‘THE INNOCENCE DENIERS: PROSECUTORS WHO HAVE REFUSED TO ADMIT WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS,’ STARRING WAYNE CO. PROSECUTOR KYM WORTHY

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy (center) with San Bernadino County DA Michael Ramos (l) and Orleans Parish DA Leon Cannizzaro (r)

When convictions are clearly wrong, these prosecutors don’t just hinder justice—they actively work against it.

Jan 10, 2018  Excerpt from full story by Lara Bazelon in Slate Magazine. She also discusses California’s San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, and Louisiana’s Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, but this excerpt focuses on Worthy.

Davontae Sanford (center) beams as his family including (l to r) 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/Photo by Diane Bukowski

Davontae Sanford was 14 years old when he confessed to murdering four people in a drug house on Detroit’s East Side. Left alone with detectives in a late-night interrogation, Sanford says he broke down after being told he could go home if he gave them “something.” On the advice of a lawyer whose license was later suspended for misconduct, Sanford pleaded guilty in the middle of his March 2008 trial and received a sentence of 39 to 92 years in prison.

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.”

Vincent Smothers appears in court March 25, 2012.

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.

Davontae Sanford, meanwhile, remained behind bars, locked up for crimes he very clearly didn’t commit.

Police failed to turn over all the relevant information in Smothers’ confession to Sanford’s legal team, as the law required them to do. When that information was leaked in 2009, Sanford’s attorneys sought to reverse his conviction on the basis of actual innocence. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy fought back, opposing the motion all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court. In 2014, the court sided with Worthy, ruling that actual innocence was not a valid reason to withdraw a guilty plea. Sanford would remain in prison for another two years.

In an adversarial legal system, it’s natural to presume that prosecutors and defense attorneys are driven by the same goal: to win. They aren’t. In Berger v. United States, decided in 1935, the Supreme Court famously declared that the prosecution’s ultimate goal “is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done.” A prosecutor, the court wrote, “is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer.”

Some prosecutors—the most powerful actors in the criminal justice system—refuse to correct life-altering errors.

Maryanne Godboldo speaks at church rally after her initial release. She defended her daughter from illegal kidnapping by Child Protective Services and police in 2011 and became world renowned for her courage. But Kym Worthy brought multiple criminal charges against her, which were twice thrown out by District and Circuit Court Judges who called the seizure illegal. But Worthy continued to appeal. Eventually Godboldo sustained a brain aneurysm on the eve of her third criminal trial, which caused her death last year.

Embracing this “twofold aim” is at the core of a prosecutor’s work. The government brings cases it believes are supported by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A victory at trial proves them right. But if new evidence is uncovered showing the conviction was error-ridden to the point of unreliability, the imperative that “justice shall be done” requires prosecutors to admit they were wrong. This responsibility exists even if a defendant may be guilty—if, for example, crucial evidence was obtained by illegal means. The moral imperative underpinning this precept, though, is brought into sharpest relief when it appears the defendant is actually innocent.

Many prosecutors accept this responsibility and, when proven wrong, ask the judge to dismiss a case or settle by way of a plea bargain. But too many do not. Indeed, there is a class of prosecutors that might fairly be called innocence deniers.

These prosecutors do not “do justice” as the Supreme Court defines it. Instead, they delay justice and in some cases actively work against it. When a prisoner is exonerated by a lower court, these prosecutors double and triple down, filing appeal after appeal. Or they indict and prosecute the 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.

Innocence deniers are a diverse group: male and female, young and old, white and people of color. They are Democrats and Republicans from red, blue, and purple states. What they have in common is their insistence—in the face of all evidence to the contrary—that wrongfully convicted people are in fact guilty.

Simply opposing an exoneration effort does not make a prosecutor an innocence denier. Some exoneration claims are bogus and others are murky, requiring rigorous legal testing to be proven conclusively. Increasingly, conscientious prosecutors are working collaboratively with defense attorneys to reinvestigate innocence claims, keeping an open mind and doing the right thing in the end. Innocence-denying prosecutors are different. The cases collected here are extreme, either because the prosecutor in question has a pattern of reflexively denying innocence or because, even in a single case, the evidence of innocence is so manifest as to make the fight against it profoundly misguided.

Eddie Joe Lloyd at hearing in which he was exonerated from a rape/murder of a teenage girl.  Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project is at the left.

In the past quarter-century, the work of dogged attorneys and advances in forensic science have exonerated more than 2,150 men and women, 161 of those from death row. The Innocence Project, a New York–based nonprofit founded by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld in 1992, has freed more than 200 people and spurred the creation of numerous smaller organizations around the country devoted to the same mission. (From 2012–2015, I was the director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent in Los Angeles.) By some estimates there are tens of thousands more wrongfully convicted prisoners languishing behind bars. Nevertheless, some prosecutors—the most powerful actors in the criminal justice system—refuse to correct life-altering errors. (You can read more about 17 such cases here.) If we are committed to fostering a justice system that is truly just, it is imperative to call out these innocence deniers and hold them to account.

Kym Worthy, a Democrat and the first black woman or man to serve as Wayne County’s lead prosecutor, first took office in 2004 and coasted to re-election for a fourth term in November 2016. The former circuit court judge has a national reputation as a trailblazing progressive—last April, Essence named her to its “Woke 100 List” to honor her efforts “to achieve equality for people of color.” Worthy’s office, however, has repeatedly refused to admit error in cases like Davontae Sanford’s, where there is compelling evidence of actual innocence.

The lid was covered with bloody fingerprints, which had never been tested.

Attorneys Megan Crane and David Moran of two Innocence Clinics announce filing of motion for relief from judgment for Davontae Sanford May 4, 2015, as family members listen.

The Michigan Supreme Court’s adverse ruling in 2014 wasn’t the end of the line for Sanford. The court ruled against him on technical grounds and noted that there was nothing to prevent his legal team from filing a post-conviction motion for relief from the judgment, rather than making a direct challenge to his guilty plea.

In 2015, attorneys for Sanford, who is black, did just that, and 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 murder charges against Smothers and Davis. Worthy declined in all three cases.

In July 2017 Sanford filed a civil suit under Michigan’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, and only four months later the state attorney general conceded that Sanford was innocent, had been wrongfully convicted, and was entitled to compensation, but noted that Worthy’s office “has been consulted and disagrees.” Julie Hurwitz, one of the attorneys who represents Sanford, told me she was “surprised” that the state acquiesced so readily but that given the crush of media attention the case has received, “the attorney general’s office probably knew that fighting this would be a political bombshell.” On Dec. 21, a judge awarded Sanford $408,356.16. 

In reference to her office’s handling of Sanford’s case, Worthy has said, “I don’t know what we could have done differently.”

David Moran, director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, has tangled with Worthy in a half-dozen cases in which he says her office has fought his efforts to free clients. Moran, who helped lead the fight to exonerate Sanford alongside the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, also battled the Wayne County prosecutor in the case of Lamarr Monson, who was convicted in the 1996 murder of a 12-year-old girl and sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison. Monson, who like Sanford is black, claimed he’d been tricked into signing a false confession stating that he’d stabbed the victim to death.

Lamarr Monson, hugs his mother in 2017 after all charges were dismissed against him in the 1996 slaying of 12-year-old Detroiter Christina Brown. Clarence Tabb/The Detroit News

 Nearly 20 years after the murder in question, Moran and his students examined the object that the medical examiner had identified as the likely murder weapon: a ceramic toilet lid used to bludgeon the victim over the head. The lid was covered with bloody fingerprints, which had never been tested. The Michigan State Police found that all the fingerprints matched a man named Robert Lewis, who was living in the same building as the victim at the time of the murder.

Wayne Co. AP’s David McCreedy (top), Valerie Newman (bottom) at forum. Newman switched sides from defense to prosecution.

During a four-month-long evidentiary hearing in late 2016, the Michigan Innocence Clinic presented the fingerprint evidence and called Lewis’ then live-in girlfriend Shellena Bentley as a witness. Bentley testified that Lewis came back to her apartment on the night of the murder “frantic” with “blood on him; it was dripping off his fingernails.” David McCreedy, the assistant prosecutor assigned by Worthy to fight the case, didn’t find this account convincing. He explained that Lewis might have wandered by the apartment while the building manager was on the phone with 911, then moved the toilet tank out of the way to help the paramedics. Moran told me that he responded: “There might be 12 gullible citizens that would buy that, but that’s why we need a new trial: to see if the state can find them.”

The judge granted Monson a new trial; he was subsequently released on bond. Worthy, who agreed to be interviewed about Monson’s case—she declined to comment on Devontae Sanford’s, citing ongoing litigation—told me her office sought to delay the retrial so it could conduct an additional investigation. Two homicide investigators were dispatched to interview Lewis, who denied committing the murder. “His statements were consistent with the evidence that was available in the case,” Worthy says, despite Lewis’ fingerprints being all over the bloody toilet lid, including around the edges, Moran says, suggesting that he gripped it. (Worthy’s deputies do not concede that the toilet tank was the murder weapon; one told me that the victim’s “head could have been slammed against the back of the bathtub,” causing the fatal injury.)

In August, a few weeks before Monson’s retrial, the prosecution dismissed the case. In a public statement, Worthy said Monson had lived with the 12-year-old victim, that he’d had sex with her, and that he’d demanded that she sell drugs for him. The decision to drop the charges against Monson, Worthy said, was not due to a belief in his innocence, but instead due to “the destruction of evidence and the possible coercive conduct of the then-homicide inspector in obtaining statements from the defendant.” Her office, she said, would not be charging Robert Lewis with the murder. Lewis is still free.

Moran says Worthy’s charge that Monson had sex with the 12-year-old victim is “false and disturbing,” adding that “it is unethical for a prosecutor, upon dismissing charges against a defendant, to then publicly defame that defendant.” His client, he says, emphatically denies that any sexual contact occurred. Asked to respond, Worthy cited Monson’s statements to the police—the same statements she has admitted were possibly coerced in a manner that “supports Monson’s defense of a false confession.”

Worthy did tell me, however, that her office is in the process of launching a standalone unit to review possible wrongful convictions. That group will be headed up by Valerie Newman, a longtime attorney at the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office, which represented Sanford before the Michigan Innocence Clinic took over his case. Worthy says that project has been in the works for some time, but became possible only after she obtained funding from the Wayne County Commission.

Moran reacted to the news with cautious optimism, saying, “I hope that the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is changing its attitude and will seriously consider these cases.” He has cases lined up to present to the unit as soon as it opens for business.

Lara Bazelon is an associate professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and a contributing writer for Slate. Her book Rectify: A Story of Healing and Redemption After Wrongful Conviction will be published in the fall.

The full story is at https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/01/innocence-deniers-prosecutors-who-have-refused-to-admit-wrongful-convictions.html.


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JANITORS, FAST FOOD AND HOSPITAL WORKERS STORM DETROIT’S STATE BUILDING JAN. 23, DELIVER ‘WORKERS’ STATE OF THE STATE’

Demand ‘Michigan Needs Unions’ as a Solution to a Rigged Economy

 Detroit youth stand out in the movement, fighting their real adversaries, not each other

 January 23, 2018

 By Diane Bukowski and SEIU Staff

DETROIT –  Dozens of State Police cars, with their sirens blaring and emergency lights flashing, flew down the Lodge Freeway Jan. 23, as other drivers got out of the way to save their own lives, wondering what in blazes was going on.

Workers and poor people had taken over the state’s Cadillac Building lobby en masse, chanting, banging drums, and speaking on bullhorns, delivering a “Workers State of the State” address and protest, where Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s Detroit office is located. Many were young fast food workers from D15, fighting for a $15 minimum wage. Joining in with them were  janitors and health care workers from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), demanding higher wages, benefits and the right to unionize in this “Right to Work” up south state.

City retirees and supporters protest outside federal courthouse in downtown Detroit Oct. 28, 2013 as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, depicted as the devil in signs, testifies in favor of the bankruptcy that has stripped Detroit of its assets, and retirees and workers of their wages and benefits.

“Governor Snyder has spent his two terms in office attacking Michigan’s workers, including hard working janitors, fast food workers, health care workers and others, lowering wages by passing open shop laws, stripping cities of their right to raise the minimum wage and installing emergency managers,” the group said in its press release.

“Now, workers are sticking together and fighting back to let their fellow citizens know the true state of Michigan, after eight years of lowered standards, low wages and, in some places, a lack of basic standard of living, including poisoned water. The number one job of our elected leaders should be to raise the standard of living for working people. SEIU and Fight for $15 workers are fighting to make politicians listen to working people and take action on issues that matter, including leading on raising wages by increasing the state and local minimum wage and ensuring workers have rights to strong unions.”

“Michigan’s working people have long been ignored by their elected officials, but SEIU and the Fight for $15 are changing that this year,” the release continued. “ Workers are joining together to elect officials who will instead raise wages, support the right to join together, build our communities and keep all Michiganders safe.”

D15 and SEIU have announced they are launching a massive “voter engagement” drive to elect candidates who support workers’ rights to unionize, in the wake of the disastrous 2012 state referendum that made “up south” Michigan a Right to Work state, under Gov. Snyder’s urging.

They said  they are volunteering 40 hours of each worker’s time to engage voters in Michigan who have been left out of the political process,  in anticipation of the 2018 elections. Their representatives said they plan to engage in door-to-door canvassing, digital and radio advertising and mail.

“SEIU and the Fight for $15 intend to show that those who have given up on the political process will reengage if politicians speak to issues that improve the lives of working Americans,” said their release.

DMC’s Harper and Hutzel Hospitals

In addition to the barbaric passage of Right to Work legislation, they said Snyder and  state lawmakers have also stripped cities of their right to raise the minimum wage and installed “emergency managers” to disenfranchise communities of color across the state.

Hospital workers in particular are key to the mobilization, organizers said.

“In Detroit and cities across the Midwest, hospitals are at the center of the economy the way factories were for previous generations,” they explained. Two of the three largest private employers in Detroit are health systems: Detroit Medical Center (9,184 employees), the city’s second-largest private employer; and Henry Ford Health System (8,790 employees), the city’s third-largest private employer. While many hospital service workers in Detroit are paid too little to support themselves or their families, the city’s hospital industry made a combined $519 million in profits in 2015 according to the most recent data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

# # # 

Service Employees International Union Local 1 unites 50,000 workers throughout the Midwest including janitors, security officers, higher education faculty, food service workers, and others. Local 1 is committed to improving the lives of its members and all working people by winning real economic justice and standing at the forefront of the fight for immigrant, racial, and environmental justice.

# # #

Founded in November of 2012, the Fight for $15 is a movement led by fast food workers, fighting for a $15/hour living wage, the right to form a union without retaliation, and respect in the workplace. Workers live and work in different cities and states across the country. Since the Fight for $15 started, it has won raises for 22 million Americans, including 10 million workers who are on a path to $15.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT: 

Kathleen Policy 440-724-9730, policyk@seiu1.org

Izabela Miltko-Ivkovich 708-655-9681, miltkoi@seiu1.org

 Jennifer Owens 312-218-8785, jennifer@fightfor15.org

 


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HAVE YOU SEEN LAWRENCE ‘LOE’ NORTHERN? NOTIFY HIS LOVING FAMILY IMMEDIATELY


                             313-653-9288

Our beloved brother and son ‘Loe’ spends his time in Monroe and the east side of Detroit. He was last seen in Monroe. He has been missing since Nov. 22, 2017. 

WE LOVE YOU DEARLY, LOE. PLEASE COME HOME.

 

 


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FEDERAL COURT STRIKES DOWN PORTION OF MICHIGAN JUVENILE LIFER LAW, STILL MILES TO GO

(Above, Kimberly Simmons, one of only two women juvenile lifers released at the time, speaks at Juvenile Lifers for Justice rally in Detroit June 18, 2017.)

By Efren Paredes, Jr.

January 15, 2018

VOD note: This is an update from VOD’s previous article on the 6th Circuit ruling, at http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/12/24/send-federal-troops-to-liberate-michigans-juvenile-lifers-6th-circuit-ruling-inadequate/ 

Efren Paredes, Jr.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (COA) recently made an important ruling on behalf of Michigan prisoners who received mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentences when they were juveniles (“juvenile lifers”). The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that mandatory LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional. The high court subsequently issued another opinion in 2016 which made their 2012 ruling retroactive and applicable to all 2,500 prisoners in the nation serving the draconian sentence.

The recent U.S. Sixth COA ruling states that these prisoners will now be required to receive good time and/or disciplinary credits depending on the year of their conviction. This will change when they become eligible to pursue a meaningful opportunity for parole consideration based on positive behavior.

Juvenile lifers are also now eligible to participate in rehabilitative programming that they have been denied for decades. Previous to the court’s ruling prisoners serving shorter sentences have been provided an array of programs that juvenile lifers have been denied. The programs they will now become eligible for include Violence Prevention Program, Cage Your Rage, Thinking 4 Change, vocational trades, etc. The new court ruling ends these discriminatory practices and recognizes the right of juvenile lifers to equal protection.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit COA ruled against the issue raised by attorneys representing juvenile lifers seeking a categorical ban on imposing LWOP sentences on juvenile offenders on procedural grounds.

It is an issue that will persistently be raised in the U.S. Supreme Court by attorneys representing juvenile lifers from various states until a total ban is granted and the issue is finally resolved. Attorneys have already begun petitioning the high court seeking the ban and more are preparing to do so.

While the recent U.S. Sixth Circuit COA ruling is not a panacea to unravel all the juvenile lifer legal challenges before them it is a major decision that will have a profound impact on re-shaping the contours of Michigan criminal justice reform relating to juvenile offenders.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit COA ordered Judge John Corbett O’Meara of the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan to expeditiously resolve the matter consistent with the court’s ruling. Judge O’Meara will now draft a court order specifying the details of what the State of Michigan must do to comply with the appellate court ruling as early as this month.

The Michigan legislature will also be required to revise MCL 769.25 to reflect the changes made by the U.S. Sixth Circuit COA as well. When they do it would be wise to also do two additional things that would make the sentencing process more reasonable, conserve valuable time and state employee resources, and save taxpayers millions of dollars when resentencing the remaining 260 juvenile lifers.

Earlier map of states banning JLWOP. SInce then, six more states have joined the movement.

First, it should join the [30] other states across the country and the 192 nations of the world [all but the U.S.] who have banned LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders. In the past six years nineteen states have abandoned LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders and the number keeps growing. The U.S. Supreme Court is likely to categorically ban the practice in the coming year.

Our state legislators should stand on the right side of history now rather than be compelled to make the right decision later. Remaining obstinate and tone deaf to this issue will burden taxpayers with millions more dollars in wasteful spending for repeating hundreds of resentencing hearings. It would also force victims’ families to continue down the painful road of reopening wounds and revisiting tragedies in their lives through unnecessary court hearings and appeals. Many of these families have been trying to move on with their lives without exacerbating their pain and being encumbered with decades of court hearings and appeals.

Second, the legislature should revise the sentencing guidelines for juvenile lifer term-of-year sentences from a 25- to 40-year minimum to a 15- to 30-year minimum. They should also revise the currently allowed maximum term-of-years from 60 years to a maximum of 40 years. If the 60-year maximum term is not reduced there will be additional years of protracted costly court battles asking courts to rule that 60 years is a veritable death sentence since it exceeds the life span of the average juvenile lifer. Other states have already ruled that such sentences are inordinate and deemed cruel and unusual punishment.

Alternatively, the legislature can convert the sentences of the remaining 260 juvenile lifers awaiting resentencing hearings to sentences of 15-year minimums to 40-year maximums all at once. It would save the state millions of dollars for resentencing hearings. Since nearly all the juvenile lifers are indigent all court expenses including attorney fees, expert witnesses, etc., will be paid for by taxpayer dollars. Conservative estimates place the price tag around $26 million to pay the fees for the 260 prisoners still awaiting resentencing.

Families AND victims of Michigan juvenile lifers who testified at state legislature before Miller decision in 2004. They asked legislators to bar juvenile life without parole period.

This move alone would not release a single prisoner. It would only give the Parole Board jurisdiction to begin reviewing their cases for release consideration annually after they have served a minimum of 15 years. The Parole Board would utilize their wealth of resources to decide when the prisoners merit release based on their conduct just as they do for over 10,000 other prisoners they safely release annually. The Parole Board will not release prisoners until they are satisfied they pose no risk or danger to public safety.

“Only the rarest child” should be sentenced to die in prison. — USSC; this family attended Juvenile Lifers for Justice Rally June 18, 2017.

In fact, the Parole Board could keep juvenile lifers incarcerated for up to 40 years under this sentencing scheme if the Parole Board is not comfortable releasing them until that time. By then most juvenile lifers would range in age between 55- and 57-years old after being behind bars since their mid-teens.

If we are to illogically believe that juvenile offenders are not capable of change, by that same standard we will have to believe no adult is capable of change and deserves a second chance either. After all, each adult who receives a second chance in life was once a teenager. Michigan should become a leader in criminal justice reform rather than lag behind other states. We can not lead from behind. We are being looked upon with shame and disappointment for our woefully failing record of human rights abuses against juveniles, the poor, and people of color.

It is a stain we can begin to slowly wash away by making decisions that respect the concept of redemption and inherent dignity of youthful offenders.

(Efren Paredes, Jr. is a blogger and social justice activist who appears as a weekly guest on Detroit Superstation 910 AM. You can learn more about Efren at www.fb.com/Free.Efren and www.4Efren.blogspot.com.)

UPDATED COMMENT FROM CORTEZ DAVIS-EL, VOD STAFF WRITER

Cortez Davis-El, still incarcerated at Thumb

After reading the opinion from the 6th Circuit in the Hill v Snyder case, I have conflicting feelings. While I would like to be excited and thankful, I’ve been built up just to be let down so many times I don’t want to give in to the excitement and be hurt in the end. Having said that. I think that the opinion was a well written much needed boost of hope.  I would have liked for the 6th Circuit to end this debate instead of remanding the case and issues back to the Eastern District Federal Court.

However, like many, I am happy that the process is moving forward and there is a great possibility that I will soon be able to contribute to society in a very positive way. Early on I didn’t know if I would ever get the chance to be a servant of my community, but I started preparing myself just in case and this decision continues to raise my hope and level of urgency to be prepared to serve on day one for being released.

VOICE OF DETROIT: While we are happy to see there is significant movement in the battle to release Michigan’s juvenile lifers, we would like to see the U.S. Supreme Court order the immediate release of juveniles serving more than 15 years under this unconstitutional statute, not subject to parole board review. Michigan’s parole board cannot be counted on ever since former Gov. John Engler made it an appointed board which declared that “life means life.” Any juvenile lifer who goes before this board must admit to guilt of the charge for which they are serving time. Estimates of innocent prisoners incarcerated in Michigan range from 20-40 years.

Stephen Marschke, first parole board chair appointed by Gov. Engler. He coined the phrase: “Life means life.” He is still suspected to have drowned  a Black teenager outside Benton Harbor when he was Benton County Sheriff.

Although Michigan’s Parole Board has released most of those juveniles for whom prosecutors recommended “Term of Years” sentences,  many such as Cortez Davis are still serving more time ranging from two years to decades until they reach the state minimum. 

Prosecutors recommended renewed life sentences for another 247 out of 363 state juvenile lifers, whose cases have not yet been heard, a gross violation of Miller v. Alabama and Montgomery v. Louisiana, which held that “only the rarest” child should be sentenced to die in prison.

Additionally, the Supreme Court has not yet provided for consideration of issues of innocence to be considered so that convictions and sentences can be outright dismissed. In Charles Lewis’ case, 41 years of his official court files have gone missing. Most significantly, all but a small portion of the transcripts of his first trial, for the killing of an off-duty cop in Detroit on July 31, 1976, are gone. Lewis was 17 years old.

His first Recorders Court judge, a noted racist named Joseph Maher, illegally dismissed his first jury after they had reached a verdict and it was handed over to Maher, as Judge Deborah Thomas later stated after reviewing the full first trial transcript. Maher did not read it into the record; instead he dismissed the jury without cause.  She said Maher’s action should have meant an acquittal, with no additional trials allowed under the double jeopardy statute.

Charles Lewis has been in prison for over 41 years, since the age of 17, framed up for a murder he did not commit. He has taken college, culinary arts and many other courses, and become a highly skilled jail-house lawyer.

Only months after Lewis was convicted, the Michigan Supreme Court held in People v. Benton, 402 Mich 47, in 1977, that a judge cannot sua sponte dismiss a jury; that there must be a proceeding on the record for cause, and that the DEFENDANT himself must agree to the dismissal.

“Fred Benton was charged with armed robbery,” Lewis wrote to VOD. “He was tried before Geraldine Bledsoe Ford and she dismissed the case for ‘manifest necessity.’ She re-tried him with a jury and he was found guilty of armed robbery and sentenced to 10 to 15 for the robbery. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in his case that even though the case had been tried a second time and he was convicted that the second trial violated the double jeopardy rights of Fred Benton and they ordered his immediate release.”

See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/People-v-Benton-2-2.pdf

________________________________

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ARMED CVS GUARD IN DETROIT THREATENS LIFE OF CUSTOMER BUYING LIFE-SAVING PRESCRIPTIONS

Cab driver Jerry Bell, Jr. assaulted by armed guard at E. Warren CVS store

Detroit police have store videotape, tell Bell they are seeking charges

Incident follows killing of CVS customer in Dallas by guard in July, 2017

By Diane Bukowski

January 6, 2018

Jerry T. Bell, Jr., 43, files to run for a seat on the Warren City Council in the 2019 elections, at the City Clerk’s office, Sept. 20, 2017.

DETROIT — Jerry T. Bell, Jr. says police investigators have told him they want to bring criminal charges against a gun-toting guard from the CVS store on E. Warren at Mack in Detroit, near the border of Grosse Pointe, based on the store’s videotape of an incident involving the guard and Bell.

Bell is a 43-yr. old cab driver,  father and grandfather who lives in Warren. He is also a candidate for the Warren City Council in upcoming elections. He has been challenging what he says is the racist gerrymandering of Warren’s council districts.

Bell says the guard assaulted him Friday, Dec. 29 as he was leaving the store to get cash from his car to pay for prescriptions from Harper Hospital. He had been treated there overnight for a dangerous spider bite infection, which had caused his foot as well as his entire body to swell. He told VOD that doctors at Harper immediately put him on intravenous antibiotics and said he could have died from the infection.

“But then I was afraid I was going to die at the CVS afterwards,” Bell said. 

CVS Pharmacy E. Warren and Mack

“I stopped at that CVS to get my prescriptions filled on my way home to Warren,” he explained. “I told the pharmacist I had to go back to my car to get more money to pay for the scripts. On my way to the front door, a CVS guard put his hands on my chest, grabbed my jacket, and told me, ‘I can’t let you leave with that.’”

Bell was wearing torn-up gym shoes to fit his swollen foot and was still somewhat disheveled from being in the hospital. 

Bell says the guard had a gun on his hip, and started to reach for it. 

“All I could think of was what happened when George Zimmerman confronted Trayvon Martin,” Bell said. “I feared for my life. He was endangering not only me, but customers and clerks in the store. I kept thinking, ‘What should I do?’”

Bell said he shook out his coat and his shirt to show the guard that he had no stolen items. He said he left, but went back inside to file a complaint with the manager. He said the manager talked to the guard, then told Bell, “There’s no reason to get all hostile, it was just a misunderstanding.”

DPD Fifth Precinct

Bell said he went straight to the Fifth Precinct to file a police report. Fearing for his life, he did not go back to the store, but had a friend pick up his prescriptions the next day. A lawyer accompanied his friend, but the assistant manager for the day, named “Jim,” refused to discuss the matter with them and appeared hostile.

Ironically, Bell was shot multiple times several years ago in his cab by a customer, and was severely disabled for several months. He only survived by speeding to the nearest police headquarters.

VOD contacted CVS corporate headquarters by email to ask the following questions: 

  • Since when have CVS guards been allowed to carry guns? Are they in fact allowed to do so?
  • What is CVS policy for the behavior of security guards?
  • What action, if any, has been taken against this security guard by CVS? Has he been disciplined or fired?
  • Mr. Bell tells us that a CVS representative called him to apologize. Does CVS consider this sufficient compensation for what appears to be a life-threatening incident?
  • What actions does CVS expect to take with its security staff to avoid such incidents in the future?

Gary Serby, CVS corporate communications director

Gary Serby, director of corporation communications for CVS, ignored most of the questions in a terse reply.

“CVS Pharmacy is aware of this alleged incident and we are cooperating fully with the police in their investigation,” Serby responded. “Our initial findings do not support the customer’s allegations, however the security guard, who is employed by an independent security agency, has been suspended from working at any CVS Pharmacy stores until the conclusion of the investigation.”

The incident comes on the heels of the killing of an alleged shoplifter in Dallas by another CVS “loss prevention officer,” Julio Ruvalcaba, July 9, 2017. Ruvalcaba chased the shoplifter down the freeway in his car. When the man’s car crashed, Ruvalcaba got out and shot him to death. Ruvalcaba was charged with murder. See http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/cvs-security-staffer-chases-fatally-shooting-shoplifter-article-1.3320358/

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CHAMPION DETROIT HYDROPLANE RACER JERRY BELL MAKES COMEBACK IN 5 LITER GOLD CUP RACES JULY 11-13, 2014

 


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SUPER STARS AND ANGELS WALK AMONG US SPREADING LOVE AND HAPPINESS IN THE NEW YEAR

NEW YEAR 2018: FIGHT FOR JUSTICE FOR ALL OUR INCARCERATED  BROTHERS AND SISTERS

Cortez Davis El

BY CORTEZ DAVIS EL

VOD Staff Writer

Jan. 1, 2018

The men at the Thumb Correctional Facility began the annual Kwanzaa Cultural Celebration early this year. They were blessed with the presence of the Honorable Judge Bruce Morrow and Frank Murphy Hall of Justice General Counselor, Attorney Valerie Albright.

Attending this event was a must for so many men that cling to the hope and promise of what tomorrow might bring. Listening to a judge speak and share words of wisdom and encouragement while fighting for your freedom is rare, but welcomed.

Without knowing who Judge Morrow is, one would believe that he was a super star from the warm reception that he received. There was laughter and nonstop smiles of joy throughout the evening and the days that followed. Before Judge Morrow got into his message, he introduced the men to the Beautiful Spirited Angel, Valerie Albright.

Atty. Valerie Albright, Office of the General Counsel

Mrs. Albright’s message, although short and sweet, was deeply felt and it hit home for many. She is a reminder of the joy that is absent and the joy that is possible. Mrs. Albright reflected on her two year old son and stated “the same light that I see in him, I see in the eyes of the men here. ”

That statement ignited a sense of urgency in the hearts and minds of all that paid attention to the compliment. Her words were like being touched by an angel. To a degree, you felt healed and energized and ready to be the change that is needed in the world.

Judge Morrow once again took the podium and began to share his message. He made listening fun. He started by showing various images of well-known products. The men were happy to share their knowledge and ability to identify each product. However, the message was really about what you see and how you are seen by others. The men engaged Judge Morrow and as a result the mind was opened and the desire to think was unlocked.

The Honorable Bruce Morrow opened up about who he is and what his 26 years of service has been about. He left no doubt that he is a reflection of the spirit of God and serves His people by the service that he gives on and off the bench. The first principle of Kwanzaa is Umoja which means unity. Both Judge Morrow and Attorney Valerie Albright helped us to understand what it means to have unity and why unity is important.

Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Bruce Morrow

Judge Morrow stated ” content and context is always important ” and this was felt deeply especially when our superstar and in that moment, the voice of God, read from Genesis 24 to remind us that true and lasting unity begin with unifying with God first. When most people that are incarcerated think about judges, they tend not to think of them as human. Judges are most often seen as the enemy or the cause and effect of the problems in the lives of the incarcerated.

However, being up close and personal with Judge Morrow and being able to speak freely and embrace him as if he was a long lost friend, relative, or neighbor allowed us to see him as someone that feel, love, and worship just like us. The prisoners were able to see him, the man not just the judge. There was no fear or negativity displayed in Judge Morrow. There was only the reflection of spirit of man helping the hopeless restore that which was lost, their faith.

Having this honorable judge in the midst did more for the self esteem and morale boost than one could ever have hoped for. Being able to witness and feel the energy of this event was nothing short of mind blowing and the men are grateful to have someone that takes an active interest in their positive development the way that Judge Morrow does.

Judge Vera Massey Jones in 1990. Four years later, she declared JLWOP unconstitutional in Cortez Davis El’s case, 18 years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama. She reiterated her stand in 2012.

Judge Morrow gave honors to the men that are changing their lives for the better in spite of the environment and circumstances that we are. It felt really humbling to have someone, a judge nonetheless, actually see who we are today, opposed to who we were yesterday.

I could not help but to think about another great judge that that took an interest in the positive development of a prisoner that lost his way early in life. The Honorable Judge Vera Massey Jones touched this writer’s soul and is partially responsible for the man that I am today. She saw beneath the rock soil of my carnal nature and saw my value long before I knew that good is in my power.

This is also what Judge Morrow is doing for the prisoners that look at him as family. To judges like The Honorable Bruce Morrow and Vera Massey Jones and to attorneys like Valerie Albright, thank you for your strength, support, and concerns. You will never be forgotten and your message will always inspire greatness in the lives that you’ve touched. Just like you all are able to see the true essence of who we are, we are now able to see it for ourselves and recognize it in others just as you do. Thank you all for being the message that you bring and for being a real inspiration to so many that is now able to see the path of wisdom.

Judge Vera Massey Jones’ 2012 order to resentence Cortez Davis.


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SEND FEDERAL TROOPS TO LIBERATE MICHIGAN’S JUVENILE LIFERS! 6TH CIRCUIT RULING INADEQUATE

The Little Rock Nine finishing a school day in Arkansas under the protection of federal troops, upholding Brown vs. the Board of Education (1954). Where are the troops to uphold Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016)  for The Michigan 247, also children when they entered prison, many of them innocent?

Sixth Circuit opinion in Hill v. Snyder (2) leaves 70 percent without relief, waiting without a sentence for nearly six years  

MCLA 771.1 says sentencing cannot be delayed for more than one year 

Ruling restores good time credits, corrective programming for others, after remand to U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara

But ruling “opens door” to other avenues of relief for the Michigan 247

By Diane Bukowski 

December 23, 2017

Attorney Deborah LaBelle (r) who argued the Hill v. Snyder case at Sixth Circuit, with liberated lifers (l to r) Johnny Alexander, David Walton, Bobby Hines, and Edward Sanders at panel Dec. 8, 2017. Most had served over 40 years of unconstitutional sentences.

DETROIT – A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Hill v. Snyder (Second Amended Complaint), rendered Dec. 20, brought joy to some of Michigan’s 363 juvenile lifers who have already been re-sentenced under U.S. Supreme Court mandates.

It upholds their right to “good time” and “disciplinary” credits, barred under two draconian 2014 state statutes solely for their class, and validates their claim that they were denied corrective programming while serving life sentences.

Dozens of JLWOPer’s resentenced in the last year and a half still face prison time ranging from two to 30 years before they can see the parole board under the state statutes, although their sentences are now considered unconstitutional from day one. Restoring good time and disciplinary credits to these prisoners would shorten the time before parole eligibility. Implementing corrective programming would heighten their chances before the parole board. 

See full decision at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Hill-v-Snyder-6th-Circuit-12-20-17.pdf  .

Justice Jane B. Stranch

Justice Bernice  B. Donald

Justice GIlbert Merritt

But the panel of three justices, all appointed by Democratic presidents, provided little relief for 247 state juvenile lifers, for whom Michigan’s prosecutors recommended renewed life without parole, although it did open the door for alternative solutions.

The “Michigan 247” are currently in limbo as to when, if ever, they will be re-sentenced, as they continue to age towards possible death in prison.  They have been without sentences since 2012, nearly six years. 

The panel summed up the plaintiffs’ case as follows: “The SAC alleges that: Section 791.234(6) [state lifer law] continues to be enforced against Plaintiffs in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count I); Michigan’s amended sentencing scheme violates the Eighth Amendment by subjecting juvenile offenders to sentences of life without parole (Count II); Michigan’s policies and procedures governing parole deny Plaintiffs a meaningful opportunity for release in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count IV); the deprivation of  Plaintiffs’ good time and disciplinary credits in Section 769.25a(6) violates the Ex Post Facto Clause (Count V); and Defendants have failed to provide the Plaintiffs with access to programming, education, training, and rehabilitation opportunities in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count VI).”

In Detroit, Kim Craighead, with family members, campaigns for freedom for her husband Michael Calvin and his childhood friend Charles Lewis, both part of the Michigan 247. Each has spent over 41 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.  

It struck down Count I as moot, declaring that state statutes instituted in 2014 to provide for re-sentencing had changed the legal landscape.

But the panel added, “In affirming the district court’s dismissal of Count I as moot, we do not mean to say that an individual stuck in carceral limbo pending resentencing may never challenge his continued confinement—an unwarranted or impermissible delay in resentencing sounds in procedural due process.”

It also struck down Count II, declaring, “Count II functionally asks us to declare sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders unconstitutional. Such a ruling would necessarily implicate the duration of Plaintiffs’ impending sentences by imposing a ceiling, and Heck therefore requires Plaintiffs to follow a different legal path to obtain the relief. Fortunately, multiple avenues remain open for Plaintiffs to challenge life imprisonment without parole, including direct appeal and habeas.”

The Sixth Circuit justices upheld the remaining counts and remanded the case to U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara for further hearings in compliance with their ruling.

The American Civil Liberties Union and its co-litigants in Hill v. Snyder (SAC) had contended that an absolute bar on juvenile life without parole was necessary to remedy the egregious situation in Michigan, noting that [now 30] states have now barred JLWOP in one form or another. The U.S. is still the only country in the world that imposes this sentence. In fact, it is one of few countries in the world that impose life without parole sentences for any defendants.

Most juvenile lifers in these states are Black.

“Michigan prosecutors apparently believe that seventy percent of the Plaintiffs present rare and uncommon cases of ‘irreparable corruption’ Miller, 567 U.S. at 479–80,” the Sixth Circuit panel noted. “Approximately 250 class members face prosecutorial motions requesting that they again receive sentences of life without parole.”

Michigan has the second highest number of juvenile lifers in the country; at least 70 percent are people of color.

But instead of condemning the prosecutors’ recommendations as blatant, racist violations of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), similar to Southern states’ refusal to honor Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Sixth Circuit excused the recommendations by citing an issue not even part of the case.

“These individuals will eventually be resentenced under Sections 769.25 and 769.25a, but two cases pending before the Michigan Supreme Court have delayed their Miller hearings. See People v. Skinner, 889 N.W.2d 487 (Mich. 2017) (mem.); People v. Hyatt, 889 N.W.2d 487 (Mich. 2017),” the Sixth Circuit said. “Skinner and Hyatt address the amended statutory provisions that authorize judges—not juries—to make factual findings regarding the Miller factors when sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole. Although that issue has not been raised in this case, Skinner and Hyatt have nevertheless delayed the Michigan sentencing and appeals processes for youth offenders convicted of first-degree murder.”

The panel said further, “The delay in resentencing endured here certainly gives us pause. But resentencing pursuant to Sections 769.25 and 769.25a, although slow, is inevitable. Michigan has already resentenced nearly all of the class members not facing a prosecutorial motion for a renewed sentence of life without parole.”

Charles Lewis, one of the 247 juvenile lifers facing another LWOP recommendation, stressed that the state is violating MCL 711.1 in all of their cases. He has been in prison for 41 years since the age of 17, and has become a highly skilled “jail-house” attorney during that time.

“If you are a juvenile lifer and you have not been resentenced know that your current incarceration is a direct violation of MCLA 771.1,” Lewis said. (See box). “All sentences in Michigan must be done in one year. See People v West, 100 Mich App 498 (1980).”

People v. West at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/PEOPLE-v-WEST-100-Mich.-App.-498-299-N.W.2d-59.pdf .

He added that Michigan’s 247 must educate and fight for themselves.

“Most of us have been waiting longer than one year to get resentenced,” Lewis said. ” You can’t expect your lawyer to fight for you because many juvenile lifers are represented by the State Appellate Defenders Office (SADO). SADO will not challenge MCLA 769.25 and they will not challenge the judges and prosecutors for the delayed sentences.

“I am currently a clerk in the law library. In the course of a week I may see one juvenile lifer in the law library. Most juvenile lifers couldn’t tell you the elements of the crime that they were convicted of. Most can’t explain Miller v Alabama. Knowledge is power and it is imperative that we empower ourselves. Our circumstances won’t change without a fight.” Lewis then cited Frederick Douglass’ famous speech as below:

It is not known yet whether the plaintiffs in Hill v. Snyder will appeal their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, to which President Donald Trump has already appointed a new justice, Neil Gorsuch,  since the Miller and Montgomery rulings.

Meanwhile, the Sixth Circuit has remanded the case to District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara for correction of his original dismissal of the entire case, a process that will likely consume more months for the plaintiffs and defendants, and more precious time for juvenile lifers.

Juvenile lifer Efren Paredes, who heads the Juvenile Lifers for Justice campaign, suggested immediate action on a state level.

“Our focus right now needs to be on urging legislators to uniformly implement new sentences for the remaining people that have to be resentenced and revise MCL 769.25 so that they can receive sentences such as 15- to 30-year minimums and change the maximum sentence allowed from 60 to 40 years. It would save the state millions of dollars for resentencing hearings and be a fair and sensible alternative to sending everyone back to get resentenced.”

Efren Paredes, Jr.

Cortez Davis

Another juvenile lifer, Cortez Davis, resentenced to 25 to 60 years earlier this year, has already appealed, through his attorney Clinton Hubbell. Hubbell says the sentence violates ex post facto laws, not only due to the denial of good time credits, but also the replacement of his original, constitutional sentence of 10-40 years handed down by Judge Vera Massey Jones in 1994.

Davis told VOD, “Since the Sixth Circuit recommended expedited action at the District level, I am looking for a decision hopefully sometime in January, and then for a prompt referral to see the parole board, since my good time credits make me parole-eligible now.”

“The State of Michigan raised Cortez’s mandatory minimum sentence from 10 to 25 years after the fact,” Hubbell writes in his brief.

“The Appellant argues that given the choice between the original, constitutional but unprescribed sentence, and the sentence Cortez is serving now after the 2014 law change, the former should prevail and the original sentence should, therefore, be reinstated. As applied to him, the mandatory minimum of 25 years, which was imposed upon him at resentencing pursuant to MCL 769.25a(4)(c), was an unconstitutional increase from his original, constitutional but unprescribed sentence of 10-40 years imposed by the Hon. Vera Massey Jones in 1994.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1897 when they handed down the opinion in Calder v. Bull.

Hubbell argues that both U.S. and Michigan law prohibit ex post facto actions in criminal cases. “Both ex post facto clauses are designed to secure substantial personal rights against arbitrary and oppressive legislation,” he says.

Among other legal precedents, he cites, “In one of the earliest criminal procedure decisions of the US Supreme Court, Calder v Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 390 (1798), the Court defined the scope of the Ex Post Facto Clause. After finding that the term “ex post facto” was a term of art with an established meaning, the Court set forth four ways a law could violate the prohibition:

“[1.] Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action. [2.] Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed. [3.] Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. [4.] Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense, in order to convict the offender.”

See full brief at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Cortez-Davis-appellate-brief.pdf .

In the Brown v. Board of Education era, the federal government responded to the Southern states’ intransigence by sending troops to force the admittance of Black children to their schools. Where are today’s troops to liberate prisoners in Michigan who were also children when they were sentenced to die in prison, before they actually die in prison?

Below, Attorney Deborah LaBelle, who argued the Hill v. Snyder case at the Sixth Circuit, discussed the plight of children in the U.S.,  including juvenile lifers, at a forum held at Marygrove College Dec. 8, before the Sixth Circuit Court decision. On the panel were Johnny Alexander, a parolable lifer sentenced at age 18, and three juvenile lifers, David Walton, Bobby Hines and Edward Sanders, who have finally been paroled after serving 42 years each. Also commenting were Rosie Lewis and Kim Craighead, respectively the mother and wife of two juvenile lifers among the Michigan 247, Charles Lewis and Michael Calvin.

LaBelle said she and the ACLU are pursuing individual class action lawsuits against the prosecutors who have most egregiously violated the U.S. Supreme Court rulings, among other alternate actions.

Below,  Edward Sanders, incarcerated at age 17 for a crime in which he was not the shooter, told the audience he was held until his release in November, 2017 in part because he would not “snitch” to police on the actual shooter. All four freed JLWOPer’s spoke, but unfortunately, downloads to YouTube of the other three talks were unsuccessful.

Rosie Lewis (with great niece Ava at her right) and Kim Craighead speak out for Charles Lewis and Michael Calvin, part of the Michigan 247 still languishing in prison without sentences.

Related stories:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/12/13/20-yrs-for-walter-scotts-killer-cop-life-death-in-prison-sentences-up-15x-for-others/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/11/30/contrast-between-all-juvenile-lifers-and-gregory-darren-green/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/11/29/prisoners-push-for-success-while-reforming-themselves-and-others-at-thumb-cf/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/11/25/wayne-co-pros-kym-worthys-appt-of-valerie-newman-to-conviction-integrity-unit-called-sham/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/10/17/judge-denies-bond-in-charles-lewis-juvenile-lifer-case-despite-lost-court-record-innocence/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/09/15/cases-seek-absolute-ban-on-life-without-parole-sentences-for-youth-from-u-s-supreme-court/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/09/12/is-it-possible-to-restore-the-judicial-system-in-detroit-with-corrupt-officials-in-office/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/06/23/juvenile-lifers-ex-offenders-advocates-begin-new-chapter-in-battle-for-justice-june-18/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/08/08/juvenile-lifer-re-sentencings-drag-on-in-michigan-nation-as-states-snub-u-s-supreme-court/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/07/15/the-troubled-resentencing-of-americas-juvenile-lifers-the-nation/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/02/20/charles-lewis-must-be-freed-due-to-loss-of-court-file-innocence-sado-withdraws-from-case/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/02/12/rogue-justice-free-another-innocent-detroiter-charles-lewis-now-hearing-wed-feb-15-9-am/

‘ROGUE JUSTICE!’ FREE ANOTHER INNOCENT DETROITER, CHARLES LEWIS, NOW! HEARING WED. FEB. 15 @ 9 AM.

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/01/20/judge-deborah-thomas-charles-lewis-should-have-been-acquitted-sentence-vacated-in-1976-murder/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/01/12/wayne-co-juvenile-lifers-lives-at-stake-only-two-paroled-charles-lewis-hearing-thurs-feb-9-2017/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/10/26/free-charles-lewis-mich-juvenile-lifers-re-sentenced-to-die-in-prison-rally-fri-oct-28/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/10/13/support-for-charles-lewis-mich-juvenile-lifers-strong-at-hearing-oct-11-bring-them-home-now/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/10/07/stop-new-death-penalty-for-mich-juvenile-lifers-rally-tues-oct-11-for-charles-lewis-others/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/09/10/new-hope-for-michigan-juvenile-lifer-charles-lewis-as-others-await-long-delayed-justice/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/09/04/free-charles-lewis-wayne-co-juvenile-lifers-dying-in-prison-rally-at-hearing-tues-sept-6/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/08/02/michigan-files-for-jlwop-for-80-of-juvenile-lifers-fed-court-wants-all-parole-eligible/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/07/26/worthy-others-want-large-portion-of-juvenile-lifers-to-die-in-prison-despite-ussc-rulings/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/05/24/free-charles-lewis-innocent-juvenile-lifer-who-has-spent-41-years-in-state-prisons/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/04/30/why-is-juvenile-lifer-charles-lewis-still-in-prison-16-yrs-after-his-case-was-dismissed/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/10/28/michigans-juvenile-lifers-want-state-to-comply-with-u-s-supreme-court-ruling/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/08/16/michigan-challenges-u-s-supreme-court-ruling-on-juvenile-life-without-parole/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/07/02/us-supreme-courts-juvenile-lifer-decision-brings-hope-to-thousands/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/07/02/nations-high-court-ends-mandatory-life-without-parole-sentences-for-youth/

#FREEMICHIGANJUVENILELIFERSNOW, #FREETHEMICHIGAN247 #ENDMASSINCARCERATION, #ENDSCHOOLTOPRISONPIPELINE 


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ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE DOUG JONES TROMPS DISGRACED GOP FAVORITE ROY MOORE

SOJOURNER TRUTH

Southern state rejects Moore’s support of slavery as well as his attacks on women

During slavery, sexual assaults on women, especially Black women, were hailed as part of white supremacy

BY CORTEZ DAVIS EL

VOD Staff Writer

December 14, 2017

Cortez Davis-El

Tuesday December 12, 2017 marks a very important and historical moment in America’s Democracy. Why was the special election in Alabama so important and what does it mean for the rest of the country?

Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore was accused of sexually assaulting at least two young girls years ago as an Alabama District Attorney. In spite of these allegations Roy Moore continued to pursue a seat in the U.S. Senate.

One of the things that people in the urban communities were frowning upon aside from the sexual allegations are the remarks made by Moore that America was at it’s greatest during the time of slavery.

During that dark period in our history, sexual assaults were common practices among the so called elite, women did not have a voice, and bigotry was readily accepted. Those times are meant to be a thing of the past and the citizens of Alabama, the fifth most Republican state in the Union rejected the back peddling offered by Moore.

The rejection of Moore is an important move because Alabama rejected making Americans that find love with people of the same gender live in fear of prosecution.

Alabama rejected the notion that Muslims should not be allowed the privilege of holding office simply due to the fact that they can’t be sworn in with a Christian Bible.

Failed Senate candidate Roy Moore

A rejection of Judge Roy Moore was a rejection of the government making decisions that affects a woman’s right to choose what is right for her without fear of persecution from people that want to control her body. Nothing in this world is more important than women and children and Alabama has made that abundantly clear. No matter who the woman or child is, they should always feel the safest when there are men around.

If you are trying to relive the moments when America was at it’s greatest, then it is time for us to go back to the time when men protected and defended the honor of women and children. If there was never a time when America did that, then maybe it’s time to create that environment and teach the young boys how to be men that are respectful of women.

Now that Alabama has rejected so much with the electing of a Democrat for the first time in two and a half decades, the rest of the country should follow that example in the 2018 mid-term election. Everyone that is in office that supported a candidate that was accused of sexually assaulting a woman or child should meet the same fate as Judge Roy Moore.

America should make it crystal clear that sexual abuse will not be tolerated in our society or in our elected officials. If you are a supporter of someone like Moore or Trump and you defend them by shaming their accusers, then speaking for the people is something that you are not qualified to do. You should be repealed and replaced with someone that will not tolerate sexual assaults nor side with the abusers. This was truly an election for women and with any luck, the rest of America will follow the example in 2018.

Maps courtesy of Quartz Magazine

 


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A BROKEN CITY OR A DREAM DEFERRED? I LOVE DETROIT

East side Detroit below E. Jefferson and Holcomb

By Charles Lewis

December 10, 2017

Charles Lamont Lewis

DETROIT, I love you. I first arrived in Detroit in the early 1960’s. I jumped out of the car and ran and dived into the snow. It was the first time that I saw snow. I didn’t know that the pearl white stuff that was so beautiful was so cold. You could hear the soulful, tempting Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Ray Charles and many singers, early in the morning coming from radios. Motown artists dominated the air waves in the 1960’s.

Back then I went to Williams Elementary on Canfield and Mt Elliot. I was fascinated with this big white baby grand piano and played it every chance that I got.

I would race to get home to sit on the front porch with an old car steering wheel and play cab driver or bus driver. In July of 1967, I sat on our front porch at 3721 Superior and watched the 67 riot unfold right before my seven year old eyes. Have you ever been in the midst of something that you knew was special? I can honestly say that my seven year old brain couldn’t comprehend why Detroit was suddenly going up in smoke. I just knew that it was special.

5821 Pennsylvania neighborhood

My family like many black families migrated from Superior between Moran and Gratiot to Pennsylvania between Shoemaker and Chapin. Home for me no matter where I go is 5821 Pennsylvania.

The first time that I heard “I Want You Back,” by the Jackson 5 was when we stayed on Pennsylvania. We lived on Pennsylvania in 1968 when the Tigers won the World Series.

I was attending Chandler Elementary on April 4, 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. My fourth grade teacher cut off the lights and had all of the students bow their heads and pray. Then Ms. Couchie told the class that Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed. I vividly remember not knowing who he was. When I got home the news of Martin Luther King Jr’s death dominated the news.

Chandler Elementary School, now closed.

In 1970 my cousin Pete married Judy Gardner. My family missed the wedding but made the reception. I sat at our table at the reception bored out of my mind.

I looked across the room and saw Annette Gardner and thought that she was the most beautiful little girl in the whole world. I spent the rest of the night talking to her and dancing with her.

 

TODAY IN DETROIT:

Abandoned houses on blocks that were once vibrant are a symptom of a much greater problem. The greater problem is a combination of bad government, economic apathy and financial flight.

Abandoned schools that sit on trash filled lots, where weeds, trees and grass now grow wild, are a symptom of a much greater problem. The greater problem is a combination of bad government and crooked school principals and school administrators. The tax money collected in Detroit that was allocated for Detroit schools was spent on exotic trips, expensive jewelry, cars and houses.

Highland Park youth outside school board meeting where most of their teachers were being laid off, 2004.

Detroit’s youth suffered the most. They were forced to attend rodent and roach infested schools, with outdated books and unqualified teachers. Many of Detroit’s youth were forced out of school.

Abandoned auto plants that sit on trash filled lots where weeds, trees and grass now grow wild are a symptom of a much greater problem. Where did all the people go? And, more important, why did they all leave? It is not exactly clear where all the people migrated to.

Some went west in search of prosperity. Some went South in search of a better life. Some left because they couldn’t find employment. Some left because they were tired of the crime. There was a mass exodus for many reasons. Detroiters packed up and left the city by the hundreds of thousands. Many of the faithful Detroiters that still reside in Detroit are there because they have nowhere else to go.

My motto is “When life gives you lemons make lemonade,” and make the best out of your present situation. So, the question is this, “how do you improve your current situation?”

The first thing that you need to do to change your circumstances is to change you. The first step that you have to take is the hardest. The first step is changing the way that you think. Our thoughts create our reality. You are where you are now, wherever you in life, because you thought your way to this place in your life. You will have to think your way out of your current situation.

Here is an example of changing the way that you think. Let’s say you are unemployed and you filled out hundreds of job applications and you’ve gone on job interviews and no has hired you. Think about creating your own business and working for yourself.

What are you good at? Everyone has some ability or hidden talent that they were blessed with. Use your talent to start your own business and employ yourself. Change the channel in your brain and you can change the world.

If your life is not all that you want it to be change your thoughts and you will change your life. Find at least one thing to laugh about every day. Every day that you are blessed to see is a day that you can’t get back. There are no do overs in life. So, make the best of every day that you are blessed to see. Avoid toxic people that never have anything constructive or positive to say. Make wise life choices that yield good consequences. Know that you are responsible for your happiness. You are also responsible for your sadness. No one has control over you unless you relinquish your control to them. Hold on.

If Detroit is not all that you think that it should be know that you have the power to make Detroit better. Through the power of positive thought you can change Detroit. Today I decided to make Detroit. I’m going to make Detroit better one positive thought at a time.

Cleaning up distressed Detroit neighborhood

One positive thought can start a chain reaction. That one positive thought can cause one positive action. That one positive action can transform a city. One positive thought caused me to write this article that you are reading right now. What will this article cause you to do to make Detroit better?

Let us focus on the things that we can do to make Detroit better that do not cost any money. You start a cleaning drive and pick up the trash in your neighborhood. The cleanliness of a neighborhood says a lot about the character of the people that live in the neighborhood. Cleaning up your own neighborhood does not cost any money at all.

If you are a woman you can mentor to young girls. It does not cost any money to talk to young girls about sexually transmitted diseases. You can talk to them about college and the importance of a college education. You can talk to them about female empowerment. How much money would that cost you? Not one dime.

Young Detroit women, children on Belle Isle in 2012 before state takeover.

You can start a financial empowerment group and focus on teaching people how to start and run their own businesses. Detroit has the largest business library in the world at Two Woodward Ave. That library has books on everything dealing with business. That does not cost any money at all.

You can start a conflict resolution class for troubled black males that desperately need help resolving conflicts. That would not cost anything but your time.

You can start a BUY DETROIT, campaign. How many times does a dollar circulate in Detroit before it leaves Detroit? Every single time that a Detroit earned dollar is spent in a Detroit owned business, it helps that business grow. Let’s start a new trend called BUY DETROIT, BY DETROIT. Let’s start buying our goods and services from fellow Detroiters.

VOD Editor’s Note: Charles Lewis has been serving an unconstitutional juvenile life without parole sentence for 41 years in the MDOC. His article shows how he has survived those brutal years and what he has to contribute to the people of Detroit upon release.

At the age of 17, Lewis was framed up by the notoriously corrupt Sgt. Gil Hill and STRESS cop Marvin Johnson, among others, for the shooting death of off-duty Detroit cop Gerald Sypitkowski. The cop’s partner and numerous other witnesses identified a different perpetrator.

Charles Lewis with mother Rosie Lewis in 1977.

Judge Joseph Maher

Recorders’ Court Judge Joseph Maher sentenced Lewis to LWOP after dismissing his first jury without cause in May, 1977, meaning Lewis should have been acquitted.

Maher was well-known as one of Detroit’s most racist judges, assisting in the acquittal of STRESS murderer Raymond Peterson, and putting Atty. Kenneth Cockrel, Sr. on trial for calling Maher appropriate epithets out of court.

VOD has reported constantly on Lewis’ battles to dismiss his case due to the suspicious loss of his complete court files. Give a shout out to Charles (K.K.) Lewis on Facebo0k: #FREECHARLESLEWIS#TAKEAKNEEFORCRIMINALINJUSTICES https://www.facebook.com/groups/1512572892145578/.

Judge Qiana Lillard

Also call his Judge, Qiana Lillard, at 313-224-2391, and Prosecutor Kym Worthy at 313-224-5817 to demand his release, and offer assistance to his defense attorney Victoria Burton-Harris at 313-224-2166 on behalf of his mother, four brothers and sisters, grand and great nieces, and numerous others who know him and have been helped by him.

Put Charles Lewis’ name in the VOD search engine for related stories. Write to  Charles Lewis, #150709, at the Lakeland Correctional Facility, 141 First St., Coldwater, MI 49036.


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20 YRS. FOR WALTER SCOTT’S KILLER COP; LIFE (DEATH IN PRISON) SENTENCES UP 15X FOR OTHERS

Killer cop Michael Slager stands over the body of unarmed father Walter Scott, 50, after traffic stop for defective tail-light April 4, 2015.

By Danette L Chavis – National Action Against Police Murder!!

Dec 8, 2017 — Ex-police officer Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison, plus two years of supervision after his release, by U.S. District Judge David Norton. The sentence comes two years after the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, who was running away from police after being stopped for a broken tail light. The officer had claimed that Mr. Scott had taken control of his taser and that he “feared for his life”. But the video which recorded the shooting shows Mr. Scott running away from police and being fired upon, striking him 5 times including 3 in the back. The officer then handcuffs him as he lay there bleeding.

The officer who had been trained against the use of lethal force, not only murdered the father of four as he was running away from him, but lied accusing the victim of taking control of his taser and “fearing for his life”. Then he stood before the judge and the victim’s family in court and claimed that he wished that he could “go back in time and change the events” calling it “a very tragic situation” – not an outright murder he himself committed! He claimed to be “taking responsibility for the actions of April 4th 2015” without claiming he himself caused it, or admitting that lies that were told in an attempt to justify those actions after they had been taken. But all the same expects some leniency for the “guilty” plea he’s entered into court.

Michael Slager; Walter Scott

The truth is, his pleading “guilty” to violating Walter Scotts civil rights, was agreed to in exchange for state prosecutors “dropping their case” against him after the murder trial ended in a hung jury – for which if he was convicted could result in 30 years in prison.

So he pleads guilty at the federal level regarding a civil rights violation and receives 20 years instead. The family of Walter Scott calls it justice and say that history has been made concerning it. I see a “repeated” history, one of cops murdering the unarmed, lying about it, and a system that aids them in avoiding the penalty rightfully owed!

Sign Petition to U.S. Justice Department now! 

Click on: https://www.change.org/p/national-action-against-police-brutality-and-murder

KILLER COPS RARELY CONVICTED WHILE LIFE SENTENCES SKYROCKET FOR OTHERS

The number of people serving life in U.S. prisons at an all-time high

Two-thirds are people of color; 12,000 are juvenile lifers

From Sentencing Times, a publication of the Sentencing Project

Fall, 2017

As outlined in our report May 3, 2017, “Still Life: America’s Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences,”  206,000 people were serving life with parole, life without parole, or “virtual life” sentences of 50 years or more in 2016—one of every seven people in prison. Two-thirds of these serving life are people of color. 

For full report, see http://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/still-life-americas-increasing-use-life-long-term-sentences/

The number of people serving life is nearly five times the figure in 1984 despite evidence that continuing to incarcerate those who have “aged out” of their crime-prone years is ineffective in promoting public safety. The expansion is an outgrowth of “get tough” crime policies that characterized sentencing policy in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Along with the spread of mandatory sentencing, Report author Ashley Nellis found that while the majority of people serving life sentences were convicted of murder, the punishment is not reserved for the “worst of the worst.” Over 17,000 people convicted of non-violent offenses are serving life or virtual life sentences, and 12,000 people were under 18 at the time of their crime, when they were still maturing into adulthood.

These figures come at a moment when calls to end mass incarceration abound throughout the nation. Yet the increasing use of life imprisonment suggests that substantial reductions in incarceration will be limited unless policymakers address the punishments at the deep end of the system for crimes that include violence, along with the more politically palatable offenses involving drugs.

In a second report, “Delaying a Second Chance: the Declining Prospects for Parole on Life Sentences,” research analyst Nazgol Ghandnoosh reveals just how elusive parole has become for eligible lifers. Based on a national survey with responses from 31 states and the federal government, this analysis found a variety of policy choices and practices that have caused paroled lifers to serve much longer prison sentences than their counterparts in the past.

(Full report at http://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/delaying-second-chance-declining-prospects-parole-life-sentences/.)

Life in prison means death in prison.

Specifically, in eight jurisdictions for which data are available since the 1980’s, average time served by lifers with murder convictions doubled from 11.6 years for those paroled in the 1980’s to 23.2 years for those paroled between 2000 and 2013.

In a supplemental document, Grandnoosh reports on how these patterns are echoed in other states, and identifies specific policy changes that have contributed to the increase in time served.

Delaying a Second Chance” identifies factors producing longer prison terms for parole-eligible lifers:

  • Gubernatorial authority: Governors in some states have appointed parole board members committed to reducing parole grants and limiting parole boards’ decision-making authority.
  • Parole board procedures: Most states afford only limited rights to incarcerated individuals during parole hearings.

Elderly, infirm Michigan prisoners

The Sentencing Project’s research on life sentences concludes that unnecessarily long prison terms are costly and impede public investments in effective crime prevention, drug treatment, and other rehabilitative programs that produce healthier and safer communities.

The Sentencing Project’s research on life sentences concludes that unnecessarily long prison terms are costly and impede public investments in effective crime prevention, drug treatment, and other rehabilitative programs that produce healthier and safer communities.


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