Thanks for your help!Donations help pay considerable costs of VOD, which is published pro bono. Click on donate button for other options.
VOD WELCOMES NEW SUBMISSIONS!If you want to be published on VOD, please submit your articles, etc. to email@example.com. Call 313-825-6126 to alert us.
200 GM workers from Colombian plant on hunger strike to protest firing of workers injured on job, as elite celebrate at auto show
U.S. autoworkers protest wages, conditions; Detroiters protest poverty and Right to Work law
By Diane Bukowski
January 21, 2013
DETROIT – During the 2013 Detroit auto show, the international media, executives from big corporations and banks, politicians with dollar signs in their eyes, and other assorted wealthy white folks in backless evening gowns and shoes on stilts, black tie and tails have flooded downtown Detroit like it was the wealthy country of Monaco.
“We really get the feel that there is even more activity than there has been over the past five or six years,” Michael O’Callaghan, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the [Detroit Convention and Visitors] bureau, told the Detroit News.. “The show will bring somewhere between $300 million, $400 million to southeast Michigan. Those dollars are gigantic, especially in January. . . . At Metro Detroit hotels, the increased revenue over the two-week period is in excess of $33 million.”
The figures do not include the majority of Black and resident-owned businesses from Detroit. The few Black owned-businesses which had franchises inside Cobo Hall, where the auto show was held, lost them after Cobo Hall was regionalized under the administration of then interim Mayor Kenneth Cockrel, Jr.
VOD spotted City Council President Charles Pugh and a friend at the gala “charity” preview Jan. 18, whose attendance was likely 90 percent white, and managed to catch a shot of him on the run. He repeatedly ducked away as VOD tried to photograph him. Not surprising, since the Big Three, along with mortgage companies and privatizers, have been largely responsible for the devastation of Detroit, moving well-paid unionized jobs away from the city to the South and overseas.
Like Pugh and the rest of the Council’s Rogue Six, the daily media has ignored the reality of Detroit, the poorest major city in the country, where 51 percent of Detroit public schools children live below the poverty rate, and the unemployment rate continues to skyrocket.
Like those who refuse to see homeless people on the streets, well-heeled auto show attendees pointedly ignored protests by laid-off and increasingly impoverished auto workers and Detroiters. GM was touted by the daily media as king of the auto show.
A GM worker from Colombia who has been on hunger strike for 55 days because GM fired him and 200 co-workers after they became disabled due to injuries on the job was the focus of the first protest, sponsored by the Autoworkers Caravan, on Jan. 13 and 14. The only media present, other than those from the progressive left , was an Argentinian reporter.
“I have a spinal injury,” Jorge Parras, the single father of a five-year-old daughter, told VOD as he sat on a chair, covered with blankets. Due to his hunger strike, he said, he is experiencing “a lot of headaches, a lot of nausea, pain all over my body, extreme cold, and debilitation.”
“We hope for a prompt solution because our families are going through extremely difficult times,” Parras said. “Our children, our comrades have been evicted from their homes, and are hungry and desperate. This is why we take such drastic measures.”
He thanked everyone for their support and asked all union members and workers to add theirs. Statements have already been issued by workers in Brazil and Germany. Parras has been in the U.S. for five months. Parras attended demonstrations against Right to Work legislation in Lansing in December, and also traveled with a national delegation by bus to protest the School of the Americas, the CIA’s terrorist training center.
Many of the hunger strikers sewed their mouths shut until infection set in, to shame GM. The workers include 200 who have lost their jobs at GM’s Colomotores assembly plant due to work-related injuries. Prior to starting the hunger strike, they set up a tent encampment at the U.S. Embassy. To date, despite mediation, GM only agreed to a financial settlement of $500,000 to 12 workers, and refused to re-hire any workers. The workers refused the settlement and have continued their hunger strike, vowing not to end it until their demands are met.
“Due to poor working conditions, ASOTRECOL (Association of Injured Workers and Ex-Workers of General Motors Colombia), suffer many medical problems including herniated discs, carpal tunnel, tendonitis, chronic ringing in the ears, spinal injuries and cancer,” according to the Autoworkers Caravan newsletter.
“ASTRECOL is demanding that GM admit its responsibility, improve health and safety, compensate them for being let go, and rehire them for jobs they can perform. They also want GM to recognize their union. Their encampment, now in its 410th day, aims to pressure the U.S. government, [then] a 20 percent owner – to force GM to honor their demands.”
The Autoworkers Caravan also petitioned United Auto Workers International President Bob King to intervene in the situation, and held a demonstration in front of GM’s headquarters on East Jefferson last August. As a result, UAW VP Joe Ashton and UAW health and safety reps went to Colomotores, to no avail. King was not present at the press conference in front of the Auto Show, but instead went to court to get permission to hold a protest demanding that the UAW be able to organize Nissan plants in the South.
Former UAW Local 160 President Norbin Thompson also spoke at the press conference in support of Parras and his comrades. He said he drank water only for 22 days to support the hunger strike.
“Their struggle resonates because we go through the same things here, but not as severe,” Thompson said. “There is a parallel system of how corporations run here and there. GM has all the capital, the workers have none. We ought to be able to control at least whether out jobs injure us. We are asking for nothing but justice. What is happening in Colombia is migrating here. The workers cannot continue to endure this.”
Martha Grevatt, a UAW worker for 25 years who currently works at the GM Warren Stamping Plant, addressed the concerns of her co-workers across the U.S.
“GM went into bankruptcy in 2007 and came out in 2011,” she said. “Workers wanted to make gains as a result, but we have not. We have had no wage increase since 2006; we no longer have cost-of-living allowances; we have an unequal and divisive two-tier wage schedule. Hiring new hourly workers with these concessions has been more advantageous to the companies.”
She added, “We don’t get overtime on Saturdays; overtime only comes after 40 hours in the week. We have outrageous new work schedules which don’t allow us to choose weekends off, which hurts workers who have been forced to move elsewhere to follow their jobs, because they can’t go home to see their families regularly. Since 1979, 267 auto plants have closed in the U.S., half of them since 2004.”
On Friday, Jan. 18, members of Good Jobs Now and the National Action Network loudly protested outside the auto show as busloads of elegantly dressed people were dropped off at the “charity” preview, to gather around the Cobo Hall statue of Joe Louis, his fists at the ready, drink free champagne and watch luxurious new cars roar up and down the lobby.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican heads of both houses of the state legislature, responsible for making Michigan a Right to Work (for less) state, along with Detroit mayoral candidate Mike Duggan, were in attendance.
Protesters loudly chanted against Snyder and Right to Work, banging drums and using bullhorns, as attendees scurried inside. Police roped off auto access to Cobo Hall for several blocks, but the protesters took possession of the streets across from Cobo anyway.
They included a large number of Black youth and very informally (and warmly) dressed adults, who decided after enduring the bitter cold for a while to make their presence known inside. They marched across the street to Cobo Hall and invaded the gala as shocked attendees gaped and showed their fright. They mingled with the rich white elite, roving through the lobby without police interference, until Rev. Charles Williams II concluded the protest with a prayer group.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address: Dr. King on racism, poverty, capitalism, and other big questions
By Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., 16 August 1967
…And one day we must ask the question, Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…
(VOD: as we celebrate the national Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday today, Dr. King’s speech below describes the present as well as the situation in 1967.)
Now, in order to answer the question, Where do we go from here? which is our theme, we must first honestly recognize where we are now. When the Constitution was written, a strange formula to determine taxes and representation declared that the Negro was sixty percent of a person. Today another curious formula seems to declare that he is fifty percent of a person.
Of the good things in life, the Negro has approximately one half those of whites. Of the bad things of life, he has twice those of whites. Thus half of all Negroes live in substandard housing. And Negroes have half the income of whites. When we view the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many unemployed. The rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of whites and there are twice as many Negroes dying in Vietnam as whites in proportion to their size in the population.
In other spheres, the figures are equally alarming. In elementary schools, Negroes lag one to three years behind whites, and their segregated schools receive substantially less money per student than the white schools. One-twentieth as many Negroes as whites attend college. Of employed Negroes, seventy-five percent hold menial jobs.
This is where we are. Where do we go from here? First, we must massively assert our dignity and worth. We must stand up amidst a system that still oppresses us and develop an unassailable and majestic sense of values. We must no longer be ashamed of being black. The job of arousing manhood within a people that have been taught for so many centuries that they are nobody is not easy.
Even semantics have conspired to make that which is black seem ugly and degrading. In Roget’s Thesaurus there are 120 synonyms for blackness and at least sixty of them are offensive, as for example, blot, soot, grim, devil and foul. And there are some 134 synoyms for whiteness and all are favorable, expressed in such words as purity, cleanliness, chastity and innocence. A white lie is better than a black lie. The most degenerate member of a family is a black sheep. Ossie Davis has suggested that maybe the English language should be reconstructed so that teachers will not be forced to teach the Negro child sixty ways to despise himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of inferiority, and the white child 134 ways to adore himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of superiority.
The tendency to ignore the Negro’s contribution to American life and to strip him of his personhood is as old as the earliest history books and as contemporary as the morning’s newspaper. To upset this cultural homicide, the Negro must rise up with an affirmation of his own Olympian manhood. Any movement for the Negro’s freedom that overlooks this necessity is only waiting to be buried. As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.
No Lincolnian emancipation proclamation or Johnsonian civil rights bill can totally bring this kind of freedom. The negro will only be free when he reaches down to the inner depths of his own being and signs with the pen and ink of assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation. And, with a spirit straining toward true self-esteem, the Negro must boldly throw off the manacles of self-abegnation and say to himself and to the world, I am somebody. I am a person. I am a man with dignity and honor. I have a rich and noble history. How painful and exploited that history has been. Yes, I was a slave through my foreparents and I am not ashamed of that. I’m ashamed of the people who were so sinful to make me a slave. Yes, we must stand up and say, I’m black and I’m beautiful, and this self-affirmation is the black man’s need, made compelling by the white man’s crimes against him.
Another basic challenge is to discover how to organize our strength in terms of economic and political power. No one can deny that the Negro is in dire need of this kind of legitimate power. Indeed, one of the great problems that the Negro confronts is his lack of power. From old plantations of the South to newer ghettoes of the North, the Negro has been confined to a life of voicelessness and powerlessness. Stripped of the right to make decisions concerning his life and destiny he has been subject to the authoritarian and sometimes whimsical decisions of this white power structure. Continue reading
January 16, 2013
If Dr. King were alive today, there might be a Black president, but he or she would certainly not get MLK’s support if he behaved like Barack Obama. Dr. King would oppose Obama’s wars, “make Wall Street scream, and attempt to render the nation ungovernable under the dictatorship of the Lords of Capital.”
Back in 1964, under prodding from a BBC interviewer, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. predicted that a Black person might be elected president “in 25 years or less.” Four years later, shortly before his assassination, King confided to actor/activist Harry Belafonte that he had “come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house.” We now see that the two notions are not at all contradictory. At least some African Americans have achieved deep penetration of the very pinnacles of white power structures – integrating the White House, itself – while conditions of life for masses of Black folks deteriorate and the society as a whole falls into deep decay.
The fires lit by the “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism” that Dr. King identified in his 1967 “Beyond Vietnam: Breaking the Silence ” speech are consuming the world, now stoked by a Black arsonist-in-chief. Domestic poverty hovers only a fraction of a percentage below the levels of 1965 , with “extreme poverty” the highest on record. Black household wealth has collapsed to one-twentieth that of whites. Today, more Black men are under the control of the criminal justice system than were slaves in the decade before the Civil War, according to Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow.
The intervening years have shown that Dr. King’s 1960s visions were not in conflict: the rooms at the top floors of the national house may have been integrated, but the building still burns.
The deepening crisis of capitalism, the triumph of Wall Street finance over industrial capital, the increasing imperial reversion to international lawlessness in a desperate bid to maintain global supremacy – all this was predictable under the laws of political economy. Had the assassin’s bullet not found him, Dr. King would have continued his implacable resistance to these unfolding evils, rejecting Barack Obama’s invasions, drones and Kill Lists with the same moral fervor and political courage that he broke with Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War. Absolutely nothing in King’s life and work indicates otherwise.
“The very notion of a grand austerity bargain with the Right would have been anathema to MLK.”
One school of thought holds that corporate servants like Obama could not have taken root in Black America if Dr. King, Malcolm X and a whole cadre of slain and imprisoned leaders of the Sixties had not been replaced by opportunistic representatives of a grasping Black acquisitive class. In any event, had King survived, his break with Obama would have come early.
Surely, the Dr. King who, in his 1967 “Where Do We Go from Here ” speech called for a guaranteed annual income would never have abided Obama’s targeting of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the weeks before his 2009 inauguration. Forty-five years ago, King’s position was clear: “Our emphasis must be twofold: We must create full employment, or we must create incomes.” The very notion of a grand austerity bargain with the Right would have been anathema to MLK.
Were Martin alive, he would skewer the putative leftists and their “lesser evil” rationales for backing the corporatist, warmongering Obama. As both a theologian and a “revolutionary democrat,” as Temple University’s Prof. Anthony Monteiro has described him, MLK had no problem calling evil by its name – and in explicate triplicate. His militant approach to non-violent direct action required him to confront the underlying contradictions of society through the methodical application of creative tension. He would make Wall Street scream, and attempt to render the nation ungovernable under the dictatorship of the Lords of Capital. And he would deliver a withering condemnation of the base corruption and self-serving that saturates the Black Misleadership Class.
He would spend his birthday preparing a massive, disruptive action at the Inauguration.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Stifel Financial, being sued for securities fraud in cases across the U.S., will be city’s “investment banker,” sell assets
Other shady firms get millions to carry out de-structuring of city
Residents, workers to pay with huge wage, pension and benefits cuts, increased fees, loss of city assets including Belle Isle
Banks to profit from debt re-financing, no moratorium
January 15, 2013
By Diane Bukowski
DETROIT – The Wall Street gang rape of Detroit, the nation’s poorest and Blackest major city, for its assets, resources, and $2.5 billion budget proceeded full speed ahead over the holiday break and into the New Year of 2013.
Participants in the rape (shown above) are Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, State Treasurer Andy Dillon, Mayor Dave Bing, Program Management Director Kriss Andrews, City Council Fiscal Analysis Director Irving Corley, and Council members Charles Pugh, Gary Brown, Kenneth Cockrel, Jr., Saunteel Jenkins, James Tate, and Andre Spivey.
The Council members are the Rogue Six who met with the Detroit News and Free Press prior to the holidays, purporting to represent the entire Council of nine members.
“You are by far the most fascist, tyrannical sitting body in history,” Valerie Glenn told the Six at the body’s first meeting of the year Jan. 8, 2013. “You are firing Krystal Crittendon, you are not protecting our assets, including Belle Isle, and you support the Emergency Manager laws.”
Chris Griffiths said, “This is a death threat to us, to eliminate democracy, sell our assets, bust our unions, and eliminate our vote. This is a plan for domination and dictatorship. I say to you will go down in history as responsible for resurrecting Hitler from the dead. Krystal Crittendon has done a wonderful job. She should be applauded for protecting the City Charter.”
Crittendon’s firing, done at the behest of Bing and Snyder, overshadowed a stunning “Joint Mayor and City Council Plan to Address the City’s Current Cash Flow Crisis by June 30, 2013,” never approved by Council, which Corley brought to the body that day. It says the administration in concert with the new Financial Review Team and others, is planning to implement:
- Increased fees for services, stepping up income tax collections, selling assets, etc. No mention of collection of $800 million corporations owe the city, and over $240 million the state owes Detroit. State Treasurer Andy Dillon has confirmed both amounts.
- At least 400 more city lay-offs.
- Additional 20 percent pay cuts for city workers on top of earlier 10 perent.
- Forty percent health care premium-sharing for active employees, 60 percent for retirees;
- Elimination of dental and vision benefits for active and retired workers;
- Unilateral imposition of new contracts June 30, 2013;
- Revisiting Belle Isle lease;
- Outsurcing vehicle maintenance and possibly law, IT, finance, DDOT;
- All recreation centers to be turned over to non-profits.
- Ten percent price reduction for vendors; decrease purchases by 10%;
- Long term debt-refinancing to reduce interest rates on outstanding debt (investment banker to be retained), POC [pension obligation certificates] swap restructuring, OPEB restructuring and pension restructuring. (VOD: Debt re-financing means higher interest rates for the banks. No mention is made of a moratorium on the city’s massive debt to the banks, or even negotiations to lower principal and interest payments.)
Corley says the plan was concocted by a “working group including representatives of the Bing Administration, President Pugh, Pro Tem Brown, Councilman Cockrel, and Fiscal Analysis Division staff [during] the last few weeks to address the current cash flow crisis by June 30, 2013” to avoid appointments of either an emergency financial manager or an emergency manager, and to avoid bankruptcy. (Link to full report at end of story.)
Councilman Andre Spivey inadvertently gave the lie to Corley’s contention that only three Council members were involved, blurting out that he had spent his entire holiday break in the meetings. Jenkins and Tate were also likely involved, since they were part of the Rogue Six that met with the News and Free Press.
Outraged, Council members JoAnn Watson, Brenda Jones and Kwame Kenyatta said no one had contacted them about the holiday meetings, although they were available to attend. Kenyatta said all actions by the group must therefore be nullified under the Open Meetings Act.
During the meeting, the Council Six approved contracts with five law firms and corporate restructuring entities, worth over $14 million. The re-structuring firms have little or no experience in the public sector.
The $1.8 million “investment banker’ contract is with New York-based Miller, Buckfire and Co., now a part of St. Louis, Missouri-based Stifel Financial.
“Miller Buckfire will act as the City’s investment banker and will provide financial advisory services, including possible strategic asset sales and related refinancing actions,” says Corley’s report.
Councilwoman JoAnn Watson pointed out that Miller Buckfire no longer exists.
“On Jan. 1, Miller Buckfire was wholly taken over by another firm, Stifel Financial, 100 percent,” Watson said. “They can’t even sign a contract. How can they restructure Detroit when they cannot restructure themselves?”
Andrews scoffed at Watson’s concerns, saying, “Jack [Martin, Detroit CFO], and I are in contact with them constantly. I don’t understand why that affects their ability to assist Detroit.”
(Bloomberg) Oct. 23, 2012 — Hunter Keay, an analyst at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., talks with Bloomberg’s Mark Crumpton about US Airways Group Inc.’s decision to cut 1,000 jobs and the outlook for the airline industry, calling “head count reduction” an area of “low-hanging fruit.)
Due diligence on the administration and Council’s part would have disclosed the following about Stifel’s shady history.The company manages $91 billion in assets world-wide and has been gobbling up dozens of other companies, including 56 branches of UBS Wealth Care Management, acquired in 2009. UBS just paid a $1.5 billion fine to the U.S. Department of Justice, admitting to fraudulent interest-rate rigging on a global scale.
- The South Florida Business Journal reported in April, 2012, “Florida regulators told Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. [a subsidiary of Stifel Financial] to “cease and desist” from violating securities laws pertaining to the sale of auction-rate securities (ARS) and to repurchase those securities from customers who were misled.
- In March 2012, Stifel paid a $350,000 fine to settle an action brought against it by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), due to a fraudulent Ponzi scheme run in its home state of Missouri by one of its brokers. They also agreed to pay $250,000 plus interest in restitution to customers affected by the scheme.
- In an ongoing 2011 case,’’ the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Stifel with “defrauding five Wisconsin school districts by selling them unsuitably risky and complex investments funded largely with borrowed money,” totaling $200 million. “Stifel . . . . abused their longstanding relationships of trust with the school districts by fraudulently peddling these inappropriate products to them, Elaine C. Greenberg, Chief of the SEC Division of Enforcement’s Municipal Securities and Public Pensions Unit, said in a release. They were clearly aware that the school districts could ill afford to bear the risk of catastrophic loss if these investments failed,” as they did.
- In 2009, Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a Republican, brought an administrative complaint for securities fraud against Stiffel, charging that the firm failed to disclose risks on $55 miliion that 142 individuals in Indiana invested.
“Today, we are further in debt since state has been in city of Detroit,” Ed McNeil, executive assistant to Al Garrett, head of the state-wide AFSCME Council 25, told the Council. “You are paying $1.4 million for state officials [appointed under the consent agreement]. . . . I confronted Andy Dillon on the $800 million in receivables outstanding and he acknowledged it. But has anybody gone to get the money? You would rather lay off employees, and slash their wages and benefits. The Ernst Young contract started off at $4 million, it is now $7.8 million after five change orders. Now you’re going to give Miller Canfield another $20 million, and the State Treasurer is holding our escrow money unless we agree to these contracts.”
Ernst & Young, as VOD has repeatedly pointed out, is being sued by the states of New York and New Jersey for losses they sustained due to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which triggered a global economic meltdown in 2008. Ernst & Young, which now maintains a glitzy office building in downtown Detroit, was the bookkeeper for Lehman Brothers.
“By the end of January, Miller Canfield should complete its legal analysis on retiree healthcare,” Corley says in his report regarding Miller Canfield. “At minimum, Miller Canfield needs to review all labor contracts/ordinances that possibly impact the provision of retiree healthcare and retiree benefits. There is Michigan case law where retiree healthcare is protected. Private sector employers have been successful in eliminating retiree health benefits but this process has only begun taking root. in the public sector in recent years. Stockton, CA was able to eliminate retiree healthcare recently but through bankruptcy proceedings.”
(VOD: NOTE WHAT NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES A MUNICIPAL BANKRUPTCY FILING, ADVOCATED BY SOME DETROITERS, COULD HAVE.)
Miller Canfield has already been well-exposed as a co-author of Snyder’s Public Act 4, and the city Consent and Milestone Agreements. It also represented the city AND the state in negotiating the April state loan of $137 million to Detroit, a conflict of interest which caused the Council at first to vote down its contract 8-1 Nov. 20, only to later reverse itself and approve it Dec. 11.
Another elephant in the room is a contract with Seattle-based Milliman, Inc. for a total of $332, 500, “to evaluate pension and health care cost reduction alternatives.”
Milliman has done several national studies on public pension plans, claiming in one issued Oct. 15, 2012, that “the aggregate funded status of the 100 largest U.S. public pension plans is nearly $300 billion worse than what the plans state in their annual reports,.” Another report, however, basically says the plans are adequately managed.
However, according to a Maryland Appeals Court, Milliman itself was responsible for underfunding the Maryland State Retirement System.
On July 20, 2011, an appeals court for the state of Maryland upheld an earlier decision by the State Board of Contract Appeals, “which determined that Milliman, Inc., . . had breached contracts to provide actuarial services to the Maryland State Retirement System . . . allegedly resulting in approximately $73 million in losses to the System.”
In Milliman v. State Retirement, 25 A.3d 988 (2011) 421 MD. 130, the COA agreed with the state board that Milliman “had understated the contributions required to fund three of the State’s ten retirement and pension systems because of the actuary’s misinterpretation of a particular data code. . . .and that the System was entitled to recover ‘$34.2 million in contributions that would have been received but for Milliman’s errors, and $38.8 million in lost income that would have been earned on those contributions.’ ”
In conjunction with the Milliman contract, says Corley, “the Administration is requesting that your Honorable Body pass a resolution indicating the City should move away from its current structure of providing retiree health care toward an alternative model structured to better match the provision of retiree health care benefits with the City’s ability to pay the benefits in a sustainable fashion.”
- Says Mayor Bing, Council Six are disrespecting the will of Detroiters
- Announces she will explore formation of slate in addition to Mayoral run
By Diane Bukowski
January 15, 2013
DETROIT – In an exclusive phone interview with VOD Monday night, Attorney Krystal Crittendon expanded on remarks she made earlier that day on WCHB Radio, announcing the formation of a committee to explore a mayoral run rthis year.
“People in the community have always supported me,” Attorney Crittendon said. “When I came to work this morning at CAYMC, a security guard gave me a big hug, and people lined up waiting to pay their taxes, including seniors, sent up a cheer.”
Attorney Crittendon explained further how she plans to collect what State Treasurer Andy Dillon has admitted are $800 million in funds owed by corporations and others to the city, if she is elected. She had said on WCHB that she would launch an immediate review of the city’s books, including outstanding debts owed to and by the city.
“The Mayor came out last week with a statement that we don’t know exactly how much people owe us due to our bookkeeping methods. However, for instance, in the case of the Red Wings and Mike Illitch [which the Detroit News recently reported owes Detroit $70 million], we have the right to audit Illitch Holdings accounts ourselves. They owe us concession fees, television and other fees. The statute of limitations on such debts goes back six years. After you figure out what the number is, penalties and interest are added.”
Crittendon said a culture of indifference has existed among the city’s debtors, because they face no significant consequences for non-payment, and therefore they continue not to pay.
Crittendon said another reason she is considering a mayoral run is her concern over who Bing will appoint as Corporation Counsel to replace her.
“About a month ago, the Mayor went to the City Council and told them he wants his own counsel, so they voted for the Miller Canfield contract. Now the Mayor’s going to appoint another person to represent the city [as Corporation Counsel]. He’s got his own lawyers; there should be no need to do so.
“Now that he has removed me for supporting the provisions of the Charter the peopled voted for, this will have a chilling effect on anyone who replaces me; they will be afraid they will be removed from office. This nullifies the fact that we had a Charter revision process, which sought to ensure that the office of Corporation Counsel could not be politicized. The people of Detroit further confirmed this in November by voting overwhelmingly for Detroit’s Proposal 3.”
That proposal further solidified the powers of the Corporation Counsel, which Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette ignored when he dismissed Crittendon’s lawsuit against the city’s Public Act 4 consent agreement in May. Collette said he had his mind made up from the beginning because he did not believe a Corporation Counsel could act independently of a Mayor.
“In addition to being a City employee, I’m also a resident,” Crittendon said. “The Mayor and City Council represent me as well, and I am concerned that the will of the people is not being honored and respected.”
Throughout 2012, hundreds of residents packed City Council meetings to oppose the consent agreement, the Miller Canfield contract, the Milestone Agreement, and the Hantz Farms contract, among other matters. Three days of hearings were held on the consent agreement before the Council passed it 5-4 on April 4, with virtually every speaker condemning it.. Over 600 people packed an east-side church to oppose what they said was a blatant land grab by Hantz Farms.
During hearings in Council chambers, hundreds of people were consigned to the hallway, unable to see or hear proceedings, because Pugh refused to move them to the auditorium. (VOD is still seeking attorneys to represent the public in an Open Meetings Act lawsuit, in particular with regard to the Council’s Dec. 11 meeting. The public has six months to file such a suit.)
Judi Briggs, a VOD reader who was at the Hantz Farms hearing, posted the following comment Dec. 31.
“I must comment, at the Hantz Farm hearing, I went to the side hallway and held the door open for someone who was coming out and he [Pugh] went barreling past both of us into the hallway before either of us could move and started ordering people around like he owned the place,” Briggs said. “‘We need someone to get out here and keep people from walking BEHIND THE TABLE, They have NO BUSINESS on our side of the table!’ I was startled that a politician had so little awareness of how he appeared to his presumed constituents.”
Before Detroiter Marie Thornton conducted a civil rights-style sit-in at the Council’s Dec. 11 meeting, Pugh remarked that the reason he doesn’t hold Council meetings in the auditorium is that he is afraid of actions by the people.
He referred specifically to the famous “grapes of wrath” incident at a 2004 Detroit Board of Education meeting, where Agnes Hitchcock of Call ‘em Out tossed a handful of grapes at the stage after the Board voted to close 50 schools, the first in a long series of public school closings and privatization that has devastated the district.
Crittendon said she favors transparency with the public, and that she would prefer that large meetings be held in the Council auditorium.
“I have not been a politician,” she said. “I’ve just been trying to represent the city of Detroit as a lawyer. People don’t vote for the Corporation Counsel, but they did vote for the Charter. I believe everything we do should benefit the people of Detroit. In addition to a run for Mayor, I have also begun exploring a the possibility of a slate in order to get people who can work together for the people [on the Council]. “
Since Crittendon has indicated she would take on powerful entities like the corporations, VOD asked her what she would do to mobilize the people to support actions she takes.
“I have no political favors to repay,” she said. “I am not a retread. I am just trying to do the right thing. I am not compromised, and as the people become energized and mobilized by my campaign, I believe they will remain so once I take office. People have become disconnected from city politics because of the actions of many current leaders. People began coming up to me last year and telling me, ‘I have hope now.” As long as I continue to stand with them, they will stand with me.”
By Diane Bukowski
January 14, 2013
DETROIT – Detroit’s former Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon, known for her firm stance against the city’s Public Act 4 consent agreement and what she termed “extortion” on the part of the state in the subsequent “Milestone Agreement,” announced today that she is forming an exploratory committee on a run for Mayor of Detroit this year.
“Many people have been approaching me,” Attorney Crittendon said on WCHB’s Mildred Gaddis show. “Detroit needs a strong leader and I believe that I can be that leader. . . .Detroit is at the crossroads. People need someone very strong, who will not compromise, who will work with them in the best interests of the city.”
Crittendon said she has been contemplating the possibility for the last year, and that her announcement is not retaliation for her demotion by Bing and six City Council members last week. She stressed the insight into the city’s workings that she has gained as Corporation Counsel and in the Law Department, along with her total of 18 years in the profession.
“The papers have portrayed me as a polarizing figure,” she said. “This is not true. I can work with both branches of government, as well as residents and the business and corporate community. . . .This is not about me. It’s about what events have done [for people’s consciousness]. They have gotten them believing we can reclaim this city. So many people are saying to me, what can I do to help you? There are so many bright talented people in Detroit. If we get together, the city of Detroit can be turned around and manage her own future.”
She said her first course of action would be to thoroughly examine the city’s books, find out how much is owed to the city, and the exact amount of the city’s debt. Then, she said, she would begin by hiring more revenue collectors.
Councilwoman JoAnn Watson had the Council pass a resolution which estimates that $800 million is owed to Detroit, even aside from more than $300 million Crittendon said the state owes the City when she filed suit to overturn the Apri 4 consent agreement in May. (Click on Money Owed the City12-11-12 final and Crittendon Lawsuit 6 1 12.)
“The City Council should not be afraid to take a bold stand . . .listen to the people, not be afraid,” she stressed. Even if the Council passes every demand made by the state, she said, there is “no guarantee the governor wouldn’t appoint an Emergency Manager anyway.”
She added that even if an EM is appointed prior to the election, “he will not be here forever. Bright people should not be scared off from getting involved.”
She said she is not contemplating a run for any other elected position because Detroit has a strong mayor form of government, and true leadership must come from that position.
Attorney Crittendon said that attorney Phil Brown is heading her exploratory committee, which currently has eight working members. She expressed thanks to City Council members JoAnn Watson, Kwame Kenyatta, and Brenda Jones as well.
Reaction from Detroiters who heard her announcement during the show was almost exclusively supportive, although only a few calls were taken. Attorney Richard Mack, who represents AFSCME Council 25 on many matters, was one of the positive callers, as were Stephen Boyle and “Bernice” of Detroit.
VOD interviewed others afterwards.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” Cecily McClellan of Free Detroit-No Consent said. “I was not feeling good about this race, but I feel better now. She has a thorough knowledge of the city and I would be pleased to have someone with a legal background who is a woman as well.”
Sandra Hines, a long-time community activist who won 40 percent of the vote in her run for a school board position agreed that having a female mayor would make a difference.
“She knows the law and would be an asset in terms of running the administration,” Hines said.
Edith Lee Payne is a long-time civil rights activist who marched as a young woman with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was also a litigant in a state-wide class action lawsuit against Public Act 4.
“Krystal Crittendon would be a formidable opponent in the Mayoral race because of her direct involvement with city government,” Payne said. “Her legal experience is a strength that should be brought to the Mayor’s office, so that its legal representation would not be compromised as it has been under the current administration.”
Bing has refused to consult with Crittendon over the past year on critical matters, preferring instead to use Attorney Michael McGee of Miller Canfield. McGee is a co-author of Public Act 4, who also helped draft the Consent and Milestone Agreements, and represented both the state and the city in setting terms of a $137 million loan from the state Municipal Finance Authority. State Treasurer Andy Dillon has repeatedly refused to release portions of that loan unless the Mayor and Council agreed to various state demands.
“Corporation Counsel Crittendon was dismissed for standing on the side of justice,” Payne added. “I applaud her integrity and believe that’s the kind of leadership we need if justice is to prevail.”
The unexpected firing of the Detroit’s Charter defender and Corporation Counsel, Krystal Crittendon, yesterday is perhaps the most egregious violation of the city’s new Charter to date. The without cause firing leaves Detroiters defenseless before very powerful forces which the new charter was designed to protect the people from.
As of now, Miller-Canfield, a dubious city vendor, is the unofficial, de facto “Shadow Corporation Counsel” for the City of Detroit and will likely decide the Law Department’s next head. This despite multiple conflicts of interest by representing the State of Michigan, the City of Detroit in negations and by codifying a contract for itself into the Consent Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding foisted upon the City by the State.
“This is an affront to the city residents of Detroit and an offense to our very democracy. Unfortunately, it bodes ill for the future of governing in Detroit and how it will be managed,” said Tom Barrow.
“I urge Detroiters to become outraged at this ‘State Ordered’ firing of the citizens’ watchdog carried out by a weak Mayor and City Council, both under the seeming control of Michigan’s Governor, “said Barrow.
Each City Council member who voted to eliminate Ms. Crittendon must immediately explain why they chose this action and whether and where any meetings occurred with Mr. Bing and or Governor Snyder or their representatives at which this seeming treasonous action was discussed.
Citizens for Detroit’s Future stands ready in the fight against the unscrupulous forces which seek to take and control our city’s resources and assets and holds Council members to account for this hurtful and destructive vote.
By Jerry Goldberg January 14, 2013
Two settlements were announced Jan. 7 in ongoing legal actions against the major banks for abuses in placing millions of homes into foreclosure throughout the U.S. But both only help banks, not homeowners.
In one settlement, the Office of the Controller of the Currency (an agency of the federal Treasury Department) and Federal Reserve, in exchange for a meager payment of $8.5 billion by the banks, agreed to lift consent decrees under which they had placed major mortgage lenders. Under the decrees, the lenders were required to review 4.3 million foreclosures initiated in 2009 and 2010. The banks involved in the settlement were Aurora, Bank of America, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, MetLife Bank, PNC, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.
The Office of the Controller had mandated independent foreclosure reviews of every foreclosure conducted or initiated in 2009 and 2010 for two reasons. One was due to massive abuses by the banks in placing homeowners not in default into foreclosure. The other was lenders’ failures in implementing federal programs mandating evaluations of homeowners for loan modifications under the Home Affordable Modification Program.
Under the OCC Financial Remediation Framework of June 21, 2012, homeowners claiming servicing errors on their mortgages were to have their foreclosures suspended pending review, reversed if violations were discovered, and paid compensation ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 for those still in their homes and $125,000 plus lost equity to those who illegally lost their homes.
The OCC paid private contractors $1.5 billion to conduct reviews for the 495,000 homeowners who applied for them. Another 3.8 million homeowners eligible for review did not apply because they never received applications or because they were demoralized by the constant bad news they received from the banks. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com, Jan. 7)
Not one homeowner received the promised relief! And despite the published regulations, not one foreclosure was suspended pending reviews with lawyers representing the banks. The federal government continues to execute foreclosures in direct violation of its own regulations.
The settlement provides a pool of $3.3 billion in direct payments to eligible borrowers. This amounts to only $868 per homeowner, comparable to the meager payments extended to homeowners under the previous Attorney General/federal settlement announced several months ago. Another $5.5 billion will be allocated for loan modifications — probably to “incentivize” the same banks that refused to carry out the modifications in the first place — and for forgiveness of deficiency judgments on foreclosures that never should have happened.
Bank of America & Fannie Mae settlement
In the second mortgage settlement, also revealed Jan. 7, Bank of America announced it would pay $8.5 billion to Fannie Mae to settle claims by the U.S. Justice Department that Bank of America and Countrywide, the notorious subprime lender taken over by Bank of America, had sold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac 30,000 defective and fraudulent mortgages worth $1.4 trillion from Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 31, 2008. The $8.5 billion is a tiny fraction of the $300 billion that was lost on these mortgages as a result of Countrywide’s and Bank of America’s practices. (Deutsche Well, Jan. 7; huffingtonpost.com, Jan. 7)
Because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were completely taken over in 2008 by the federal government as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, this settlement means that taxpayers will be responsible for $290 billion in losses not recovered from the banks.
Feds still bail out banks while people suffer
These new mortgage “settlements” reflect the collusion of the federal government with the banks in the housing debacle that continues to cost millions of working-class families their homes.
While the corporate-owned media try to make it sound like the foreclosure crisis has ended, as of the third quarter of 2012 there were 1.17 million homes in the foreclosure process. (dsnews.com, Dec. 21) In that quarter, mortgage servicers initiated 252,604 new foreclosures. More than 11 percent of all mortgages were delinquent, with 4.4 percent seriously delinquent, meaning 60 or more days past due. (OCC report, Dec. 21) A 1 percent seriously delinquent rate would have been considered a national crisis 10 years ago.
The federal government has fully nationalized the mortgage industry. Seventy-five percent of all mortgages originated since 2008 are guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The remainder of the loans are insured by the Federal Housing Agency. Private mortgage securitization has completely disappeared.
Taxpayers have already paid $180 billion to cover the losses on payments to the banks on failed mortgages insured by the government. According to the January 2010 Congressional Budget Office Report, the CBO estimates the tab for this taxpayer bailout as $389 billion, with many estimates much higher.
While the banks make record profits by servicing government-backed mortgages and selling them to borrowers at inflated interest rates, homeowners continue to be deprived of their homes by the callous and fraudulent practices of the bailed-out banks.
Homeowners, renters and all concerned activists must continue to organize and demand that the federal government put the people before the banks. We need a moratorium on all foreclosures and foreclosure-related evictions and an immediate reduction in principal, so mortgages reflect the true value of homes. With the federal takeover of the mortgage industry, President Barack Obama can implement these policies today through an immediate executive order.
Goldberg is a people’s attorney in Detroit who fights the banks in foreclosure cases, as well as a leading organizer in the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions & Utility Shutoffs.
MICHIGAN JUVENILE LIFERS: JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED; RE-SENTENCING IN KEY DETROIT CASE, CORTEZ DAVIS, JAN. 25
VIDEO ABOVE: Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and a MacArthur Fellow, argued the cases of Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Arkansas before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of two prisoners who were 14 when they were sentenced to life without parole. On June 25, 2012, the high court ruled that sentencing children under the age of 18 to death is prison is “cruel and unusual punishement” and therefore unconstitutional. Stevenson’s own grandfather was killed by a group of youths, but he has devoted his own life to fighting for fair sentencing, particularly for juveniles.
- State stalls enactment of US Supreme Court Miller/Jackson ruling;
- Cortez Davis sentencing hearing Fri. Jan. 25 9 a.m. Judge Massey-Jones
By Diane Bukowski
January 8, 2013
DETROIT – Michigan’s 361 juvenile lifers, at first elated by last year’s U.S. Supreme Court (USSC) decision outlawing mandatory life without parole for children, are now waging a protracted battle to have the state’s courts and legislators recognize that the decision is retroactive, and speedily act to re-sentence them.
Michigan has the second highest per capita number of juvenile lifers in the country. Seventy-five percent of them are individuals of color. It spends over $2 billion a year on corrections, making it one of only four states where spending on prisons exceeds spending on higher education.
“There are some older juvenile life without parole offenders who could very well die in prison before they realize their change in fate because of their ages, being in their late 60’s to early 70’s,” says Edward Sanders, 53, incarcerated since 1975 for a crime committed when he was 17.
A Michigan Appeals Court panel held Nov. 15, 2012that the U.S. high court ruling on Miller v. Alabama/Jackson v. Arkansas, of June 25, 2012, is not retroactive. In People of Michigan v. Raymond Carp, the appeals court did rule that the state’s current parole statute as applied to juveniles is now unconstitutional.
But its ruling against retroactivity has temporarily suspended a massive campaign by 150 progressive Michigan attorneys to win re-sentencings for all the state’s juvenile lifers, pro bono if need be. An appeal aided by the state ACLU, the State Appellate Defenders’ Office, the University of Michigan Juvenile Justice program, and many other groups is progressing.
“The state courts of Louisiana, North Carolina and Illinois have all determined that Miller v. Alabama must be applied retroactively to relieve those individuals who are serving a mandatory life without parole sentence, for offenses committed as a child, from cruel and unusual punishment,” said attorney Deborah LaBelle, a coordinator of the juvenile lifers campaign, in a filing in a related federal case, Hill vs. Snyder.
“The most recent ruling, [by an Illinois appeals court] People v. Carl Williams, (Nov. 27, 2012) recognized Miller as a ‘watershed rule of criminal procedure,’” LaBelle continued. “Holding that it would also be ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment to apply the Miller case only to new cases, the Williams case found Miller to be retroactive.”
A favorable ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara in the Hill case may nullify the Carp decision.
Meanwhile, says Sanders, who was not the shooter in his case and completed his college degree in prison, “Both the Appeals Court and Michigan lawmakers are favoring the prosecutors in these ‘re-sentencings’ over the trial judges who oversaw the trials. I have not heard anything from my attorney [Susan Reed] yet. Note that most of these attorneys have not yet filed anything. They all are waiting on a green light on the issue of retroactivity. I am very hopeful that our state high court will overturn Carp. My case is where it is due to the ACLU, who provided me with the attorney pro bono; the court had nothing to do with it.”
Damion Todd, 43, has been incarcerated since 1986, when he was 17. Both he and Sanders, who met while both were housed in Mound Road Prison in Detroit, have become jailhouse lawyers and helped mentor other prisoners. Todd said he and a group of older prisoners at Carson City Correctional Facility concentrate in particular on counseling young offenders. He plans to continue doing so on his hoped-for release.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” he said. “We were very excited when the Supreme Court decision came down, but then state Attorney General [Bill] Schuette filed a challenge contending that it isn’t retroactive for people like myself, who have been locked up for decades. That was very disappointing, but we are still hopeful. I don’t want to dismiss the pain our actions caused our victims, but we have to live with the horrible decisions we made for the rest of our lives as well. In my case, I consider my greatest achievement to have been forgiven by the victim’s family after expressing my remorse and sympathy.”
Todd’s sentencing judge, Michael Talbot, gave the 17-year-old not only life without parole, but said he should serve it in solitary confinement at hard labor, a sentence not currently recognized by the Michigan Department of Corrections. Talbot is now an Appeals Court Judge. He wrote the Carp decision, and was also the original sentencing judge in the Carp case.
Todd’s friend Tracy Williams told VOD that Vera Rucker, the mother of Melody Rucker, the 16-year-old killed in a cross-fire between two groups of male youths in 1986, has embraced both Todd and herself, essentially taking them into her family. Williams calls her “Mom.” (For more on Todd’s case, which made the front page of the local Metro Times, click on http://www2.metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=9966.)
So far, a bright light still shines for juvenile lifer Cortez Davis. The Michigan Supreme Court remanded his key case back to Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vera Massey Jones Sept. 7, while refusing to weigh in on the issue of retroactivity. With passionate remarks, Judge Massey Jones granted his motion for re-sentencing Dec. 11, 2012. His sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 25, 201e. (See sidebar for Judge Jones’ decision.)
“The most important thing she said, especially in light of the Carp case, is that she declared the mandatory life sentence to be cruel and unusual in this case 18 years ago—before the case had not yet become final,” Davis’ attorney Clinton Hubbell told VOD. “The Court of Appeals in Carp, however, is bootstrapping a denial of resentencing to Mr. Davis by indicating that his case is already final in spite of Judge Jones’ 1994 ruling, and that the Miller/Jackson decision is not retroactively applicable.”
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has filed an emergency Application for Leave to Appeal to the Appeals Court, asking that a decision be made by Jan. 24, 2013 banning the re-sentencing. She argued that the Carp decision binds lower courts, although it was rendered after the state Supreme Court remanded the Davis case to Judge Jones.
During the Dec. 7 hearing, Judge Jones asked Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Baughman, “Mr. Davis has waited how many years? After I ruled that the thing was cruel and unusual, how many years has Mr. Davis been in prison waiting for the Supreme Court of the United States to come to a rational decision on this case?’
Baughman replied that it has been 18 years. He argued that Judge Jones is bound by the Carp decision, and that a final decision on retroactivity has to go through the appeals process to the U.S. Supreme Court all over again.
Judge Jones, who has been on the bench for over 30 years, is set to retire in 2015. She said people have asked her why she stayed so long.
“I stayed here because I wanted to see justice done to my people,” Judge Jones said. “I followed my father around Recorder’s Court when I was a little kid . . . .I had a great deal of respect for him and for the other people who happened to be African-American lawyers, and really fought for people’s rights. And so, to me, doing the right thing was more important than anything else. And doing the right thing back then was not to sentence Mr. Davis to natural life in prison.”
“And so it would be unfair to keep Mr. Cortez Davis tethered by wrong decisions made by other courts over the years,” Judge Jones explained. “And so Carp, in my opinion, does not apply to this case.”
While Davis awaits his sentencing hearing, the federal class action case filed on behalf of 13 Michigan juvenile lifers in Nov. 2010, still lingers in front of U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara, of the Michigan Eastern District.
The plaintiffs, represented by Attorney LaBelle and others with the ACLU, moved for summary judgment on the unconstitutionality of the current parole statute, asking the court to go beyond Miller/Jackson to include even non-mandatory sentencing of juveniles.
During hearing on their motion Sept. 20, Judge O’Meara did not make a ruling. He said he was inclined to rule in favor of the plaintiffs, but wanted to hear arguments and ideas from both sides on enforcing the USSC ruling in Miller/Jackson, as well as prisoners serving life without parole sentences in general.
Attorney LaBelle noted that even the Carp COA panel agreed the parole statute is unconstitutional in light of Miller/Jackson.
“You know, we extensively briefed it, and Defendants [the state of Michigan] do not disagree with the fact that Miller and Graham and Roperall make arguments that say that children are different than adults,” LaBelle argued. “Children are less culpable than adults, and that all the legitimate penological objectives for life without parole sentences simply cannot apply to children.”
She referred to two earlier USSC decisions outlawing juvenile life without parole in non-homicide cases, Graham v. Florida, and the death penalty for juveniles, in Roper v. Simmons.
She continued, “Miller went even further and said that Graham’sreasoning implicates any life without parole sentence imposed on a juvenile, and it’s not crime specific, it’s child specific. This court can, and we think should, determine that the harshest punishment available in Michigan to anyone who commits a crime as an adult, a first degree murder crime, cannot be applied to children in the same way as adults . . . .the Court says no one, no psychologist, no soothsayer, no judge can stand and look at a child and say I know who you will be when you mature. No one can do it, and to impose a life without parole sentence does exactly that and says I know you’re irredeemable now.”
Since the Sept. 20 hearing, both sides have continued to submit filings to Judge O’Meara, with no indication as to when he will finally rule. The last submission, by Attorney LaBelle, was filed on Nov. 28, 2012. (See link below.)
Meanwhile, State Rep. Joe Haveman (R-Holland) submitted a package of bills Nov. 8, including HB 6014, which makes a grudging attempt to comply with Miller/Jackson. It would however confirm Miller’s retroactivity. It does not provide for re-sentencing, but provides parole eligibility for individuals sentenced before the age of 16 after serving 15 years, and those sentenced between the ages of 16 and 18 after 20 years.
However, Michigan’s parole board is appointed by the governor and has been extremely restrictive about granting parole to anyone, including parolable lifers convicted of offenses like second-degree murder.
The bill requires that the parole board consider numerous factors not part of Miller, including whether the offense “occurred during an act of terrorism,” whether three or more individuals were involved in committing the offense, whether there were multiple murders, whether victims were minors, disabled adults, or law enforcement officials; whether the victim was threatened with torture, or whether the victim was killed due to witnessing a crime.
The bill does include other factors specified in Miller, including the previous record of the individual, whether another individual dominated him or her in the commission of the crime, and “whether the individual’s age, family circumstances or mental development substantially affected his or her ability to appreciate the consequences of his or her actions.”
The bills were referred to the House Judiciary Committee. It is unclear what will happen to them in the 2013-14 session.
“Both the court and the House Bill only provide for a ministerial act of sentence correction and not what the U.S. Supreme Court ordered, sentences that look at the person on a case by case basis,” Sanders summed up. “They only look at life with or without parole.”
EJI website is at http://www.eji.org/childrenprison/deathinprison