Lessons in how NOT to make a drug arrest

LAKE ORION, Mich. (AP) — Police in suburban Detroit said they made the right decision to use a 14-year-old boy last month in a sting to bust a suspected drug dealer.

They did not.

Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh said such cases involving children are rare, but that the matter was handled appropriately and that the teen wasn’t at risk.

Right. So, they’ve made a determination that this guy that they just needed off the streets so badly that they used a 14 year old to arrest him is NOT going to be a risk to this kid when he gets out of jail? Or, do you just mean that the kid was able to walk up to the guy and buy marijuana with no issues? Huge difference when talking risk, y’know?

At the core of this issue is that police did not take the time to weigh the consequences of their actions. This is evidenced by saying that the teen was not at risk.

“We had a situation where the man next door had been trying for months to sell marijuana to this teenager and he (the boy) told his mother who went to us for help,” Narsh said. “Since we believe he was targeting teenagers, the only way to get him off the street was to arrange a buy.”

They employ an interesting definition of the word “only” out in Lake Orion, I see. I don’t profess to be a police officer or know the best maneuvers that police can make. But, this is awful police work and everyone involved should be embarrassed.

He noted that 17-year-olds participate in stings for illegal tobacco sales and 19-year-olds are involved in stings targeting illegal alcohol sales.

This strikes me as maybe the most ridiculous aspect of this. Oh, so, they sent the kid into an established business that maybe was breaking some rules? Not at all. There’s a difference between drugs being sold from random homes and alcohol being sold in an established building.

Later, they say that the guy they arrested was a “monster.” I mean, monster’s aren’t known for their retribution or anything, are they?

But, seriously, lets not pretend that this is a situation that a 14 year old should be tossed into just because police think they’ve minimized his risk. Anyone who thinks confidential informants and cooperators aren’t at risk simply because they have police monitoring their moves should read this article from the New Yorker.

We do a lot of poor things in the “war on drugs.” I don’t want to turn this into a rant about the ways in which law enforcement has failed society, but, just that we do a disservice to everyone in society when we put our young people at risk. Not just a 14-year-old as in this situation, but, when we use college-aged kids in this confidential informant situations. The New Yorker article above mentions a story of a 19-year old in Detroit. Arrested for a small amount of marijuana. Killed for then setting up the person who had sold her the marijuana.

Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, which is handling the criminal case, said it didn’t approve of the tactic.

Credit to their Office for making this decision.

But, wait! The Lake Orion police are not done, they are about to double down on their flawed logic:

“I’ve had a case in our town where a 12-year-old was snorting heroin,” Narsh said. “Here you have a situation where someone is approaching potential teenage customers. It’s a sad reality but we have to devise ways to deal with it and stop it.”

No one is saying “don’t devise a way to deal with it and stop it.”

I think the response is going to be more on the line of, “hey, don’t devise the laziest way possible to deal with it and stop it.”

Because, hey, why take time to make a case against the guy without using a 14 year old, when you have a 14 year old ready to get his Serpico on, right? Shameful.

Looking at the Michigan Court of Appeals Medical Marijuana Decision

I am still piecing my way through reaction to the Court of Appeals decision on Wednesday regarding the sale of Medical Marijuana. In short, I think this quote from Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero summarizes things nicely:

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero decried the outcome Thursday in an official statement and on Facebook.

Bernero called the court ruling a “train wreck of epic proportions” and criticized lawmakers for not clarifying the law in the three years since voters approved it.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? This Lansing State Journal Article should supply background. For those of you who want to cut out the media and just read the case decision, here is that, from the State Bar of Michigan Blog.

So, let’s take a look at this train wreck:

Continue reading

Michigan to Change Court Rules Regarding Jury Instructions

The State Bar of Michigan Blog today announced the decision of the Michigan Supreme Court to adopt changes to court rules regarding the role of the Jury in our court system. The order itself that lays out the new court rule can be found here, also through the SBM Blog.

For a quick summary of what the rule changes are, I’ll turn to the Detroit Free Press, because I haven’t made it through all of the Order itself, only the opinion that followed.

Michigan jurors will be able to pose question to witnesses, take notes, get mid-trial commentaries from lawyers and, in civil cases, discuss the evidence while the case is still in progress, under new jury rules.

A recent article in the Michigan Bar Journal also touched on the changes, and actually included a survey that was conducted when these changes were tested in pilot programs. They asked Attorneys and Jurors how they felt Questions During the Trial, Jury Discussion before Deliberation and Notebooks During the Trial affected their process.

Long story short: Jurors liked the programs. Attorneys did not. Overwhelmingly so, in some regards. In terms of discussion of the evidence, 91% of jurors found that this addition helped jurors reach a correct verdict or increased the fairness of the trial attorneys. 10% of Attorneys answered positively on that. In terms of notebooks, the numbers were a bit closer (85% from jurors, 43% from attorneys on the fairness question). Same with Juror Questions during the trial (64% from the jurors, 35% from Attorneys).

I’m certainly not naive to why this would be the outcome. I wouldn’t be a criminal defense attorney if I didn’t understand that. To an attorney, the trial is most definitely not about finding out what really happened. All of these devices tend to help the aspect of finding out what really happened as opposed to the story Attorneys want the jury to believe.

Look, there’s just no good reason why jurors shouldn’t be able to have notebooks and keep notes during the trial. It’s archaic nonsense to think otherwise. The other two areas are a bit more murky, so, I’ll leave that alone in terms of making bold statements (I like them, though). But, we don’t select our jury pools only from kids who dominate spelling bees. Normal people need to write some stuff down before giving a reasoned answer. Some more than others, but, why should the option be off the table?

I’m not saying that if I conduct a great trial that the jurors having notebooks, asking questions and discussing the case will help me win. That shouldn’t be the question. We shouldn’t be concerned with the fairness to Attorneys putting up W’s. The fairness of the results is what should matter. To answer that these things don’t help jurors in that regard seems a bit disingenuous.

Do these things change how lawyers will have to practice? Absolutely. It’s something that changes how you address jurors and prepare for trial because there are more checks in place that will ensure the trial is not simply about the better lawyer, but about the case in front of the jurors.

I haven’t been a practicing attorney for too long, having graduated from Michigan State University College of Law three years ago, so I welcome the changes as I’ll be learning to adapt with these changes at the same time as more experienced attorneys. Before criticizing that these changes don’t make things more fair, attorneys should probably look to how they can adapt to the changes.

Blog Round Up

This collection of links to blog posts related to Michigan and Mid-Michigan will be published, hopefully, several times per week. If you have a blog related to Michigan that you’d like to recommend to me, please, e-mail the link to me at DougG52@gmail.com

I’ve read this blog post two different times and both times I think I instinctively grabbed an apple. Autumn is a great season in Michigan. (Blogging For Michigan: Autumn Dreams)

Speaking of apples, I spent some time on the recipes page of the Michigan Apples website. I’ve never considered apples on a pulled pork BBQ sandwich, but, looking at the picture they put with the recipe is making me reconsider. (Michigan Apples: Recipes)

Michigan Golf Blog has several entries up with Fall Golf specials for courses around the state. Sometimes summer felt like Fall this year, and golfing is never a bad answer when the question is how to fill time in an afternoon. (Michigan Golf Blog)

Michigan History: Hollywood’s First African-American Cowboy. (Absolute Michigan)

MLive.com started a Job Search blog a few weeks ago that is becoming a solid read. An entry from today that asks the question of whether Governor Granholm is too focused on green jobs. (MLive Job Search Blog)

That’s it for today, again if you have any links to Michigan related blog posts that you would like to see in this space, let me know.

Detroit Tigers Game 163 Open Thread

There will be plenty of time for Miguel Cabrera discussion after the Tigers season is over with. For now, he’s out there and there is evening baseball to be enjoyed. This is the second straight season that the AL Central is coming down to the a one game play-off to determine the Division champion. The AL Central might not be the best division in baseball, but it certainly has been competitive lately.

The Tigers send Rick Porcello to the mound against Scott Baker for the Twins. Porcello, being 20 years old probably will not have experienced a baseball atmosphere quite like what he will see in a raucous Metrodome. To read more about Porcello heading into today’s game, I recommend this MLive article on the confidence the Tigers are putting behind Porcello. Leyland calls it the “toughest place” Porcello will have ever pitched.

Here are a couple more links heading into the game today:

The Detroit Free Press looks back at the Twins and Tigers this season with a nice photo spread.

Tigers support being shown in-state from Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio, as he sports a Tigers jacket to his press conference earlier today.

Detroit Tigers Weblog covers game 163.

Mack Avenue Tigers has a talk with a Twins blogger for thoughts on the game with some perspective from the opposing point of view.

Lastly, Rod Allen has implored Tigers fans, on the TV broadcasts all year long, to put aside doubts about this team and just enjoy the ride. The game today is one of the most enjoyable settings for baseball you can imagine. The one-game playoff can bring something special (I learned that all the way back in 1989 with the film Major League) and hopefully the Tigers will deliver today.

Michigan to review law regulating baby-sitting

I posted an article to Twitter this morning about a Michigan law that a state agency claims a woman is violating by watching the children of several sets of neighbors as they wait for a school bus. The article was picked up by the front page of Yahoo, so is likely getting some widespread exposure today.

Here is the core of the article:

IRVING TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Each day before the school bus comes to pick up the neighborhood’s children, Lisa Snyder did a favor for three of her fellow moms, welcoming their children into her home for about an hour before they left for school.

Regulators who oversee child care, however, don’t see it as charity. Days after the start of the new school year, Snyder received a letter from the Michigan Department of Human Services warning her that if she continued, she’d be violating a law aimed at the operators of unlicensed day care centers.

According to the article, she did so because the other families were working and could not watch their children. To help out her neighbors, not to run a day-care. The situation provides an interesting look at the law and how it interacts with people on a daily basis. Specifically, in how we take situations in our daily lives to better the law.

Governor Jennifer Granholm and other state representatives look to be attacking this situation head-on, as new legislation that would exempt situations like this one is currently being drafted.