to his mother Valera Lancaster’s home and expressed his desire to kill himself due to being deeply depressed, saying he didn’t want to live anymore. He then spent the night there.

The next day, he says, he decided he was finally going to kill himself, in front of Mrs. King. He asked his mother for her .357 Magnum revolver to do so. According to her statement to police and testimony during the 1994 trial, Mrs. Lancaster refused to give her son the pistol. But he pushed open a closet door, got the gun, then left en route to his girlfriend’s job on Greenfield and Eight Mile in Southfield. Mrs. Lancaster begged her son not to leave and pleaded with him not to hurt himself. Lancaster says he left his mother a handwritten suicide note.

When Lancaster left, his mother called the police and told them that her son had taken her handgun and was going to commit suicide.

Mrs. Lancaster testified at both trials that she called 911 a second time and added that her son was going to kill his girlfriend as well, after Detroit police did not come immediately. In addition to reporting that earlier to investigators, one of her son’s subsequent doctors said she also repeated that to him. Mrs. Lancaster passed at the age of 88 in 2014.

“I told them that because I figured that if I magnified it they would come out right away and get to him before he could leave the house,” Mrs. Lancaster said. “Well, that was the era where the police were not doing too good in Detroit. And they make runs when they felt like making runs and they would be quite a long time coming to your house.”

NAG anti-busing leader Irene McCabe (center) with L. Brooks Patterson (r) in 1970.

In 1993, Oakland County’s population was 84 percent white. After 16 years as County Prosecutor, the late L. Brooks Patterson had become County Executive in 1992. He drew his support largely from his history with Irene McCabe and the National Action Group (NAG).

He represented them in the early 1970’s, fighting a court-ordered busing plan to desegregate Pontiac’s schools. The Ku Klux Klan also supported McCabe, bombing school buses and attacking ant-racists protesting a 1971 NAG rally.

Lancaster killed Toni King on April 22, 1993, in an Oakland County rife with such racism. U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn overturned his 1994 conviction for the murder in 2010, based on Mogill’s  challenge to a racist jury selection process.

Lancaster’s supporters say they believe there was therefore likely a rush to judgment by police and the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office in charging Lancaster with first-degree murder.

Mrs. King’s friend Julie Gardner testified that she and Mrs. King were on their way to lunch at a nearby Coney Island when Lancaster got to Mrs. King’s job. He offered to buy them lunch but then got into a heated dispute over financial matters with Mrs. King. Lancaster told investigators that in the course of the argument and Ms. King’s yelling at him, he panicked and shot her four times in the heat of the moment.

He said at the time of the shooting he hadn’t slept for several days or taken his prescribed psychiatric medication.

In Mental Health & Criminal Defense, Alex Bassos, JD, analyzes every aspect of a criminal case involving clients with mental health or cognitive issues and challenges attorneys to “push back against the state’s attempts to punish a person for having a mental illness.

Additionally, sources say, Burt Lancaster has agreed to submit to a polygraph exam about whether he had any intent to kill Mrs. King. The exam is pending. Lancaster, who still regrets Mrs. King’s death, and his supporters say he should have been charged with second-degree murder and would likely be eligible for parole now.

In a Dec. 13, 2016 Forensic Psychological Assessment of Parole Risk, Dr. Steven R Miller wrote, “First of all, the utter irrationality of his crimes cannot be fully understood and appreciated without taking into consideration the likely presence of some degree of ‘mental illness’ at the time of the commission of these crimes.” (Lancaster was convicted of a two-year gun felony as well as first-degree murder.)

Miller concluded his 28-page assessment of Lancaster and his progress while incarcerated and under psychiatric treatment, saying that he “presented a Low Risk to the safety or the welfare of the community.”

He included Lancaster’s statement of remorse for the crime, both for Mrs. King and her son, as well as for  her mother, siblings, and nephew as well as his own family.

“I have had very deep remorse for causing the death of my beloved girlfriend Toni King [ . . .] she did not deserve for that to happen and she did not have the chance to raise her only son Lawrence King. I am remorseful because her son Lawrence King did not have the opportunity to have his mother’s love during his growing up as a child.”

Expert Lyle Denniston, a SCOTUS blog writer, was highly critical of the unanimous 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Metrich v. Lancaster, noting that they all but completely ignored the key issue in the Sixth Circuit ruling, whether the Michigan Supreme Court ruling in Carpenter was retroactive to a crime committed eight years earler. (See link below.)

“Amid signs that the ruling was a very easy one to reach, the Supreme Court on Monday allowed the state of Michigan to deny a man accused of murder a legal defense that he previously had but then lost the right to use at a second trial,” Denniston wrote.  “Allowing the withdrawal of a mental defect defense after the fact, the Court ruled unanimously, did not violate the man’s constitutional rights to fair treatment.   It took the Court less than four weeks to prepare that ruling.”

Related documents:


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ingham County Pros. Carol Siemon with some of the lifers whose case are being reviewed. 

“I think everyone should have an opportunity to get out some day”—Pros. Nancy Siemon

64 percent of Ingham County’s lifers are Black

Siemon  joins national movement opposing life without parole (LWOP) sentences, termed ‘death by incarceration’

U.S. the only country in the world with true LWOP sentencing practice

The states of Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Oklahoma all have state legislation pending that would end the inhumane practice of “death by incarceration.” Additionally, Sen. Sharif Street of Pennsylvania has re-introduced SB 542 to reform that practice there. “No more than 20 years” is the slogan of some of the state legislation, which is an actuality in most other countries in the world. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of its incarcerated population.

VOD: The article below is being re-published with some corrections (e.g. not all lifers are ‘murderers’ as original headline termed them, and some are actually innocent). It is important for Michigan residents to read about Pros. Siemon’s efforts, to encourage support here for the national anti-LWOP movement opposing “death by incarceration.” The states shown above all have active legislation that would bar LWOP for adults.

The Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration campaigns for SB 542, introduced by Pennsylvania State Sen. Sharif Street to outlaw life without parole sentences.

The anti-LWOP campaign was given a huge boost when the U.S. Supreme Court twice outlawed mandatory juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016).

But Michigan and Louisiana are known as the two worst “outlier” states  still violating those rulings. In Michigan, county prosecutors originally recommended renewed LWOP sentences for two-thirds of the state’s juvenile lifers, despite the fact that the USSC said “only the rarest child” should be sentenced to LWOP.  At last report, 200 of the state’s original 360  juvenile lifers are still languishing in prison without re-sentencing hearings, eight years after Miller v. Alabama.

January 30, 2020

LANSING–Carol Siemon is all about second chances, even for convicted [lifers].

As the prosecuting attorney for Ingham County, Siemon knows her job is largely about ensuring justice is fairly served for about 290,000 local residents. Usually, that involves locking a lot of people behind bars, some for the rest of their lives. But this year, she could be asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to send [some] of them back home.

George Norris Hall, 84, is the oldest lifer in Ingham County. He was convicted in 1975 of the murder of three men during a card game.

“While I personally believe there are some people who should be in prison forever, like the Jeffrey Dahmer type of people, I just don’t believe in the death penalty,” Siemon explained. “I think life in prison without parole functions in a similar way, and I think everyone should have an opportunity to be able to get out some day.”

Siemon — with pro-bono help from former Assistant Attorney General Ron Emery — this year plans to begin a formal review of the 90 convicted murderers serving life in prison without parole in Ingham County. And for a select few, she said she plans to seek a gubernatorial commutation that could get them back out on the streets.

“It’s not whether or not they’re innocent,” Siemon told City Pulse. “We’re not saying that. But if they committed a homicide 40 years ago, who are they now? And do they deserve another chance? To my knowledge, nobody else is doing this type of thing in the state. It has just been something rolling around in my head.”

‘A progressive prosecutor’

In Michigan, only those convicted of first-degree murder or placing explosives causing injury can garner a sentence of life in prison without parole. And only the governor has the power to commute their sentences after the prisoners are reviewed and formally recommended for release by the 10-member Michigan Parole Board.

Bruce Edward Hicks was convicted of murder in Ingham County at 18. Now 62, he has spent more than 70% of his life in a prison cell. Michigan just passed legislation changing the maximum age for juveniles to 18. Under Miller v. Alabama, Hicks would have been eligible for a juvenile lifer re-sentencing. 

After Siemon took office in 2017, she enacted policy to always offer defendants (even those accused of the most heinous crimes) a chance to plead guilty to a lesser charge like second-degree murder. Her goal: eliminate the possibility of life in prison without parole, instead putting prisoners  before a review board within a few decades.

Other prosecutors before Siemon weren’t as lenient. And defendants don’t always take the deal before pushing their case to a trial. But that doesn’t mean some of them don’t deserve another shot at freedom, Siemon insisted.

“I just don’t like to exclude the possibility that someone can be rehabilitated,” Siemon said. “Families don’t always like it, and it can be very unpleasant — especially with victims’ families — but these people deserve it. Some don’t like that we offer it. We take those views into account, but it doesn’t mean they drive the decision.”

It’s typical for prosecutors to use their discretion when deciding on the severity of various criminal convictions; That’s just part of the job. But Siemon’s comparatively lenient and so-called “progressive” stance on offering plea deals to first-degree murderers is hardly the norm throughout the state of Michigan and the rest of the country.

And the differing prosecutorial philosophies largely toe the line between judicial rehabilitation and punishment.

Calhoun County Pros. David Gilbert

Calhoun County Prosecuting Attorney David Gilbert, a registered Republican, said he doesn’t have a similar policy in his office because some defendants can simply “deserve” to rot away in prison for the rest of their lives.

“Can they be rehabilitated? Maybe they can. But look at some of these cases where they put a gun to someone’s face and pull the trigger: Why should we take the chance? There’s not much you can do that is more personal than taking a human life,” Gilbert added. “That’s why we have these charges. We like to let the jury decide.”

“One never says ‘never’ or ‘always’ in our profession,” added Leelanau County Prosecutor Doug Donaldson. “That automatically ties your hands. And there are some out there that probably do deserve life in prison without parole. If the crime is cold and calculated, the concept of rehabilitation can essentially be a non-starter.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel also doesn’t condone a blanket policy toward watered-down murder charges. Without careful consideration, uniform plea deals can erode the legislative intent behind the harsh sentences written into state law. And plea deals to lesser charges aren’t always appropriate considerations, Nessel said.

State AG Dana Nessel was seen as allied with Whitmer during their campaigns.

Former Prosecutor Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has the only commutation power.

“Other times it is clear from the actions of the defendant as well as the criminal history of that individual that society should be protected from that person for the remainder of his or her life,” Nessel said. “However, each county prosecutor is duly elected by their county residents, and I respect Prosecutor Siemon and her rationale.”

Siemon declined to address criticism of her prosecutorial policies on plea deals, noting she doesn’t want to rally “unwarranted opposition” to her upcoming plans to seek commuted sentences for murderers. She recognizes that her policies aren’t for everyone, but maintains it’s the best way to ensure justice — including for defendants.

“When you’re a progressive prosecutor, you have people who will say things like ‘You hug thugs,’ or ‘You don’t care about victims.’ That’s not true. I care about the process being fair. We’ve learned that locking people up for a long time doesn’t always make the community more safe. It doesn’t serve a purpose other than vengeance.”

Rehabilitation vs. vengeance

Pushing her progressive prosecutorial policy a step further, Siemon last week told City Pulse that her office will soon begin a formal review of every life sentence doled out in Ingham County since 1975. And those who display the most rehabilitative progress — pending Whitmer’s eventual approval — might soon be set free.

In addition to the severity of the crime, attorneys will look at prisoners’ misconduct records and their participation in educational programs. Siemon’s office will also focus on defendants that were convicted of first-degree murder on the basis of being an accessory to the actual killing without literally pulling the trigger.

“The main question is whether we can truly feel they’ve been rehabilitated,” Siemon added.

Siemon hasn’t established a precise timeline for the ongoing prisoner review process and noted that Emery theoretically could decide that none of the prisoners actually deserve to have their sentences commuted. If those recommendations make it to the governor’s desk, however, she’s confident that Whitmer will take action.

“I haven’t talked about it with her, but philosophically, I think she’d be on board with this,” Siemon added.

At least 90 people are serving life in prison without parole after they were convicted of first-degree murder in Ingham County in cases that date back to 1975, according to records obtained by City Pulse. An analysis cross-referenced with prison records shows the average lifer was sentenced at age 27, has served about 18 years and is now about 47 years old. All but one are men. Sixty-five percent are black. Thirty percent are white.

The oldest among them, 84-year-old George Norris Hall, was convicted in a brutal murder of three card players in an East Lansing basement, according to a newspaper clipping from 1975. The youngest, 24-year-old Marcell D’Jon Davis, was convicted in 2018 of a robbery and a murder outside of a marijuana dispensary in Lansing.

Marcell D’Jon Davis was 22 when convicted of murder.

About a third of those prisoners have spent more time behind bars than they’ve lived in the free world. Hall, for example, was convicted at 39 and spent the last 45 years in prison. Another inmate from Ingham County, Bruce Edward Hicks, was convicted of murder at 18. Now 62, he has spent more than 70% of his life in a prison cell.

“The severity of the crime used to be the only thing we really looked at,” Siemon said. “If someone committed a crime 20 years ago, however, that tells me who they were then. It’s not always who they still are now. I’ll make these decisions based on my own criteria, but it’s really all going to be about asking: Who are they now?”

But not everyone wants to bother to ask the question.

Gilbert said prisoners serving life in prison without parole from Calhoun County, for example, will remain there unless they personally seek to have their sentences commuted. Even then, it’s a long shot, he said. And besides, he said he’s not comfortable reviewing old convictions from former prosecutors that decided to levy the charges.

“I wasn’t there for these cases,” Gilbert added. “I’m not going to be the one to second guess them.”

A second chance

At a bench trial in 2017, an Ingham County circuit judge found 25-year-old Thomas McClellan guilty of first-degree murder, child abuse and arson in the stabbing (and burning) of his 5-year-old stepdaughter, Luna Younger. His first-degree murder conviction requires him to serve the rest of his life in prison without parole.

Thomas McClellan was 25 when he committed murder.

He wasn’t offered a plea deal to lesser charges, but that was before Siemon rolled out her new policies. And while his case likely won’t be up for a commutation review for at least another few decades, the possibility of his eventual release has touched a nerve with Younger’s family and those who leaned on his sentence for closure.

McClellan, according to reports in the Lansing State Journal, had stabbed Younger at least five times because she had interrupted his nap and asked for something to eat. He later piled blankets and paper towels on her body, then doused the pile in vodka and set it on fire before eventually surrendering to police just a few hours later.

Younger would’ve had her 9th birthday on Monday.

“It’s not my job to judge, but nobody won in that case,” said Jeanette Miller-Halmich, Younger’s grandmother. “What if he ended back on the street and did it again? I can forgive him, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to pay for what he did. Nobody will understand the magnitude of the grief that we’re all still feeling over this.”

Others, like Paula McKay, who was a spokeswoman for Younger’s family at trial, have a different perspective.

Paula McKay Facebook

“I do feel that everyone has the ability to be rehabilitated, but I know a lot of people — including Luna’s mother — would feel differently,” McKay added. “My own husband would disagree with me; I know he would not like to see (McClellan) get out. But I’m a very strong Christian. These are just my feelings on the situation.”

In the last decade, at least 168 Michigan prisoners have had their sentences commuted by the governor, at least 44 of which had been convicted of first-degree murder, according to the Detroit Free Press. And only one of them went on to break the law and return to prison again, MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz told the Free Press.

Since 2011, commutations have been rare. There were at least 4,017 requests for commutation in Michigan under former Gov. Rick Snyder. He only granted six — all of which were for reportedly for medical reasons, according to data published in the Free Press. Whitmer’s office has yet to issue any gubernatorial commutations.

Absent an appeal, however, there’s no other formal mechanism or judicial precedent that grants adults serving life in prison without parole — like McClellan — another chance at freedom in Michigan. And Siemon said she feels a moral obligation to ensure those defendants’ sentences actually serve some form of rehabilitative purpose.

“I’m not here to do vengeance. It’s not my job,” Siemon added. “If you’re a prosecutor, it can be really hard to go against this sort of law and order because people think you don’t care but that’s simply not true. I do care.”

Gov. Whitmer signed legislation creating a commission on criminal justice reform in April, 2019.

In a statement last week, Whitmer’s office noted that her administration has taken “historic steps to reform our criminal justice system to better serve victims and treat offenders” and that an ongoing bipartisan movement in the state legislature continues to “review all aspects” of Michigan’s criminal justice system.

“They would be responsible for changing the laws surrounding life without parole,” according to the statement sent to City Pulse from Whitmer’s office. “All commutation requests are required to go through the process established by law which begins with the Michigan Parole Board, who reviews requests on a case-by-case basis.”

Siemon, the first woman to be elected prosecutor in Ingham County, defeated her Republican challenger Billi Jo O’Berry with about 58% of the vote in 2016. She plans to run for another four-year term this year. No challengers have surfaced. And she knows her prosecutorial philosophies might not align with some of the more conservative voices in the field — especially those that tend to lean more heavily on the punitive side of the scales of justice.

But it’s a risk she’s willing to take as she heads into another campaign cycle without a clear challenger.

“My promise when I ran in 2016 was that I will always try to do the right thing, no matter the fallout. That certainly has not changed,” Siemon said. “I endeavor to do what research and justice require — not what might make me more popular. I admire my fellow Michigan prosecutors even when we don’t always agree.”

Related stories:





Posted on by Diane Bukowski | Leave a comment


The U.S. has 5% of the total world population, and 25% of its incarcerated population, largely people of color and poor people. It is the only country in the world sentencing people to actual life without parole (death by incarceration) and juvenile life without parole.

Migrant families in El Paso detention center–more mass incarceration of people of color including children and infants.


Michelle Alexander

January 22, 2020

“Once human beings are defined as the problem in the public consciousness, their elimination through deportation, incarceration or even genocide becomes nearly inevitable.”

January 20, 2020–Yes, Trump is an inveterate liar, but American politicians have always told lies about the Black and brown people they demonize and mass-imprison.

“Highly racialized and punitive systems thrived under liberal presidents who were given the benefit of the doubt by those who might otherwise have been critics.

Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow

Ten years have passed since my book, “The New Jim Crow,” was published. I wrote it to challenge our nation to reckon with the recurring cycles of racial reform, retrenchment and rebirth of caste-like systems that have defined our racial history since slavery. It has been an astonishing decade. Everything and nothing has changed.

When I was researching and writing the book, Barack Obama had not yet been elected president of the United States. I was in disbelief that our country would actually elect a black man to be the leader of the so-called free world. As the election approached, I felt an odd sense of hope and dread. I hoped against all reason that we would actually do it. But I also knew that, if we did, there would be a price to pay.

Everything I knew through experience and study told me that we as a nation did not fully understand the nature of the moment we were in. We had recently birthed another caste system — a system of mass incarceration — that locked millions of poor people and people of color in literal and virtual cages.

Our nation’s prison and jail population had quintupled in 30 years, leaving us with the highest incarceration rate in the world. A third of black men had felony records — due in large part to a racially biased, brutal drug war — and were relegated to a permanent second-class status. Tens of millions of people in the United States had been stripped of basic civil and human rights, including the right to vote, the right to serve on juries and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, education and basic public benefits.

“Despite appearances, our nation remains trapped in a cycle of racial reform, backlash and re-formation of systems of racial and social control.”

Presidents Trump and Obama in early meeting at White House. Mass incarceration, migrant detention and family separation have existed under both administrations.

Nevertheless, our nation remained in deep denial that a new caste system even existed, and most of us — even those who cared deeply about racial justice — did not seem to understand that powerful racial dynamics and political forces were at play that made much of our racial progress illusory. We had not faced our racial history and could not tell the truth about our racial present, yet growing numbers of Americans wanted to elect a Black president and leap into a “colorblind” future.

I was right to worry about the aftermath of Obama’s election. After he was inaugurated, our nation was awash in “post-racialism.” Black History Month events revolved around “how far we’ve come.” Many in the black community and beyond felt that, if Obama could win the presidency, anything was possible. Few people wanted to hear the message I felt desperate to convey: Despite appearances, our nation remains trapped in a cycle of racial reform, backlash and re-formation of systems of racial and social control.

Angela Davis speaking in Detroit:  people should have continued their battle in the streets after Obama’s election.

Things have changed since then. Donald Trump is president of the United States. For many, this feels like whiplash. After eight years of Barack Obama — a man who embraced the rhetoric (though not the politics) of the civil rights movement — we now have a president who embraces the rhetoric and the politics of white nationalism.

This is a president who openly stokes racial animosity and even racial violence, who praises dictators (and likely aspires to be one), who behaves like a petulant toddler on Twitter, and who has a passionate, devoted following of millions of people who proudly say they want to “make America great again” by taking us back to a time that we’ve left behind.

What our nation is experiencing is not an “aberration.” The politics of “Trumpism” and “fake news” are not new; they are as old as the nation itself.

We are now living in an era not of post-racialism but of unabashed racialism, a time when many white Americans feel free to speak openly of their nostalgia for an age when their cultural, political and economic dominance could be taken for granted — no apologies required. Racial bigotry, fearmongering and scapegoating are no longer subterranean in our political discourse; the dog whistles have been replaced by bullhorns. White nationalist movements are operating openly online and in many of our communities; they’re celebrating mass killings and recruiting thousands into their ranks.

White nationalism has been emboldened by our president, who routinely unleashes hostile tirades against Black and brown people – calling Mexican migrants criminals, “rapists” and “bad people,” referring to developing African nations as “shithole countries” and smearing a district of the majority-black city of Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Millions of Americans are cheering, or at least tolerating, these racial hostilities.

Contrary to what many people would have us believe, what our nation is experiencing is not an “aberration.” The politics of “Trumpism” and “fake news” are not new; they are as old as the nation itself. The very same playbook has been used over and over in this country by those who seek to preserve racial hierarchy, or to exploit racial resentments and anxieties for political gain, each time with similar results.

Back in the 1980s and ’90s, Democratic and Republican politicians leaned heavily on the racial stereotypes of “crack heads,” “crack babies,” “superpredators” and “welfare queens” to mobilize public support for the War on Drugs, a get-tough movement and a prison-building boom — a political strategy that was traceable in large part to the desire to appeal to poor and working-class white voters who had defected from the Democratic Party in the wake of the civil rights movement.

Today, the rhetoric has changed, but the game remains the same. Public enemy No. 1 in the 2016 election was a brown-skinned immigrant, an “illegal,” a “terrorist” or an influx of people who want to take your job or rape your daughter. As Trump put it: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. . They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems. . They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

He promised to solve this imaginary crisis through mass deportation and building a wall between the United States and Mexico. He also insisted that his political opponent, Hillary Clinton, wanted “millions of illegal immigrants to come in and take everybody’s jobs.” And he blamed domestic terroristic attacks in New Jersey and New York on “our extremely open immigration system,” which, he argued, allows Muslim terrorists into our country.

The fact that Trump’s claims were demonstrably false did not impede his rise, just as facts were largely irrelevant at the outset of the War on Drugs. It didn’t matter back then that studies consistently found that whites were equally likely, if not more likely, than people of color to use and sell illegal drugs.

Black people were still labeled the enemy. Nor did it matter, when the drug war was taking off, that nearly all of the sensationalized claims that crack cocaine was some kind of “demon drug,” drastically more harmful than powder cocaine, were false or misleading. Black people charged with possession of crack in inner cities were still punished far more harshly than white people in possession of powder cocaine in the suburbs. And it didn’t matter that African-Americans weren’t actually taking white people’s jobs or college educations in significant numbers through affirmative action programs.

“The system of mass incarceration has stripped away from millions of U.S. citizens basic civil and human rights until their status mirrors (or dips below) that of noncitizen immigrants within the United States.” 

Getting tough on “them” — the racially defined “others” who could easily be used as scapegoats and cast as the enemy — was all that mattered. Facts were treated as largely irrelevant then. As they are now.

Fortunately, a growing number of scholars and activists have begun to connect the dots between mass incarceration and mass deportation in our nation’s history and current politics. The historian Kelly Lytle Hernández, in her essay “Amnesty or Abolition: Felons, Illegals, and the Case for a New Abolition Movement,” chronicles how these systems have emerged as interlocking forms of social control that relegate “aliens” and “felons” to a racialized caste of outsiders.


In recent decades, the system of mass incarceration has stripped away from millions of U.S. citizens basic civil and human rights until their status mirrors (or dips below) that of noncitizen immigrants within the United States. This development has coincided with the criminalization of immigration in the United States, resulting in a new class of “illegal immigrants” and “aliens” who are viewed and treated like “felons” or “criminals.” Immigration violations that were once treated as minor civil infractions are now crimes. And minor legal infractions, ranging from shoplifting to marijuana possession to traffic violations, now routinely prompt one of the nation’s most devastating sanctions — deportation.

The story of how our “nation of immigrants” came to deport and incarcerate so many for so little, Hernández explains, is a story of race and unfreedom reaching back to the era of emancipation. If we fail to understand the historical relationship between these systems, especially the racial politics that enabled them, we will be unable to build a truly united front that will prevent the continual re-formation of systems of racial and social control.

“The systems of mass incarceration and mass deportation . . . are both deeply rooted in our racial history, and they both have expanded in part because of the enormous profits to be made in controlling, exploiting and eliminating vulnerable human beings.”

In my experience, those who argue that the systems of mass incarceration and mass deportation simply reflect sincere (but misguided) efforts to address the real harms caused by crime, or the real challenges created by surges in immigration, tend to underestimate the corrupting influence of white supremacy whenever black and brown people are perceived to be the problem. “Between me and the other world, there is ever an unasked question,” W.E.B. Du Bois famously said back in 1897: “How does it feel to be a problem?” White people are generally allowed to have problems, and they’ve historically been granted the power to define and respond to them. But people of color — in this “land of the free” forged through slavery and genocide — are regularly viewed and treated as the problem.

This distinction has made all the difference. Once human beings are defined as the problem in the public consciousness, their elimination through deportation, incarceration or even genocide becomes nearly inevitable.

White nationalism, at its core, reflects a belief that our nation’s problems would be solved if only people of color could somehow be gotten rid of, or at least better controlled. In short, mass incarceration and mass deportation have less to do with crime and immigration than the ways we’ve chosen to respond to those issues when black and brown people are framed as the problem.

Charlottesvile South Carolina 2017

As Khalil Gibran Muhammad points out in “The Condemnation of Blackness,” throughout our nation’s history, when crime and immigration have been perceived as white, our nation’s response has been radically different from when those phenomena have been defined as black or brown. The systems of mass incarceration and mass deportation may seem entirely unrelated at first glance, but they are both deeply rooted in our racial history, and they both have expanded in part because of the enormous profits to be made in controlling, exploiting and eliminating vulnerable human beings.

“Once human beings are defined as the problem in the public consciousness, their elimination through deportation, incarceration or even genocide becomes nearly inevitable.”

It is tempting to imagine that electing a Democratic president or more Democratic politicians will fix the crises in our justice systems and our democracy. To be clear, removing Trump from office is necessary and urgent; but simply electing more Democrats to office is no guarantee that our nation will break its habit of birthing enormous systems of racial and social control. Indeed, one of the lessons of recent decades is these systems can grow and thrive even when our elected leaders claim to be progressive and espouse the rhetoric of equality, inclusion and civil rights.

President Bill Clinton, who publicly aligned himself with the black community and black leaders, escalated a racially discriminatory drug war in part to avoid being cast by conservatives as “soft on crime.” Similarly, President Obama publicly preached values of inclusion and compassion toward immigrants, yet he escalated the mass detention and deportation of noncitizens.

Obama claimed that his administration was focused on deporting: “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.” However, reports by The New York Times and the Marshall Project revealed that, despite Obama’s rhetoric, a clear majority of immigrants detained and deported during his administration had no criminal records, except minor infractions, including traffic violations, and posed no threat.

Equally important is the reality that “felons” have families. And “criminals” are often children or teenagers. The notion that, if you’ve ever committed a crime, you’re permanently disposable is the very idea that has rationalized mass incarceration in the United States.

“A clear majority of immigrants detained and deported during Obama’s administration had no criminal records.”

The current crisis of racist police killings is national.

None of this is to minimize the real progress that has occurred on many issues of race and criminal justice during the past decade. Today, there is bipartisan support for some prison downsizing, and hundreds of millions of philanthropic dollars have begun to flow toward criminal justice reform. A vibrant movement led by formerly incarcerated and convicted people is on the rise – a movement that has challenged or repealed disenfranchisement laws in several states, mobilized support of sentencing reform and successfully organized to “ban the box” on employment applications that discriminate against those with criminal records by asking the dreaded question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”

Activism challenging police violence has swept the nation – inspired by the courageous uprisings in Ferguson, Mo., the viral videos of police killings of unarmed black people, and #BlackLivesMatter. Promising movements for restorative and transformative justice have taken hold in numerous cities. Campaigns against cash bail have gained steam. Marijuana legalization has sped across the nation, with more than 25 states having partly or fully decriminalized cannabis since 2012.

And “The New Jim Crow,” which some predicted would never get an audience, wound up spending nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and has been used widely by faith groups, activists, educators and people directly affected by mass incarceration inside and outside prisons. Over the past 10 years, I’ve received thousands of letters — and tens of thousands of emails — from people in all walks of life who have written to share how the book changed their lives or how they have used it to support consciousness-raising or activism in countless ways.

“Nearly everyone seems aware that our democracy is in crisis, yet few seem prepared to reckon with the reality that removing Trump from office will not rid our nation of the social and political dynamics that made his election possible.”

Everything has changed. And yet nothing has.

The politics of white supremacy, which defined our original constitution, have continued unabated — repeatedly and predictably engendering new systems of racial and social control. Just a few decades ago, politicians vowed to build more prison walls. Today, they promise border walls.

The political strategy of divide, demonize and conquer has worked for centuries in the United States — since the days of slavery — to keep poor and working people angry at (and fearful of) one another rather than uniting to challenge unjust political and economic systems. At times, the tactics of white supremacy have led to open warfare. Other times, the divisions and conflicts are less visible, lurking beneath the surface.

The stakes now are as high as they’ve ever been. Nearly everyone seems aware that our democracy is in crisis, yet few seem prepared to reckon with the reality that removing Trump from office will not rid our nation of the social and political dynamics that made his election possible. No issue has proved more vexing to this nation than the issue of race, and yet no question is more pressing than how to overcome the politics of white supremacy — a form of politics that not only led to an actual civil war but that threatens our ability ever to create a truly fair, just and inclusive democracy.

We find ourselves in this dangerous place not because something radically different has occurred in our nation’s politics, but because so much has remained the same.

The inconvenient truth is that racial progress in this country is always more complex and frequently more illusory than it appears at first glance. The past 10 years has been a case in point. Our nation has swung sharply from what Marc Mauer memorably termed “a race to incarcerate” — propelled by bipartisan wars on “drugs” and “crime” — to a bipartisan commitment to criminal justice reform, particularly in the area of drug policy. And yet, it must be acknowledged that much of the progress occurred not because of newfound concern for people of color who have been the primary targets of the drug war, but because drug addiction, due to the opioid crisis, became perceived as a white problem, and wealthy white investors became interested in profiting from the emerging legal cannabis industry.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment


Palestinians in Gaza CIty protest Trump “Deal of the Century” Jan. 28, 2020

The American Human Rights Council (AHRC-USA) is greatly disappointed, but not surprised, with the specifics of the recently released Deal of the Century. This proposal is one-sided, biased and rubber stamps Israeli violations of international law and human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories. It is telling that no Palestinian was present at the Declaration of this plan on Tuesday January 28. It is not acceptable to any Palestinian.

The so-called “Deal of the Century,” is a false hope to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. This Trump’s administration effort to impose a surrender on the Palestinians is a betrayal of international law, justice and American values. Any peace deal that does not provide two states, Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and right of return, is bound to fail. Indeed, genuine efforts to end this conflict are long overdue and the parameters of a just and lasting peace are well known.

The Palestinians have been actively seeking a peaceful settlement of the conflict as far back as the 1970’s. Israel has refused to even acknowledge the Palestinians as a people. Now Israel recognizes the Palestinians as a people but is using the might of the United States to impose on them total surrender. This is not what the Palestinians signed up for when they went to Oslo and agreed to have the US as a broker of the peace talks.

Imad Hamad

Dr. Shadi Hamid of Brookings Institution in Washington, DC stated: ‘Israel-Palestine is that rare incredibly difficult “problem” whose solution is within realm of imagination: 67 borders with swaps; E. Jerusalem as Palestinian capital; right of return to new Palestinian state, with a small, agreed upon number being able to return to Israel proper.’ This is what the Palestinians signed up for and expected. Instead the Deal embellishes and formalizes Apartheid in the occupied territories.

“This Deal is the Great Betrayal of the Century,” said Imad Hamad, AHRC Executive Director. “Any peace agreement that is not guided by respect for international law and the human rights of the Palestinians is bound to fail,” added Hamad. “And this so-called Deal of the Century is dead on arrival,” concluded Hamad.

Detroit News link:


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Sauntore Thomas tried to deposit settlement checks from racial discrimination lawsuit; Detroit-based TCF Bank called Livonia cops on him

Thomas files second lawsuit against TCF–“Banking while Black”

“I wanted to make sure I stayed as levelheaded as possible, because I wasn’t going to be the next person on the ground saying, ‘I can’t breathe'”– Thomas

Storm of tweets: “Everyone knows that TCF hates Black people. Boycott the Grand Wizards of banking.”Time to boycott TCF Bank.” #BoycottTCF

$45 billion TCF  Financial Corporation, headquartered in Detroit, with subsidiary in Livonia 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan renamed Cobo Hall “TCF Center”  in alleged move against racism despite his own record

By Diane Bukowski

January 25, 2020

Planned TCF headquarters building in Detroit, at Woodward and Elizabeth, across from Comerica Park. Taxpayers shelled out over $17 million for construction.

DETROIT —  The story of Black Detroiter Sauntore Thomas’ arrest by Livonia cops, called in by TCF Bank officials, for trying to deposit checks from the settlement of a racial discrimination lawsuit, has gone viral, covered by virtually every major news outlet across the U.S.

NewsOne gathered angry tweets  from across the country responding to those stories, including:

“Everyone knows that TCF hates Black people. Boycott the Grand Wizards of banking.”

“Time to boycott TCF Bank.” #BoycottTCF

“Nothing that Mr. Thomas asked for was “unusual” the only thing that was unusual was that a Black man with three checks amounting to $97,000 walked into their bank.” 

 “TCF is the name of the bank that called the cops on the brother who won a settlement against guess?? racism! if you are Black change banks. Black power!”

 “ I hope his lawsuit causes this racist bank to shut down….”

 @TCFBank is the latest brand to issue a non-apology. #SorryNotSorry

Detroit’s Cobo Hall is now called the “TCF Center.”

Thomas has now sued TCF, whose parent company, the TCF Corporation, is headquartered in Detroit. It recently merged with Chemical Bank, making the new TCF bank the 27th-largest in the U.S., with $45 billion in assets, over 500 branches, and 10,000 employees. 

Crains Detroit said, “Chemical Bank was already by far the largest bank headquartered in Detroit since announcing its move to the city from Midland in 2016, filling a void left by Comerica Inc. in 2007 when the bank with roots in Detroit predating the Civil War moved its corporate headquarters to Dallas.”

Crain’s also pointed to the Livonia-based TCF Equipment subsidiary, which grew from making $100 million for TCF in 1999 to $5 billion annually.

Renaming ceremony Aug. 29, 2019: TCF backed the election campaigns of both Duggan and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Chemical Bank, now merged with TCF, received a $17 million tax subsidy from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to build its new headquarters, with more than $16 million coming from state school taxes and $621,000 in local tax captures,  approved by the Detroit City Council. Available local and state school capture for the project actually totaled nearly $34 million.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan last year renamed the city’s downtown Cobo Hall convention center “The TCF Center,” allegedly to counter the racism embodied in the use of former Detroit Mayor Albert Cobo’s name.

Duggan said, “This center ha[d] been named for an individual who was responsible for policies that moved large numbers of African Americans out of their homes, out of their business with no place to go — in the name of urban renewal.”

But Duggan has himself long been denounced by many Black business owners and homeowners in Detroit for the same practices.

Groups rally at Coleman A. Young Center July 15, 2015 to protest the “Great Black-Out” of Detroit businesses, residents, and services under Mike Duggan. VOD photo

In 2015, VOD reported, “Black Detroit business-owners, cab drivers, homeowners, city retirees opposing the takeover of the Detroit water department and water shut-offs, and residents campaigning for streetlights rallied July 21 against what they called ‘The Great Black-Out’ of Detroit,” Protesters said Duggan and other government officials were aiding a reverse “white flight” INTO the city by corporate and banking vultures.

Bert Dearing speaks at July 21, 2015 rally.

Marcus Cummings, who chaired the rally, said, “We were here long before Dan Gilbert.”

Bert Dearing, owner of Bert’s Entertainment Complex in Eastern Market, was one of the protest leaders, battling efforts to oust his establishment from its locale, as his jazz venues have previously been ousted from W. Jefferson and Broadway Aves. in downtown Detroit over the past decades.

“I’ve done business in Detroit for over 47 years,” Dearing, Jr. said during the rally against the “Black-Out” of Detroit July 15. “My club was at 150 W. Jefferson beginning in 1957, but I was displaced from there and forced to move to Eastern Market. What programs is our government putting together for people of color to survive in Detroit?”

Bert’s was on the auction block at the time, but Dearing fought back with a federal lawsuit alleging fraud against the proposed buyers, some associated with Dan Gilbert. See VOD story on lawsuit at

TCF’S half-hearted apology bodes ill for Blacks and Detroiters

The half-hearted, arrogant apology TCF issued for Thomas’ arrest should alert Blacks, Detroiters and businesses owned by people of color, to the likelihood of  future problems in dealings with TCF.

“We strongly condemn racism and discrimination of any kind,” TCF spokesman Tom Wennenberg told the Detroit Free Press..

“We take extra precautions involving large deposits and requests for cash and in this case, we were unable to validate the checks presented by Mr. Thomas and regret we could not meet his needs.”

Prominent plaintiff’s attorney Deborah Gordon with Sauntore Thomas.

BuzzFeed News reporter Jullia Reinstein interviewed Sauntore Thomas, 44,  Jan. 23.

“A man who tried to deposit a settlement check from a workplace racial discrimination lawsuit said he was again discriminated against for being Black, this time by the bank, who called the police on him over accusations the check was fraudulent,” Reinstein wrote.

Reinstein said Thomas told her he had just confidentially settled the lawsuit against Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Detroit and wanted to open a savings account at the TCF Livonia branch, where he had been a customer since 2018. He said he told bank employees he wanted to deposit his settlement money and withdraw some of it.

Instead, the assistant bank manager “treated him suspiciously, even asking him how he got the money in the first place,” Thomas told Reinstein. The manager said she needed to verify the checks. and Thomas said he would wait in the lobby.

“Ten minutes later, the Livonia Police show up,” Thomas recounted. He said he told the four officers,  “‘This is crazy, I literally just got them from my lawyer’s office.'”

Eric Garner choked to death by NYC police

Thomas said he thought about the large numbers of Blacks killed in police encounters over past years, and did his best to stay calm in a “very stressful and unpredictable situation.”

“I didn’t give them any type of indication that I was getting upset,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I stayed as levelheaded as possible, because I wasn’t going to be the next person on the ground saying, ‘I can’t breathe.'”

Reinstein reported that Thomas’ prominent attorney Deborah Gordon spoke to the police and the bank manager, providing lawsuit documents and the bottom half of the check pay stub.

“[The assistant bank manager] basically said, ‘We can’t even prove that was your lawyer on the phone we were talking to,'” Thomas said.

“And I said, ‘OK, if you’re going to treat me like this, and I’m a customer, and I have an account. That is not right. There’s no reason why I have to do business with you at all — I have to close my account,'” Thomas told Reinstein.

TCF bank branch at 13401 Middlebelt Road,
Livonia, MI 48150 called cops on Thomas.

Thomas said he closed his TCF account on the spot, then took his checks to Chase Bank, which opened an account for him with no problem. The checks cleared the next day.

Now, Thomas has filed a lawsuit against the bank, saying his “race was a factor” in how he was treated at the bank. He is asking for damages for “mental anguish” and “humiliation.”

Even after his attorney called the bank to validate the checks, the suit states, “TCF Bank subsequently filed a police report against Plaintiff for check fraud.”

The lawsuit says Thomas was humiliated by the incident and suffered mental anguish and emotional distress. He is seeking damages.

Gordon told Reinstein she believes her client was in fact discriminated against for “banking while Black.”

“This is just another classic example of what it’s like living your life as a Black male,” she said. “The checks are for real. Why was there an issue? Why could you not verify them? You’re a bank, after all — it’s your job to verify checks.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON, Jan 21 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday let residents of Flint, Michigan pursue a civil rights lawsuit against the city and government officials that accused them of knowingly allowing the city’s water supply to become contaminated with lead.

The justices turned away two appeals by the city and the state and local officials of a lower court ruling that allowed the lawsuit to move forward. The lower court rejected a demand for immunity by the officials, finding that they violated the residents’ right to “bodily integrity” under the U.S. Constitution by providing the tainted water after switching water sources in a cost-cutting move in 2014.

The justices’ action comes as similar class-action cases are currently on appeal at the Cincinnati, Ohio-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Flint switched its public water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River to reduce costs during a financial crisis. The corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes.

Flint water protest Oct. 12, 2015/Photo: Record-Eagle

Lead poisoning can stunt children’s cognitive development. No level of exposure is considered safe.

The city switched back to Lake Huron water the next year. The contaminated river water also triggered an outbreak of bacteria-caused Legionnaires’ disease, which killed 12 people and sickened dozens of others

DeMario Stewart of Flint said feeds his son Damonei Stewart during his two month checkup at Hurley Childrens Center. USA Today

Lawsuits over Flint’s water have proliferated in recent years. The number of people who have reported being harmed through exposure to contaminants in Flint, including lead and bacteria, or who experienced ailments such as rashes and hair loss, has reached more than 25,000, including more than 5,000 children under 12, according to court records.

The cases center on the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of due process under the law, which can protect people from government-induced harm to their personal security or health, a legal principle known as “bodily integrity.”

Courts have previously enforced the right to confront abuses of power in cases of direct physical intrusion, such as non-consensual medical procedures or forced drug administration.

Newark children had gone with parents to get free water.

The defendants argued that the lower courts have dangerously expanded that right by applying it to policy decisions that result in public exposure to environmental toxins. They also argued they are protected from the claims through a legal doctrine known as “qualified immunity” because they could not have known they could be held liable for “doing the best they could in difficult circumstances with limited information.”

The case before the justices was filed in 2016 by two Flint residents including Shari Guertin, who said that she and her child were exposed to high levels of lead.

Calling the water crisis a “government-created environmental disaster” in a 2019 ruling, the 6th Circuit green-lighted the constitutional claims and rejected immunity for the officials.

Flint residents in bitter protest at City Council meeting.

Related articles from VOD:

#JeffWright, #FlintWater, #KWA, #FlintLivesMatter, #NewarkLivesMatter, #Waterislife, #Beatbackthebullies, #DAREA, #Detroit2Flint, #BlacklivesmatterDetroit, #DetroitWater, #OurWaterOurVote, #Right2Water, #Saveourchildren, #SaveFlint, #SaveNewark,  #SaveDetroit 

Some related stories from other media:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


This story has been updated Jan. 17, 2020 and later Jan. 19, 2020 with an account from Nikita Landrum’s family members detailing and honoring the life of their beloved daughter and sister, and their research into her death and that of their grandchildren.

Mainstream media neglects to investigate suspicious circumstances behind death

Mother, children’s father (not married), in bitter custody dispute

Mother’s autopsy report, photos differ drastically—was forehead entrance wound actually exit wound from shot in back of head?

Shell casings scattered around scene, lack of blood spatter, no gunshot residue or fingerprints inconsistent with reports of deaths

Bay County Sheriff, Michigan State Police conducted incomplete investigations, told media outlets it was “murder-suicide” early on

By Diane Bukowski

December 20, 2019

VOD editor warning: this story contains graphic photos published with the permission of Nikita Landrum’s family.

BAY CITY, MI—Nearly tw0 years ago, on Feb. 21, 2018, Bay County workers, state sheriffs, and Michigan State Police discovered a horrific scene on the desolate, muddy grounds of a Bay County drain commission facility just outside of Bay City, Michigan in Bangor Township.

The bodies of Nikita Landrum, 31, an Oak Park resident who worked as an IT specialist at Secure 24 in Southfield, Michigan, and her toddlers Mikayla, 3 and Dariel Walker, Jr., 2, lay inside and next to Landrum’s black Lincoln, on a field near the building. According to all family sources, the young mother and her children had never been to Bay County and were not familiar with the area, 100 miles away from home.

Initial reports by police investigators on the scene made no mention that a handgun was allegedly found on the floor of the driver’s seat, but photos given to the Michigan State Police showed the gun on the driver’s seat floor next to her  loose hand.

Photographs taken by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office show Ms. Landrum’s body casually draped on her back across the front seat and its divider, with her right hand casually positioned toward the floor, and a huge bloody wound in the top of her forehead.

Little Mikayla was in her car seat in back of the car, Dariel was found lying outside the rear side of the car. Both had been brutally shot in the back of the head, according to their autopsy reports.

Only one day later, media headlines from Bay City and metro Detroit to the United Kingdom and Latin America trumpeted variants of MOTHER, CHILDREN IDENTIFIED IN BANGOR TOWNSHIP DOUBLE MURDER-SUICIDE” (WXYZ-TV, Feb. 22, 2018).

Stories focused on the grief of the children’s father, Dariel Walker, Sr., who readily submitted to numerous interviews and supplied photos and videos of the children, gaining media support. Most reporters conducted no further investigation after Bay County sheriff Troy Cunningham declared the deaths to be a case of “murder-suicide,” on the day the bodies were discovered, long before autopsies and forensics reports were complete.

Reporters also initially neglected to indicate that Walker had been in a lengthy custody dispute with Ms. Landrum, to whom he was not married. Walker had been convicted in domestic violence situations involving injuries while living with Ms. Landrum in Farmington Hills, 0n Oct. 16, 2014, and on Sept. 23, 2016. Ms. Landrum’s personal notes discovered by police showed that she also suspected Walker of abusing the children while they were staying with him. She said she found bruises on them when they returned to her.

Ms. Landrum moved out of their home in Farmington Hills to Oak Park with her children after the second occasion, according to court documents and police records.

Oakland County Judge Mary Ellen Brennan granted joint custody to parents despite father’s DV convictions

Oakland Co. Family Court Judge Mary Ellen Brennan (r) presents award to Judge Karen McDonald.

Despite the domestic violence history, Oakland County Judge Mary Ellen Brennan granted the two parents joint custody of the children in on Sept. 19, 2017, according to court records. The official Michigan Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Manual, issued by the State’s Friend of the Court, however, cites domestic abuse as the first factor to investigate in such cases.

“While reviewing the pleadings and questionnaires, the investigator should attempt to identify any indications of domestic violence as well as other issues related to the best interests of the child,” says the manual. “If there are indications (e.g., complaints for divorce, pleadings, sworn statements, personal protection orders between parties) of domestic violence, the investigator should refer to office policy on screening domestic violence cases and take the appropriate steps.”

But, despite his domestic violence-related convictions, Walker continued to file court motions to extend his visiting times with the children after winning joint custody on Sept. 19, 2017.

Ms. Landrum had just filed her response to his latest motion asking to have the children overnight on Wednesdays, a school night. A lawyer friend she was dating helped her with the motion. The hearing was set for Feb. 22, 2018, one day after the family’s bodies were found. Ms. Landrum was also pursuing a claim of indigenous heritage in an attempt to have the case moved out of Oakland County Courts, according to her mother.

Bay County Sheriff Troy Cunningham gives press conference outside death scene Feb. 21, 2018, declaring deaths of Ms. Landrum and children “murders-suicide” before investigation completed. Photo: MLive

On the Wednesday night previous to their disappearance, Walker kept the children overnight with no notification to their mother, although the court order allowing that was still pending. Ms. Landrum was terrified that Walker would eventually win full custody. Interviewed by police investigators, her c0-workers at Secure 24 said she “lived for her children” and was frightened of Dariel Walker, Sr.

Nikita’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Landrum, say they have never believed their daughter killed herself or her children. Grieving heavily, they have been conducting their own investigation since February 22, 2018, meeting with Bay County officials and others over the intervening months seeking the truth.

They have run into numerous roadblocks, first told by the Sheriff’s office that they could not see the bodies of their daughter and grandchildren because “the coroner was still conducting other autopsies in the area.” They were only shown their partially obscured faces on camera for identification purposes

Bay County Executive James Barcia

Afterwards, Bay County officials stonewalled the family’s requests for access to reports and personal effects, particularly those related to the grandchildren. Apparently the officials considered the father the children’s official surviving representative.

Ms. Landrum’s parents, siblings and supporters visited Bay County offices numerous times for months after the killings. VOD accompanied them on their last visit, when the group met with representatives of the Bay County Office of the General Counsel as well as Bay County Executive James Barcia. Barcia said he too had doubts about the discovery of the mother and children’s bodies.

The Office of the General Counsel finally provided extensive, yet incomplete documentation in response to two FOIA requests.


The Autopsy Report on Ms. Landrum was written by Dr. K​a​n​u​b​h​a​I​ Varani, Consulting Forensic Pathologist for the Bay County Medical Examiner.  In addition to the written autopsy reports on Ms. Landrum and her children, VOD received autopsy photos of Ms. Landrum, but not the children.

Varani is now the Deputy Medical Examiner for Oakland County, where Walker still lives. Walker’s sister is an Oakland County Deputy Sheriff.

Dr. Kanu Virani testifies at court hearing.

Varani previously held the Deputy Medical Examiner position in Bay County, but stepped down due to a conflict over organ donation. He  obtained the well-paid Oakland County position shortly after conducting the Landrum autopsies. Otherwise, he had floated around the state on a contractual basis to other county ME offices for years. He has a state license as a medical doctor, but no state licenses related to forensic pathology.

His published curriculum vitae says also that he is “board-certified” by the American Board of Pathology in Anatomic Pathology & Clinical Pathology, and Forensic Pathology. However, his name does not come up on a member search of the ABP website.

In 2018, The Tribune published an article by Brenda Battel that says the state of Michigan is seen as “living in the Stone Age” in comparison with other states’ regulation of medical examiners and forensic pathologists. A state-appointed panel is currently drafting proposals to update deficiencies including:

    • Lack of mandated qualification and standardized training for ME’s and medical examiner investigators (MEI’s).
    • No mandated death scene investigation standards, forensic autopsy standards or accreditation of forensic pathologist.
    • Shortage of forensic autopsy facilities and forensic pathologists.
    • No standardized data collection and reporting requirements.
    • No coordinating entity or leadership within the system to provide support, vie for funding or represent the system at the state or national level.

Battel says medical doctors are not trained in forensic pathology. See article at 

VOD left messages on Varani’s personal line at the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office about evident conflicts between the written reports and photos from the Bay County autopsy. VOD has also left messages with the Bay County Medical Examiner’s office. To date, no response has been received.

Is bullet wound in forehead an exit wound, not an entrance wound?

Nikita photographed on ground outside car; flap at top of head wound is clearly seen here, appearing to have been blown out from inside head. Why was her body dragged outside to ground instead of having it lifted onto a gurney for transport to ME?

Nikita Landrum on autopsy table, with what appears to be flap from head wound severed.

Dr. Varani’s report on Ms. Landrum says she died of a “gunshot wound of the head, with 1) Contact entrance wound; forehead; 2) Perforation of skull and brain; 3) bullet recovered from occipital [rear] area of the head; 4) Mild blood aspiration.” It says the contact entrance wound was 1/2 inch in diameter.

Is the wound in Ms. Landrum’s forehead actually the exit wound, while the wound at the rear base of her skull is the entrance wound, meaning she was shot in the back of the head?

The “entrance” wound in Ms. Landrum’s forehead,  is massive, ovoid in shape, with unknown dark particles mixed in with copious blood, as seen in photos from the morgue and at the crime scene. Close-ups of the wound appear to show a flap at its top, blown out from the inside.

Forensic literature on contact entrance gunshot wounds says, “In hard-contact wounds, the muzzle is pressed firmly against the body. All the muzzle emissions accompanying the bullet—the flame, the hot gases, the soot, the propellant particles, the primer residue, and metal particles—are forced into the wound. The wound appearance can vary from a small perforation with searing and blackening of the wound edges caused by the hot gases and flame, to a large, gaping stellate [star-shaped] wound, with soot visible within and around the wound and searing of the wound edges from hot gases and flame.”

A photo of the alleged “exit wound” in the occipital area (back) of Ms. Landrum’s head  shows what appears to be a bullet protruding, with Dr. Virani determining that was where the bullet from the front of the head ended up. After removing that item, the examiner pulled the wound back into its original shape, a small hole more consistent with an entrance wound. (See box above). Other photos show the “entrance wound” without the top flap seen in photographs taken on the scene.

Nikita was allegedly found lying on her back, with her right hand casually draped over console, and gun on floor far from hand and head. No fingerprints found on the gun, or gunshot residue on Ms. Landrum’s hand. No blood spatter of any significance was found on car’s interior walls, seats, windows, or ceiling. 

The autopsy report also states there was NO GUNSHOT RESIDUE found on Ms. Landrum’s hands. Police reports say there were no fingerprints found on the gun in the car. There are no reports linking that gun with the wounds that killed Ms. Landrum and her children, despite VOD’s FOIA requests for just such ballistics reports.

Bruises and scrapes on Nikita’s arms; photo from ME office.

Bruises on Nikita’s kneews and darkened areas on feet and ankles that could have indicated ligatures. Photos: ME’s office

Dr. Virani also failed to note evidence of scratches and apparent bruising all over Ms. Landrum’s arms and legs, and dark areas on her feet, although the shoes she was wearing would have covered any sun exposure.

Oddly, initial police and crime lab reports from the scene make no mention of the gun as part of the property collected from the crime scene. It only appears later in reports from the State Police, and in photographs allegedly taken at the time the bodies of Ms. Landrum and her children were discovered.

Gun with number 18 found (or placed) inside of car.

Narratives from the Oak Park Police Department say they visited the Oak Park home where Nikita lived with her children and a sister and brother. They say that the brother told them he had a gun and showed them the box in which the gun was kept, surprised to find that the gun, a Smith & Wesson SD 40 VE, was missing.

Some gun experts consider that model gun to be equivalent to the Glocks used in most police departments nationally. In Detroit, however, police use the 40 cal. Smith and Wesson according to national records.

There are no records of ballistic reports indicating what type of bullets were recovered from the bodies of the young mother and her children.

However, police claimed it was the same gun found on the driver’s seat floor of Ms. Landrum’s car, below her hand, almost as if the scene had been set up. The photo of Ms. Landrum in the car shows her lying casually on her back, with her head on the console in the middle of the seat, as if she had gone to sleep there. It is hard to imagine that she shot herself in the head while sitting in the driver’s seat, then peacefully laid back down, with the gun casually dropping to the floor a long ways from her hand and head.

The Crime Scene 

Police reports and photos of the crime scene show up to 23 shell casings a significant distance away from Ms. Landrum’s car. (See photos below.)

Markers 1, 2, 3 for bullet casings found atrear of car.

Bullet casing 1 at scene

A shell casing normally drops from a gun at the location where the gun is fired. Ms. Landrum’s car appears to have been subjected to several rounds of fire from OUTSIDE the car, including the bullet hole found in the rear passenger door. The fact that no significant blood splatter was found inside the car, as seen in crime scene photographs, is not consistent with an assumption  that Ms. Landrum killed her children inside the car, then shot herself, and laid peacefully down on the front seat afterwards.

Bullet casing 17 near water-filled ditch at driver’s side of car.

Bullet casing 23 in water-filled ditch at side of car.

While State Police reports noted the presence of the shell casings surrounding the car, no explanation was attempted before the case was declared a “murder-suicide.”

Police also found packs of food and clothing supplies in the trunk of the car, possibly indicating that Ms. Landrum was fleeing Walker in fear for the lives of her children and herself. Double sets of tire tracks at the scene show she may have been pursued by another car to the final site.

CSI photo of Nikita’s car surrounded by ditch and muddy water-filled trenches. Spent bullet casings were found surrounding the car at significant distances.

Double tire tracks leading to Ms. Landrum’s car at crime scene, not investigated.


Dariel Walker, Sr., the children’s father, is evidently living a pretty prosperous life, touting himself as a motivational speaker on his Facebook page, which is also replete with photos of attractive women (

Dariel Walker Sr. and children with unhappy faces.

He was employed at Tom Holzer Ford in Farmington Hills at the time of the murders, but according to the company is no longer working there.

Walker handled the children’s funeral arrangements and then set up a business entity  called “My Little Champions, LLC” in honor of his children, on April 10, 2018. He also sponsored a GoFundMe page for the children’s funeral expenses. The program “My Little Champions” garnered extensive media coverage, but state records show that Walker has not submitted annual financial reports since the organization’s original incorporation.

Nikita Landrum’s mother says Walker called her at the time of her daughter and grandchildren’s disappearance, telling her he feared Nikita might have done something to herself and the children. She says she told him, “If anyone did anything to my daughter, it was you.”

Dariel Walker Sr. held funerals for the children at the Lomax Temple AME Zion Church on 17441 Dequindre in Detroit, on March 1, 2018.

Nikita Landrum’s parents say they are still seeking the truth and justice for their daughter and grandchildren and will not stop. They particularly want their daughter’s name cleared, after the global publicity naming her a murderer of her own children.



Donations for the Voice of Detroit are urgently needed to keep this paper, which is published pro bono, going. Among ongoing expenses are quarterly  web host charges of $360 (due this month Dec. 26), costs for court documents, internet fees, office supplies, gas, etc. Please, if you can:




(VOD: this heart-rending addendum to the story of Nikita Landrum and her children has now been provided by her family members using their own research and photos showing Nikita’s stunning beauty in life.)

Nikita Landrum worked as a model.

Apparent Possibilities

Law Enforcement Agents of Bay City, Michigan State Police, And Oakland County committed a Felony when a presumption of depression was used to diagnose and assassinate Nikita.

(Numerous mainstream media reported a murder-suicide due to depression the day after the bodies of Nikita and her children were found, even providing links to sites advertising mental health assistance. Most did no further research into the Bay County Sheriff’s unfounded declaration that the deaths were a murder/suicide, except to indicate many days later that the father of Nikita’s children had been convicted of domestic violence against Nikita twice and was in a bitter custody dispute over the children.)

Her HIPPA Rights were violated; there was never a release of any records giving credence to the notion of mental depression. To hint or allow inconclusive rationalizing without basic facts shows bias.

The police case narrative presents only hearsay without any concrete proof. The Department officially closed the case without an Affidavit of Facts or Truth, which makes the whole publication defamatory. These Administrators have shown Malfeasance, and Malicious injury motives inflicted on Nikita, Mikayla, Dariel Jr., and all of Nikita’s people.

A timeline of mother and children’s last days, which refutes contention that Nikita was contemplating suicide

Wednesday 14, of February 2018: Children’s dad kept them overnight, violating the actual Administrative Order. Nikita was highly upset about this, however, a brother suggested working some of the frustration off at the gym. Nikita then called upon a friend to proof read the Motion regarding the dad’s actions.

February, Thursday 15th 2018: a legal Motion was filed at the Court and emailed to the Attorney of Dariel Walker [Sr.] Plaintiff. That evening Nikita spoke with her mother informing her something had happened. She said because they were in transit she would talk about the matter over the weekend. Mikayla and Dariel Jr. spoke joyfully over the speaker about the dessert they were to get. [The text below verifies that after the incident of Wednesday she was arranging for the next exchange with the Dad.]

Friday 16, February 2018. Early that day preparation was being made for the drop off of children.  When Nikita did not show up later nor on Saturday it became a concern to all. The Law Enforcers were not called because foul play wasn’t expected. It had not been contemplated until the Dad expressed “He believed she had hurt herself and the children.”

The last known validated texts on Nikita’s phone between her and her brother Friday morning are shown in photo below. They discuss arrangements for picking up the children, which fly in the face of contentions that Nikita was planning to harm them.

Nikita’s cell phone and work laptop were found at the house, after her disappearance. Which raises the question of  how she found her way to Bay City, where she had never been before. There was no known connection.

It was a work day, their clothing did not reflect how they dressed when going out.

The last known validated texts on Nikita’s phone Friday a.m, between Nikita and  brother.

Nikita had moved on from the children’s dad, because of tension between them after leaving him. Others were asked and allowed to stay with the children to give aid to each other. Autochthonous women nurture all that is part of their world if given the chance.

There was a new guy in her life who had met some of her loved ones. That weekend there were to be events they planned to attend. They were engaged, he was to meet her parents in March and inform of their future plans.

The proposed Court Order was not set in stone! They were planning to address it when time allowed. Nikita was looking to have her day with a jury trial. Members of her bloodline were already asked to give testimony. Exhibits were being gathered for the trial.

There was also a Motion showing violations from the Plaintiff [Dariel Walker Sr.] Nikita Landrum told those close to her, “the case was not being handled fairly”. Yet she did not despair; other alternatives were being worked on. Which made the whole Murder/Suicide unthinkable.

Lately she had begun working more from home which was a perk, more time for the children. Her first home was being painted inside. The whole idea that she had in some way lost hope is a one-sided assumption. Which asks who implied it and why?

Nikita honored life and cherished Mikayla as well Dariel Jr. They had just begun a new learning center; Spanish was to be a new language. Nikita noticed being followed and stated it on occasions. The night before their disappearance she seemed tense at times. “He [children’s dad] was calling and chiding to cause her frustrations,” a friend stated. Nikita planned to renew the PPO against Dariel Walker, Sr. [who had two earlier domestic violence convictions related to Nikita].

Nikita listed herself as an Organ Donor, and allowed the umbilical cords of her children to be used for medical purposes, because she believed that doing this would allow others to live a better life if their organs were saved for those in need.

Nikita while breastfeeding Dariel Jr.

When she spoke of the reason for advocating, it was thought the organs wouldn’t be available until she died, hopefully of natural causes. Why were she and the children found 100 miles from home? Who would or could benefit from this happening? What made the Murder/Suicide speculation ideal and then confirmed?

Nikita’s mother: These pictures are from different periods of her metamorphosis as a woman, the first taken as a model.

The photo at right, while breastfeeding Dariel Jr. Motherhood brought a need to give more towards nurturing her children. Everyone marveled at the way she provided for them.

VOD FOUND THIS PHOTO ONLINE: Nikita Landrum clears snow off her car, parked on Thompson, to run some errands on a day off from classes Monday morning. Melanie Maxwell


Crime scene and autopsy photos do not correspond to law enforcement conclusions about the deaths of Nikita, Mikayla and Dariel Jr.

Dariel Jr. lying on his back in water and mud at crime scene; family zeroed in on larger CSI photo to find this heartbreaking image in one corner. 

This picture shows Dariel Jr. lying on his back, the face is intact, no blood shows. The structure has no disfigurements. The Bay County Sheriff’s department told the world Nikita Landrum shot both children then killed herself with a 40 caliber S&W, before any investigation including autopsy reports were complete. What impact would show if that action was done to the children’s heads?

It was reported that Dariel Jr. was found right outside the vehicle. Examining photo, he is seen lying alone, where is the car? If this was a murder suicide, what purpose would there be to separate the children? The car seats had them restricted from a quick escape! Why kill them in different locations? It was stated that Dariel Jr. was shot in the back of the head. Shouldn’t there be some type of damage to the frontal head or face?

(VOD: The Bay County Sheriff and Medical Examiner denied Nikita’s family access to morgue photos of their grandchildren and to their personal effects.)


Gunshot wound of head: Entrance wound; occipital region of head [Dariel Jr.] Perforation of skull and brain, Exit gunshot wound; left side of the forehead.

Gunshot wound of head: Entrance wound; left occipital region [ Mikayla] Perforation of skull and brain, Exit gunshot wound right temple area.

Children’s car seats, where they were supposedly shot, show no blood spatter and appear to be undisturbed. No blood spatter is seen anywhere in car. CSI photo



Evident ligature mark on Nikita’s wrist in later photo.

Photo of Nikita’s other arm shows bruises.

Nikita’s swollen ankle and foot.

Nikita’s right foot, possibly broken.

Bruises on Nikita’s knees.

Close-up of knee bruise.

Why would these bruises show if Nikita shot both children and then herself? Why are her hands swollen? Photos of her in the car have the body relaxed. The pants worn were loose. People, does the body resemble what was told?

How did a woman who modeled and took extra efforts to work out, eat a certain way, end this life, punched in the face and bruised throughout her body? Why were those signs ignored by Law Enforcers, and Medical Physicians? Nikita was last seen Thursday night February 15, 2018 at the home she shared with Mikayla, Dariel Jr., a brother, and sister. Her car was viewed in the yard early Friday morning. A text message was sent from her number that asked a brother would he be able to take the children? There wasn’t any other communication from her or the children.

The right foot has a swelling with possibility of being broken. The discoloration is not Livor Mortis, when the Mortician was asked the reply “I’ve never seen anything like it before.” What happened to Nikita and why did it take Bay County Law Enforcers over 16 months to give any evidence? The bloodline had to submit an FOIA over three times. An attorney was paid to set up a meeting to view any and all findings. It never happened.

Does this photo show possible moving of the body by pulling or lifting? Nikita’s body was placed on ground as shown in photo below. Narrative states close gunshot to head, where is blood splatter from actual wound? Why is there blood shown in this manner?

Photo of back of car seat, showing bullet hole. Bullet was recovered inside. Why would bullet be at body mass when Nikita  shot in head?

It had been raining for days before bodies found.  Bottoms of Nikita’s pants were wet, the rest of her body dry. The bottom of her shoes are clean, while the ground outside is muddy. There were numerous shell casings found at various distances from the car, indicating someone fired a gun(s) at the car during its presence there. There is one bullet hole in the rear passenger door outside of which police reports claim grandchild Dariel Walker was found dead 

Photo of Nikita’s clothing at morgue.

Clothing in morgue photo.

The clothing and shoes reflect how you would see Nikita early possibly from dozing after a full day with the children. Starting off the day Mikayla and Dariel Jr. would be getting fed and dressed.

Friday June 21 2019 we finally received some of the rest of Nikita;s items. A week later her brother Naseer Landrum was found drowned. To date there has been a refusal of total transparency.

Basic ballistics state that the entry wound is always smaller than the exit wound.

Why was this massive wound on Nikita’s head characterized in the written autopsy report as a 1/2 inch entrance wound?

Crime scene photo of Nikita’s head as her body lay suspiciously relaxed on front seat.

No blood spatter shown on front passenger seat or elsewhere in the car.

No blood spatter on passenger door or elsewhere in interior as shown in this crime scene photo. Bullet hole in rear right passenger door can be seen here.

Nikita after dragged onto ground for unexplained reason, contaminating crime scene (why was her body not placed on a gurney instead for transport to ME office?)  




(Please see attached news article at

I, Landrum, Ms, implore you to launch an investigation at all governmental levels,  because I am an American Indian by blood heritage and my ancestors helped your ancestors establish the United States, as well as its Constitution; therefore, I require and request your aid, because Congress passed House Joint Resolution 331, December 1988, which is:

“A concurrent resolution to acknowledge the contribution of the Iroquois Confederacy of Nations to the development of the United States Constitution and to reaffirm the continuing government-to-government relationship between Indian tribes and the United States established in the Constitution.” — 100th Congress (1987-1988)

The United States Government owes an obligation of protection and preservation to my people. My consort and progeny are what I am; therefore, I bring to your attention the following incidents:

First, my consort Landrum, L was repeatedly harassed by City of Detroit Police from August 2015, through August 2017, based on false allegations of assault made by M. MONTREUIL, which resulted in him being kidnapped twice, thrown into an alternative culture, held against his will for ransom, tried on February 13, 2017, and ultimately exonerated of all charges by a jury of 12.

Second, my daughter, Landrum, Nikita, as well as both her children were all suspiciously assassinated.  Unfortunately, I have battled with intimidation, bullying, fraud, deception, collusion, harassment and conspiracy before/since their demise.

All three were found executed in Bay City, Michigan on February 20, 2018. However, despite the fact that my daughter’s body showed definite signs of a physical struggle, efforts are repeatedly made to compel me to accept her assassination as suicide.

Moreover, I have been repeatedly denied access to important evidence, reports, my daughter’s children effects – auto, and all contents (which all, by blood right belong to our clan now, because they hold sentimental significance for us all).

Third, my son Landrum, Naseer, suffered a suspicious drowning death on June 28, 2019, that is also being pushed on me as yet another doubtful suicide!  We request Federal intervention, because it appears that our bloodline is being targeted for extermination, assassination, and genocide.

As an Indigenous Aborigine of America, I am invoking federal jurisdiction, using Title 42 USC Section 14141, to launch an investigation into everyone and every agency that violated the following Federal laws involving my clan: Title 18 USC Section 241; Title 18 USC Section 242; Title 18 USC Section 249; Title 25 USC Section 174; Title 25 USC Section 194

Thank you in advance for any protections you can offer, because it appears that suspicious efforts are being made to bully my clan and drive my bloodline to extinction, while labeling all these executions as suicides that I do NOT accept – especially when vital information is withheld, as well as personal property, from us by repeatedly stalling and avoiding my requests.  Please help protect and preserve us before we no longer exist!


It was alleged that Nikita committed the murder and suicide in the car. Multiple close-range gun shots from a .40 caliber weapon should create large splatters. There are none..

The question is how did the Investigation reach its findings/opinions? Why did the media quickly give a report without substantiating or inquiring for balance? We do not Consent and Openly Object to this lack of Investigation by all involved in anyway. The only reason we have obtained what is being viewed is due to continued “Demanding, and FOIA requests.”

Addendum to the people at large: Many letters were sent seeking and demanding that Authorities answer questions. People, you are being asked to give a voice to those that have no voice. Reminisce over the many faces and names. That come over the radio, news station, internet and paper. What is told does not add up nor make sense.

Nikita, Mikayla, and Dariel Jr. meant something to “Us” because we are like you. Many are joined with us. If what you’ve read and seen gives doubt of Murder, Suicide! Affirm that the “Soulless” wicked ones shall be brought to light. Any and all who have any information do find strength to give it openly or anonymously! Wherever you are, give a measure of support, do something to secure this world by acting. Whenever “We” resonate energy together for a purpose it shall cause real Luvv [ Luminating Universal Vigilantly Victoriously] 

During 2018 different government departments were sent letters, or emails because of the constant onslaughts against our People. Only the prior Attorney General William Schuette of Michigan responded, while other offices and elected Members refused to respond or act. The offices are being shown for any and all to give power, strength, and clarity for a Public Resolve. Call them, fax, or email!

We enter this document and any other validations, For Proof on the Record.


Landrum, Ms.

cc: File, and

The Honorable Donald Trump. President of the United States 

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500

Phone Numbers Comments: 202-456-1111 FAX: 202-456-2461

The Honorable Chad F. Wolf, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. 20528

Comment Line: 202-282-8495

The Honorable Christopher A. Wray, Director, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation

935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
(202) 324-3000

Detroit (Covers the entire state of Michigan)

477 Michigan Ave., 26th Floor
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 965-2323

The Honorable Donald Washington, Director, Office of the U.S. Marshals Service

General Information (202) 307-9100

The Honorable William Barr

U.S. Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001

Department Comment Line: 202-353-1555

Department of Justice Main Switchboard: 202-514-2000



Mennen Williams Building

525 W. Ottawa Street
P.O. Box 30212
Lansing, MI 48909

Phone: 517-335-7622

Fax: 517-335-7644



Cadillac Place, 10th Floor
3030 W. Grand Blvd., Ste. 10-200
Detroit, MI 48202
Phone: 313-456-0240
Fax: 313-456-0243


Bay County Building

515 Center Avenue, Suite 401
Bay City, Michigan 48708-5125

Voice: (989) 895-4130
Fax: (989) 895-2094


Bay County Building

515 Center Avenue, Suite 401
Bay City, Michigan 48708-5941

Voice: (989) 895-4133
Fax: (989) 895-2094


Amber Davis-Johnson – Director, Corporation Counsel
Heather Brady Pitcher – Assistant Corporation Counsel
Jayson Hoppe – Administrative Supervisor
Nicole LaDouce – Risk Management & FOIA Facilitator

515 Center Avenue, Suite 402
Bay City, Michigan 48708-5941

Voice: (989) 895-4131
Fax: (989) 895-2094


Nancy Borushko, Prosecuting Attorney

1230 Washington Avenue, Suite 768
Bay City, Michigan 48708-5737

Voice: (989) 895-4185
Fax: (989) 895-4167


Troy Cunningham, Sheriff, 

Christopher Mausolf, and Detective Matthew Pett

Bay County Law Enforcement Center

503 Third Street
Bay City, Michigan 48708

Voice: (989) 895-4050
Fax: (989) 895-4058

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment



Above is Channel 4 News interview by Paula Tutman with Davontae Sanford after Pros. Kym Worthy announced she would not bring charges against then DPD Commander James Tolbert for perjury in manufacturing the false case against Sanford. Tutman notes that she would have a step-by-step account from Sanford at 6 p.m. on what police did to him the night of the 4 murders for which he was wrongfully convicted, and spent almost 9 grueling years in prison. However, the 6 pm video is no longer on the WDIV website and was blanked out in an earlier VOD story on the case.

19741 Runyon St. 

But, a 117-pp MSP report says a DPD evidence technician performed a gunshot residue test (negative) on Sanford at the 19741 Runyon address at 3:13 a.m. Sept. 18 (while the scene was being investigated after the murders Sept. 17 around 11:30 pm), indicating that Sanford was present at the crime scene AFTER the murders.

Victim Angelo McNorriel, seated near the front door, was shot multiple times by Vincent Smothers and an accomplice, clearly causing copious blood spray there.

According to the MSP report, then Cdr. James Tolbert, Sgt. Michael Russell, who had unofficially taken over the position of Officer in Charge,  and Sgt. Dale Collinshad driven Sanford around the neighborhood for several hours after Russell encountered him in his pajamas outside the Sanford home on Beland the night of the murders, prior to Sanford’s documented presence at the crime scene.

DNA evidence debated in ongoing federal lawsuit against DPD officers Michael Russell, James Tolbert 

City claims new DNA testing method shows blood of victim McNoriell on Sanford’s gym shoes; Sanford’s attys. contest validity of test

Potentially dangerous Detroit News story ignores evidence cited in MSP report that GSR was done on Sanford at the crime scene after murders

Vincent Smothers confession: “I cannot emphasize strongly enough that Davontae Sanford was not involved in the killings at 19741 Runyon Street in any way.”

 By Diane Bukowski

 January 12, 2020  Updated January 15, 2020

CORRECTION TO EARLIER STORY: VOD’S Jan. 12 story reported incorrectly that U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson had sealed the report on DNA evidence collected from a gym shoe alleged to belong to Davontae Sanford. However, a check of the federal court PACER website shows that Judge Lawson denied the plaintiff’s motion to seal the report on January 14, 2020.

Davontae Sanford (center) beams as his family including (l to r) young nephew, sisters, mother Taminko Sanford-Tilmon, stepfather the late Jeremaine Tilmon, and Apostle W. J. Rideout III applaud his release, at press conference June 9, 2016.

DETROIT — An inflammatory,  potentially dangerous Jan. 10 story in the Detroit News, “DNA Evidence Contested in Davontae Sanford Case,” says “Blood found on 14-year-old Davontae Sanford’s shoes after a 2007 quadruple homicide was retested last month, and it matched one of the victims, Deangelo McNoriell, city attorneys claimed in recent federal court filings in a lawsuit over his disputed murder conviction.”

The News further reported that Sanford’s attorneys are contesting the methods used by a new company called Cybergenetics to test the DNA evidence, after the Michigan State Police tested it in May and found no match. Those attorneys filed a motion to seal the report but U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson denied that motion Jan. 14, after the Detroit News story was published.

The four people found murdered at 19741 Runyon on Sept. 17-18, 2007, were DeAngelo McNoriell, Michael Robinson, Nicole Chapman and Brian Dixon, whose families are still grieving their loss. Worthy has never brought charges against Vincent Smothers and his accomplice in the murders, despite Smothers’ detailed confessions. Despite the News’ characterization of Sanford’s ‘disputed conviction,’ Sanford has NO CONVICTION on the record for the murders.

Four killed on Runyon Street: (clockwise) Nicole Chapman, DeAngelo McNoriell, Michael Robinson, Brian Dixon.

Davontae Sanford, now 27, is known worldwide for his release in 2015 after nearly nine grueling years in prison due to his wrongful conviction of the Sept. 17, 2o07 homicides at 19741 Runyon St. in Detroit..

A highly detailed confession to the murders by Detroit hitman Vincent Smothers, who said Sanford was not involved, and a Michigan State Police investigation that thoroughly discredited the original charges brought by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy led to a ruling by Third Judicial Circuit Court trial judge Brian Sullivan dismissing the charges against Sanford “without prejudice” in 2015, leading to his immediate release.

In one affidavit, Smothers stated unequivocally, “On Sept. 17, 2007, Ernest (Nemo) Davis and I shot and killed four people at 19741 Runyon St. in Detroit. I had been hired by Leroy Payne to kill Michael Robinson, who lived at 19741 Runyon Street, over a drug-related dispute. Nemo and I not only killed Robinson, but three other people who were present in the living room at the time of the hit. We left two survivors in the back bedroom, a young boy who had been sleeping in bed, and a woman who had run from the living room and hid under the bed.

Vincent Smothers appears in court March 25, 2012.

“I cannot emphasize strongly enough that Davontae Sanford was not involved in the killings at 19741 Runyon Street in any way. Before my arrest by the Detroit police department in April of 2008, I had never met, spoken with or even heard of Davontae Sanford or anyone connected to him. Davontae Sanford is being wrongfully incarcerated for crimes I know he did not commit.”

But Judge Sullivan’s ruling meant that the prosecution could re-charge Sanford at any time if it wants. A full exoneration would have meant a ruling of “dismissal with prejudice,” invoking the double jeopardy prohibition.

Worthy has never brought charges against Vincent Smothers and his accomplice in the murders, despite Smothers’ detailed confessions.

She continues to contend, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, that Sanford is not innocent in the case, which she still claims is under investigation. In a press conference after Sanford’s release, which was livestreamed on Detroit’s local news stations, she spoke almost exclusively about the evidence her office had used AGAINST Sanford.

His family’s initial joy at Davontae’s release was subverted months later by the murder of Sanford’s community activist stepfather Jeremaine Tilmon in 2016, while he was unarmed and holding his hands in the air, for unclear reasons. Sanford himself was shot in the leg months later in Detroit and later placed on probation in Arizona, where he had moved with his brother, on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

In a Facebook post Jan. 10, responding to the Detroit News article, Sanford’s mother Taminko Sanford-Tilmon said, “I know you all … will start harassing my family like you did for nine years! . . . Roberto Guzman who tirelessly fought [for Davontae] . . .told me this would happen because they dropped the case without prejudice and they [were] mad and embarrassed that he got out. . .We are about to start getting pulled over for nothing maybe over false evidence [planted] on us, getting probation violated for nothing, watching our house like before!”

Taminko Sanford-Tilmon is interviewed at rally for her son Davontae outside Frank Murphy Hall June 29, 2010. His young sisters and brothers surround her. VOD photo

The motion to allow the DNA test into evidence, filed by city attorneys Jan. 3 and posted on the PACER website, says in part, “On December 20, 2019, D/F/Lt Weimer informed Defense counsel and Plaintiff’s counsel that Cybergenetics had conducted its initial DNA analysis and found a victim’s, Deangelo McNoriell’s, DNA on the exterior of Plaintiff’s shoes.”

The city’s attorneys had asked that U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson deny the plaintiff’s attorneys’ motion for sanctions regarding their proposed submission of the questioned evidence. 

Regarding chain of custody of the shoes, MSP Investigator Christopher Corriveau reported, “On July 21, 2009, during an evidentiary hearing on People v Sanford in 3rd Circuit Court Sgt Russell testified that he confiscated a pair of tennis shoes possibly belonging to Davontae Sanford. However, no record of the seizure of the shoes can be located in the report or in the tabulation of the search warrant. D/S gt Roti and I requested a review of the Detroit Police Department property logs. The property logs show an entry on September 19, 2007, of a pair of blue and white gym shoes by Dale Collins. The entry shows the shoes were taken from Davontae Sanford at [address blocked out].”

Justly Johnson hugs mother after his release.

Later in the MSP report, DPD Investigator Barbara Simon, who was named the Chief Investigating Officer (CIO) on the case but was muscled aside by Russell, says SHE who collected Sanford’s shoes during a search of his family home on Beland. Simon said she did not do most hands-on investigation during the case, and particularly was not told of Vincent Smothers’ confession to the Runyon Street murders. 

Simon along with DPD Sgt. Catherine Adams is currently being sued by Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott in federal court, in another case pursued by Prosecutor Worthy. They are two recently exonerated men who say the women coerced two teenagers into falsely implicating them in the Mother’s Day shooting death of Lisa Steinberg Kindred in 2000. They spent 18 years in prison, and were not released until after Worthy ultimately decided not to retry them.


But the DNA testing issue may be moot in light of claims the Michigan State Police made against the DPD in a 117-page report they submitted to Prosecutor Worthy just before Sanford’s release in 2015.

The most telling was a report of the Gunshot Residue Test an evidence technician conducted on Sanford in the early morning directly after the killings at 19741 Runyon.

“According to the relevant Detroit Police Department Gunshot Residue Test information sheet, a Gunshot Residue Test was conducted on Davontae Sanford on Sept. 18, 2007 at 3:13 [the night of the murders which began at 11:30 pm Sept. 17], by William Niehous at 19741 Runyon St. The subsequent laboratory analysis (Detroit Police Department Lab No. B-07o631) states the following: GSR Kit #5038 was submitted, consisting of three aluminum SEM sampling stubs labeled Right Web, Left Web, and Forehead/face. Significant amounts of lead, barium and antimony were NOT DETECTED on any of the sampling stubs from Davontae Sanford.”

Photo of gym shoe allegedly taken from Davontae Sanford, with substance city claims is blood on side of shoe. 

The MSP also reported, “The Detroit Police Department ‘Witness Conveyance Consent Form’ for Davontae Sanford is dated ’09-18-07′. The written time is illegible but appears to be ’33’. The officer requesting the consent is Michael Russell and the witness signing for Davontae Sanford is Pamela Sanford, his grandmother.”

Thus, Sanford was present at the crime scene the night of the murders, afterwards, contaminating the scene and potentially contaminating himself. Whoever brought him there should have been subject to severe charges.

Citing DPD reports issued at the time of the murders, the MSP report says that both Russell and Tolbert, along with another DPD officer Dale Collins, used Tolbert’s unmarked truck to drive Sanford around the neighborhood where the killings took place for several hours, after Russell first encountered Sanford on Beland St. outside his family home.

Cdr. James Tolbert

Sgt. Michael Russell

Russell  claimed they were having Sanford point out locations where people he falsely identified as involved in the murders lived. Later reports by Collins said they were having him point out alleged drug and gun houses.

Tolbert first told MSP investigators that a controversial diagram of the house and murder scene was drawn inside the truck, and later that Sanford drew it at police headquarters, before he  admitted drawing it himself at headquarters.

Ironically, MSP Det. Sergeant Christopher Corriveau said he took a call from Sgt. Russell during the investigation in which Russell said that only Tolbert, not he himself, was involved in the diagram situation. Corriveau said he would testify about the call if necessary. But Russell actually signed the diagram (shown below).

Joseph Weekley

Dale Collins

Russell and Dale Collins were both featured as stars on A&E’s “First 48” website, along with DPD officer Joseph Weekley and others involved in the DPD murder of 7 year-old Aiyana Jones during a horrific SWAT-style raid on her home in 2010.

Sanford said in later interviews that police showed him photos of the victims’ bodies as they were placed in the house, before he drew them in on Tolbert’s diagram.

Tolbert’s second statement to investigators that Sanford drew the diagram led to MSP recommendations that he and Russell both be indicted for perjury, recommendations that Worthy never followed up on.

Crime scene as drawn by Tolbert, with bodies placed by Sanford after he was shown photos of the murdered victims as they lay dead in the house.

Instead, one day before the statute of limitations was up, she announced that she would not charge Tolbert due to insufficient evidence, because Sanford would not testify about the diagram himself.

Sanford vehemently denied that twice, in an interview with Paula Tutman of Channel Four, and in an interview with Kate Walls of Michigan Radio.

Walls reported, “Sanford says police start showing him pictures of the crime scene: pictures of the bodies of four people who had been gunned down earlier that night.

“Those images will live with me for the rest of my life. I will never in a million years forget – like, it was, like stories.” [Sanford]

“He says police were telling him just cooperate – then we’ll take you home. That’s when another police officer comes in, Detroit Police Commander James Tolbert.

“And Sanford says Tolbert starts drawing a sketch of the house where the crime took place – the living room where the gunmen burst in, the couches – and Tolbert asks Sanford, ‘Draw for me where the bodies fell.’

‘And um once they showed me the pictures, I drew the bodies.’ Sanford said. ‘I drew the bodies on the diagram. And once I did that, Tolbert was like, ‘See? I told ya’ll. I told ya’ll.”

Listen to full Sanford interview by Kate Walls of Michigan Radio below.

In an affidavit submitted to Sanford’s attorneys from the University of Wisconsin Innocence Project, Sanford said he himself told Sgt. Russell about the fact that he and Davis had committed the murders on Runyon St, when he saw Russell during his police interrogation on other murders.



The MSP report adds, 

“Investigator’s Note: Sgt Russell documents Sanford’s height and weight on the statement form as 5’5″ and 155 lbs. Further, Cary Daily AKA “Cary”[a youth Sanford said was with him during the killings in a since discredited confession] is listed in the report as 5 ’07” in height and 140/bs in weight. Both subjects are substantially shorter in comparison to the description of the suspects provided by Jesse King and Valerie Glover.”

Apparently, Russell ignored the statements provided the night of the killings to DPD officers and in later interviews and court testimony by King and Glover. 

Vincent Smothers

Ernest Davis

The MSP report says, “King stated that the two subjects left Robinson’s house approximately five to ten minutes after he heard the first round of gunfire. King described the first subject as being “5′ 11” – 6′, brown skinned, slim medium build, dark clothes something like they wear in the winter with the center out but they had it up on their heads.

“He advised the initial subject was carrying a long gun. King described the second subject as slightly shorter than the first with the same build and complexion. He advised that subject was carrying ahandgun. King stated that his storm door was open and when the subject with the long gun saw that he (King) was looking at them, the subject with the long gun fired at him. King stated that he fired back with his 9mm pistol. King stated that both subjects then walked towards the fence and he lost sight of them.”

In an MSP interview, “King indicated he did not believe that either subject was Davontae Sanford. He explained that he knew Sanford because he (King) used to volunteer at the local school where Sanford was a student. He advised Sanford was also well known in the neighborhood. . . King stated he was familiar with Sanford’s walk and neither subject that night appeared to move like Sanford.”

Taminko Sanford-Tilmon, Davontae’s mother (l) and Mertilla Jones, grandmother of Aiyana Jones, killed by DPD at the age of 7 in 2010, held joint rally June 23, 2012, demanding justice for Aiyana and freedom for Davontae and Aiyana’s father Charles Jones.  The Jones family recently won an $8.2 million settlement from the City of Detroit.

Valerie Glover was present in the 19741 Runyon St. house the night of the killings, but fled to a back bedroom when the killers entered, and hid under a bed where Robinson’s young son was sleeping.

The MSP report says, “Upon questioning Glover advised that the only subject she saw was the one that was in the bedroom with her. Glover described the subject as a black male, no more than thirty to thirty-thirty five years old with a soft voice. Glover further described the subject as approximately 6′ to 6″1″ tall with a slim build. She also stated that the subject had something on his face like a ‘raid mask’.”

Smothers speaks with a very soft voice, which could be mistaken for a child’s voice, but another witness interviewed by the MSP, neighbor Sonia Roi Gaskin, denied the man she saw fleeing the home was a child.

The MSP report says, “Gaskin stated she saw a tall man wearing a dark trench coat walking north along the side walk. She said that he was walking like he was carrying a weapon. . . . Gaskin also described the subject as not being heavy set nor was the subject a child. She only saw one subject and could not tell if the subject had anything covering his face. She said it was very dark out at the time of this incident.”

Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy was falsely convicted in 2004 of a murder to which VIncent Smothers confessed. Searcy is awaiting state supreme court action on his case. Many of the same players in Sanford’s case took part in Searcy’s frame-up, including PA Patrick Muscat and DPD Sgt. Dale Collins.

The Michigan State Police reported extensively on other discrepancies in Worthy’s case against Sanford, including the weapons used to kill the victims, described correctly by Smothers, but falsely by Sanders, the type of bullets found at the scene, which correlated with the weapons Smothers described, and other forensic evidence confirming Smothers’ account of events.

The report makes it clear that Sanford’s initial confession was nothing more than a fantasy concocted under pressure from the police, as well as a wish to impress them. The Detroit police also assured Sanford that he would go home as soon as he confessed.

The complete 117-page MSP investigative report is linked below this story in three sections due to its length, and also included in a link inside “The Innocence Deniers” story below.


San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos in 2017, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in 2013, and Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro in 2014. Photo illustration by Slate.

On Jan. 10, 2018, the national online newspaper The Slate published an article by Lara Bazelon,  an associate professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law.

It was called: “THE INNOCENCE DENIERSWhen convictions are clearly wrong, these prosecutors don’t just hinder justice—they actively work against it.”

It prominently featured Wayne County Prosecutor Worthy and Davontae Sanford’s case, along with that of exoneree Lamar Monson. It featured two other prosecutors, San Bernardino County (CA) District Attorney Mike Ramos,  and Orleans Parish District (LA) Attorney Leon Cannizzaro. 

Bazelon wrote, “These prosecutors do not “do justice” as the Supreme Court defines it. Instead, they delay justice to an exoneree all over again, sometimes under a wildly different theory at the expense of time and resources that should be used to pursue the crime’s actual perpetrator. They may also threaten endless legal challenges to wring ‘no contest’ pleas from innocent prisoners in exchange for time-served sentences. The prisoners, desperate to be free, accept these Faustian bargains, which brand them convicts for life and allow prosecutors to proclaim their guilt and the state to deny them compensation. Some prosecutors are so committed to adhering to the original mistake that they fail to prosecute the actual perpetrators, even when there is evidence to convict them.”

Davontae Sanford, now 27, Christmas 2019 Facebook

Regarding Davontae Sanford’s case, Bazelon wrote, “Sixteen days after Sanford was sentenced, a hit man named Vincent Smothers told the police he had carried out 12 contract killings, including the four Sanford had pleaded guilty to committing. Smothers explained that he’d worked with an accomplice, Ernest Davis, and he provided a wealth of corroborating details to back up his account.

Smothers told police where they could find one of the weapons used in the murders; the gun was recovered and ballistics matched it to the crime scene. He also told the police he had used a different gun in several of the other murders, which ballistics tests confirmed. Once Smothers’ confession was corroborated, it was clear Sanford was innocent. Smothers made this point explicitly in an 2015 affidavit, emphasizing that Sanford hadn’t been involved in the crimes “in any way.”

But Smothers and Davis were never charged. Neither was Leroy Payne, the man Smothers alleged had paid him to commit the murders. (Through his attorney, Payne has denied any involvement.) Instead, Smothers pleaded guilty to the other eight killings. Davis, who was never prosecuted, was convicted of an unrelated felony in 2013 and could be released from prison as early as July. Payne, who remains a free man, left Detroit in 2016. His whereabouts are unknown.”

She writes further, “In 2015, the Michigan State Police began to re-investigate the case. One year later, the police issued a 117-page report detailing compelling evidence that Smothers and Davis were guilty; that Sanford was innocent; and that Detroit’s then deputy police chief, James Tolbert, had lied to convict Sanford. It was at that point, nine years into Sanford’s incarceration, that Worthy finally agreed to his release—but only on account of Tolbert’s misconduct. She continues to insist that Sanford is guilty, pointing to his discredited confession. The state police recommended bringing perjury charges against Tolbert [and Russell] and murder charges against Smothers and Davis. Worthy declined in all three cases.” 

Below is Channel 7 News report on the exoneration of LaMarr Monson, also covered in Brazelon’s article. The name of Investigator Barbara Simon is also shown in this video.




The question becomes, when will Worthy, Detroit Police Chief James Craig, and others involved in stonewalling Sanford’s federal lawsuit with patently absurd claims that fly against the preponderance of the evidence cease their persecution of this young man, now 27 years old and trying to get on with his life? 

When will the real wrongdoers in this case, including Worthy, Russell, Tolbert, Collins and others who manufactured the case against Sanford, despite Smothers’ confession and all the evidence supporting his guilt and that of Ernest Davis, be appropriately charged for their actions?

In video above, Davontae Sanford asks why Michael Russell is still on the police force. In fact, there is a movement growing across the U.S. asking that prosecutors publish “Brady lists” of law enforcement personnel implicated in issuing false reports, committing perjury, and other crimes. Under Brady v. Maryland, the prosecution is obligated to provide the records of law enforcement officials testifying at trial if they provide exculpatory evidence on behalf of the defense. In Baltimore, 800 cases are under review by the State’s attorney and may be thrown out for failure to provide such information, Kym Worthy’s office told VOD they do not keep lists of such personnel, known as ‘Brady lists.”


Related documents:

MSP Report on Runyon Street Killings, parts 1 through 4:



#Justice4DavontaeSanfordFreeatLast, #Beatbackthebullies, #SaveOurChildren, #BlackLivesMatter, #StandUpNow, #StopJuvenileLifeWithoutParole, #EndPoliceStatePrisonNation, #ChargeKymWorthy, #ChargeMikeRussell, #ChargeJamesTolbert, #ChargeDaleCollins, #ChargeAPPatrickMuscat

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Above: Videos of protest in Detroit by WDIV Channel 4 and Voice of Detroit

Protesters shout: “No War on Iran” in downtown Detroit Jan. 4, 2012

By Jan Wolfe

January 4, 2020

 WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Groups of protesters took to the streets in Washington and other U.S. cities on Saturday to condemn the air strike in Iraq ordered by President Donald Trump that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and Trump’s decision to send about 3,000 more troops to the Middle East.

“No justice, no peace. U.S. out of the Middle East,” hundreds of demonstrators chanted outside the White House before marching to the Trump International Hotel a few blocks away.

Similar protests were held in New York, Chicago and other cities [including Detroit]. Organizers at Code Pink, a women-led anti-war group, said protests were scheduled on Saturday in numerous U.S. cities and towns. [Later reports said over 70 cities in the U.S. held protests.]

Protesters in Washington held signs that read “No war or sanctions on Iran!” and “U.S. troops out of Iraq!”

Speakers at the Washington event included actress and activist Jane Fonda, who last year was arrested at a climate change protest on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

“The younger people here should know that all of the wars fought since you were born have been fought over oil,” Fonda, 82, told the crowd, adding that “we can’t anymore lose lives and kill people and ruin an environment because of oil.”

Young speaker in Detroit emphasizes that U.S. attacks on Iran and other countries in the Middle East take place under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Palestinian speaker in Detroit says U.S. attack on Iran is an attack on all, including Palestinian people.

Detroit: Speaker calls for an end to attacks on Muslims and others of Middle Eastern descent.

“Going to a march doesn’t do a lot, but at least I can come out and say something: that I’m opposed to this stuff,” said protestor Steve Lane of Bethesda, Maryland. “And maybe if enough people do the same thing, he (Trump) will listen.”

Soleimani, regarded as the second most powerful figure in Iran, was killed in the U.S. strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport on Friday in a dramatic escalation of hostilities in the Middle East between Iran and the United States and its allies.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Will Dunham)

Protest in Times Square, New York City Jan. 4, 2020

Protest outside Trump Tower in Chicago Jan. 4, 2020

Protest in Cincinnati, Jan. 4. 2020

Related from VOD (see story below this post):


Related updates from international media:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment