Sunday, July 29, 2012

Court's public access site is limited

I'm surprised I haven't heard more complaints about this:  The Macomb County Circuit Court website, Courtview, can only be used with Internet Explorer, not Apple Safari, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
Although I have Internet Explorer at work, it can be frustrating to check on cases when I'm at home, where I have Safari. It's also a little inconvenient at work, where I have both Explorer and Firefox but prefer Firefox.
Court Administrator Jennifer Phillips said it's due to some technical issue.
I think this public access site should be made available through more than a single browser.
If you have an opinion, comment here or email me at Or let Clerk Carmella Sabaugh know.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bashara's prelim was rushed

I’m thinking that David Griem’s prognostication will come true.
Griem predicted Bob Bashara’s preliminary examination on his solicitation of murder charge will be remanded back to 36th District Court because Bashara’s new attorney, Mark Kriger, couldn't participate on Tuesday.
Griem wanted to withdraw from the case last week, but Chief Judge Kenneth King denied him.
In all due respect, I think the judge erred.
What was wrong with delaying the case for a couple of weeks?
I don’t understand the rush to justice. Bashara isn't going anywhere -- he's in custody on a $15 million bond. 
For some reason, King seemed fixiated on making sure the hearing was held as scheduled.
Wayne County prosecutors argued that their key witness, Steve Tibaudo, 54, is in poor health, inferring he might not live to see the hearing.
I’m no doctor, but Tibaudo certainly didn't seem to be on his death bed while testifying Tuesday, even if he did mention he was in line for a couple of surgeries.
Prosecutors also seemed worried Bashara could cause problems outside jail from inside.
Maybe they wanted to get Tibaudo’s testimony on the record asap. Now they have it, and if something should happen to him, they could the prelim transcript in a trial.
I guess they don’t mind the potential inconvenience of déjà vu in court.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Alleged victim's only chance was to fight

What were Renyatta Hamilton and Larry D. Stewart thinking? That Kevin Brown wouldn’t fight back when Stewart, according to Clinton Township police, tried to rob him at gunpoint? Did they think Brown would actually succumb to Stewart’s wishes and happily say, “Here you go,” and hand over his wallet?
Brown fought Stewart and ended up paying with his life, shot four times, police say. Brown must've realized that even if he had given Stewart his wallet, he probably would've been shot anyway.
Brown was allegedly set up by Hamilton, who lured him to the apartment to pick her up for a supposed date.
Stewart must've known that if he didn’t kill Brown, Brown would figure out the set up. Brown would’ve gone to police, and Hamilton would lead police to Stewart. Or maybe he would've retaliated on his own.
So Stewart either underestimated Brown or was naïve that Brown wouldn’t go to police, based on Macomb prosecutors’ version of the incident.
Either way, not smart.
Brown, on the other hand, made the choice that gave him the best chance for survival. He knew he had to fight for his life, based on prosecutor’s allegations.
Unfortunately, the good guy doesn't win very often when it comes to the brutal truth of crime. The guy with the gun usually prevails.
Stewart and Hamilton are innocent until proven guilty. Their felony murder and conspiracy trial continues this week in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens.

Monday, July 16, 2012

State panel to mull indigent defense report

Here's a short version of a press release issued today by Walsh:
The House Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing Wednesday to receive recommendations to help ensure consistent, qualified and cost-effective legal counsel is provided to low-income criminal defendants in Michigan. The panel, chaired by Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, meets at 9:30 a.m. July 18 in room 521 of the House Office Building, 124 N. Capitol Ave. in Lansing.
The report, compiled by the 14-member Indigent Defense Advisory Commission, contains recommendations to overcome challenges to Michigan's public defense system. The commission was appointed in October 2011 by Gov. Rick Snyder.
State Rep. Tom McMillin, who served on the Indigent Defense Advisory Commission, said he will introduce legislation to make the temporary panel permanent so it can implement the recommendations in the report and continue to improve indigent defense.
Michigan has traditionally delegated indigent legal aid responsibilities to county governments, but failure to provide clear guidelines has resulted in an uncoordinated, 83-county piecemeal system of service delivery. Michigan is ranked 44th in the nation in per-capita spending on indigent defense representation.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Judge-attorney spats hinder trial

A highlight – or lowlight – of the recently completed trial of two Sterling Heights men convicted of terrorizing teens who broke into one of their homes was the constant friction between circuit Judge David Viviano and defense attorney Robert Elsey.
Elsey is a very good defense attorney, but he can be very long winded and often meandered off the main issue during arguments.
Viviano at times tried to show the err of Elsey’s ways and simply didn’t seem to appreciate Elsey’s methods. But Elsey wasn’t a receptive student.
The verbal spats contributed to the trial lasting much longer than expected.
Viviano more than once asked Elsey a yes or no question, and Elsey replied with a diatribe.
At one point, Viviano mentioned complaining to the Attorney Grievance Commission when Elsey tried to question a witness referring to personal letters by a witness. Elsey had failed to show them to the prosecution and was slow to admit using them.
For his part, Elsey wasn’t happy with many of Viviano’s legal rulings.
But in the end, their debate didn’t get personal. At the end of one contentious day, Elsey told Viviano (not sarcastically), “Have a good day.”
“You, too,” Viviano replied.
Maybe you can add “the courtroom” to the adage, “All is fair in love and war.”

Comic book murder episode airs Friday

I just learned that the "Dateline" episode on the comic-book murder case in which Michael George was convicted of murdering his wife, Barbara, will be shown 9 to 11 p.m. this coming Friday. I previously reported that it would air next Sunday.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Former Macomb assistants flee Oakland for state

A couple of former Macomb assistant prosecutors, Denise Hart and Kim Mitseff, were among the more than 20 assistants who have bolted from Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper’s staff over the past couple of years. They both left Macomb in favor of Oakland shortly after Cooper was elected in 2008.
Hart said Oakland wasn’t what she expected.
Both landed in good posts as they have been hired as state assistant attorneys general, on Bill Schuette’s staff. Hart started last August and Mitseff started in March.
Hart said she is doing a lot of white-collar-crime cases such as fraud and is dabbling in violent-crime cases as well, which she did in Macomb but she said she misses.
Mitseff is handling gaming cases, something she also did in Macomb; I suspect gaming cases statewide will keep her workload pretty heavy.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Culture of guns leads to tragic consequences

Young people make a lot of dumb decisions that get them into trouble. That has been going on forever. But years ago, youthful indiscretion -- vandalizing property, stealing someone's cap or getting into a fistfight -- typically resulted in maybe a few days in jail or getting kicked out of school.
But nowadays, teens and young adults often carry a gun (or nearly as bad, a knife) and when trouble starts, they pull it out. That ends up in a crime that will cost them years or decades in prison. Not to mention the lives they damage or destroy along the way.
Case in point, the shooting at the Mount Clemens fireworks show Friday night. Demitrus Ludaway made a stupid decision to grab another guy's apparently expensive sunglasses from his head immediately after the show, outside the Stars & Stripes Festival, according to police. The guy tried to get them  back, so Ludaway made an expodential stupid decision -- he shot him in the leg, police say. His gun was unregistered, police say.
Ludaway, 18, who graduated from high school only weeks ago, now faces two life felonies and a felony that carries an automatic two years in prison.
A fresh graduates' hopes vanish in seconds.
The victim, a 19-year-old, experienced the immediate physical and emotional pain that will probably last the rest of  his life.
Why was Ludaway carrying a gun in the first place? Protection? To be cool? To plan a robbery? Whatever the reason, his alleged actions seem to be part of a growing culture of guns.
Without the gun, the incident may have been and fight and not a shooting, and probably wouldn't have been reported and at worst would have been a minor felony, probably no incarceration.
It doesn't help when the Stars & Stripes Festival allows a booth to sell water handguns, rifles and machine guns that mimicked the real things. I was shocked when I saw that. What are the organizers thinking?  Talk about a stupid decision -- promoting the culture of guns at a festival that in part caters to families.
One colleague said he heard a mother at the festival advising a group of teens to stay out of trouble before she unleashed them in the festival. One kid told his mom he was a good boy and left his gun in the car, like I would tell someone I left my jacket in the car.
I understand we have a Second Amendment. People have a right to protect themselves. People should be able to hunt. But did our Forefathers imagine this? I don't think so.