Showing posts with label Michigan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michigan. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Michigan: Request

WSJM reports (here) that a county prosecutor's office is "strongly opposing" the "possible commutation" of the life sentence of 34 year-old Efran Paredes. Padres was convicted of a murder committed during the robbery of a grocery store when he was 15-years old but claims - on a personal website - that he is innocent. Prosecutors contend, however, that there is "an abundance of evidence" to prove that he was responsible. See additional information here.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

MIchigan: Post on Fugitive Mom

A professor of law at Harvard has taken up the cause of Susan LeFevre in a Washington Post editorial. LeFavre was arrested for selling drugs to an undercover officer when she was 19 years old. She pled guilty and received a sentence of 10 to 20 years. But LeFevre escaped one year later and adopted an alias, married and raised a family. Then she was in April. Claiming that those debating the case are missing "the bigger picture," the editorial notes:
LeFevre is one of 2 million Americans behind bars. Many of them, like LeFevre, are nonviolent drug offenders. The staggering number of American prisoners has made the United States the world's leading incarcerator; this nation locks up a greater number of offenders for longer periods than any other nation. In 1960, approximately 330,000 people were behind bars in the United States. Today the number is 2.3 million. Moreover, largely because of the "war on drugs," the increase in women's incarceration in recent years has far outstripped the increase in men's, devastating many families and communities. How did we scale the soaring peaks of mass incarceration? The decline of mercy has played a leading role.
It is easy to imagine the increase of women could be "great" without much effort. The vast majority of those persons in prison are man. As a result, any increase at all would seem significant. More convincingly, the piece observes:
Our Founding Fathers understood the importance of checks and balances, but no one is checking or balancing the decisions that are causing our prisons to overflow. By reinvigorating the veto power of actors all along the justice system, we may save individuals from unnecessarily destroyed lives. We may save money in these economically trying times. But most important, we may save ourselves -- by preserving the value of mercy.
See editorial here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Michgan: Pardon for the Mayor?

It is reported that one of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s attorneys has asked Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) about the possibility of a pardon. In exchange, Kilpatrick would agree to testify at a September 3rd removal hearing. See story here.

UPDATE from Reuters: Gov. Jennifer Granholm said on Thursday she would not grant a pardon to Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on perjury and other charges, reiterating that the situation needed to be resolved. Granholm, a Democrat like Kilpatrick, said on Detroit radio station WJR she received the pardon request on Wednesday night. She said Kilpatrick would not receive immunity if he testifies at a hearing set for September 3 to determine his future.

See Reuters story here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Michigan: Commutation of Sentence

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has commuted the life sentence of 56-year old Kylleen Hargrave-Thomas, who has been in prison more than 10 years for killing her ex-boyfriend. The murder (by stabbing) resulted from frustration over the fact that the victim decided that he would not enter into marriage with Hargrave-Thomas. The victim’s ex-wife, however, is upset about what she sees as a mere "political move." She notes Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan recommended clemency in a letter to the governor. See story here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Michigan: Commutation of Sentence

Governor Granholm has commuted the sentence of 81-year-old Joseph Puertas for reasons of health. He had served 15 months of a 14 to 40 year prison sentence. The Detroit Free Press reports:
Puertas, who had a prior drug conviction in the 1980s, was arrested in December, 1997, after 100 police with drug sniffing dogs raided a family owned bowling alley. They found no drugs, but located $1.8 million in cash. Prosecutors moved to seize the cash, saying it was proceeds from drug dealing. They also seized the bowling alley and other assets, totaling $5 million. The case against Puertas rested on the testimony of a drug addict, recruited by police, to purchase drugs from Puertas. No purchases were ever observed, but a jury convicted him of dealing drugs and running a criminal enterprise.
The conviction was overturned after an internal probe called into question the veracity of some of the investigating officers, but Puertas was sent to prison in April 2007. Prosecutors and police have also had to return the money to the Puertas family. See story here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Michigan: Fugitive Mom to Help Inmates

Here is a editorial from the Detroit Free Press regarding fugitive-recently-turned-captive-mom Susan LeFevre. Doesn't seem to be much of anything new related to the story that PardonPower has covered in previous posts (here, here, and here). But, along the way, are these thoughts:

... Her arrest made national and international news. Web sites, such as, popped up to defend her. Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said the governor's office has received several hundred requests for LeFevre's freedom.

All this attention makes LeFevre uneasy, but she hopes it will make a difference. After her release, LeFevre plans to start a Web site and foundation that will advocate for inmates. She's also writing a book, the proceeds of which would go to her foundation.

"I know some people need to be in prison," she said. "I have three children. Naturally, I want killers and predators here. But there are many people here who are no threat to anyone -- women who were just there when the crime was committed, drug offenders, nonviolent people.

"Prisons have become big business. The war on drugs has created mass incarceration and, after 30 years, what has it gotten us? You can still get drugs anywhere."

LeFevre won't be eligible for parole until 2013. But her attorney, Barbara Klimaszewski of Saginaw, told me she will file a motion today in Saginaw County Circuit Court, asking a judge to vacate LeFevre's 1975 sentence. Granholm could also commute the sentence. Either way, there's no good reason for taxpayers to spend nearly $35,000 a year to keep LeFevre locked up.

... LeFevre's case is hardly the worst injustice in Michigan, but, as an upper-middle-class white woman, she has drawn more support than any other inmate I've featured in my years of writing about the prison system. Now she wants to use her notoriety to open the minds of other middle class people who are likely to see a prison only from a nearby highway.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Michigan: Commutation of Sentence

The Free Press reports that Gov. Jennifer Granholm has granted a commutation of sentence to Joseph Puertas, a businessman whose family's assets were seized "in a high-profile and widely criticized drug case -- one where no drugs were ever found." Puertas, 81, who suffers from bladder cancer and congestive heart disease is expected to leave a correctional facility in July. He will have served 15 months of a 2- to 40-year sentence. An Oakland County prosecutor has not yet responded to requests for comment. The Free Press provide this background on the case:

Puertas' long, winding trip through the justice system began in 1997 when 100 drug officers, with drug-sniffing dogs, raided the MegaBowl, a bowling alley owned by the Puertas family in Orion Township, and several other family businesses. They found no drugs, no record of drug dealing and no drug paraphernalia. But they did locate $1.9 million in cash the family had in safes.

Gorcyca's office charged Puertas with drug dealing, contending the cash was proceeds from the drug business, and sought to seize the money under the state's controversial drug forfeiture laws.

The case against Puertas rested mostly on the testimony of Joseph Sweeney, a drug addict and twice-convicted felon police recruited to investigate Puertas, who had served time in prison in the 1980s for drug dealing.

Sweeney testified during Puertas' 1999 trial that he bought cocaine from Puertas at the bowling alley six times in late 1997.

But police, using hidden cameras and audio surveillance equipment, never were able to document a sale, nor did undercover officers inside the bowling alley ever witness a sale. A jury convicted Puertas of delivery of a controlled substance and running a criminal enterprise.
See this very interesting story here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Michigan: Data

On May 14, the Associated Press reported the following:

The number of clemency requests granted by Michigan governors in the last 40 years:
Democrat Jennifer Granholm, 2003-present, 23 commutations in nearly 5 1/2 years.
Republican John Engler, 1991-2002, commuted 34 sentences over 12 years.
Democrat James Blanchard, 1983-1990, commuted six sentences over eight years.
Republican William Milliken, 1969-1982, commuted 95 sentences over 14 years.
Source: Michigan Department of Corrections

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Insights: Battered Women and Clemency in Michigan

  Carol Jacobsen is an award-winning social documentary artist whose works in video and photography address issues of women's criminalization and censorship. Her art has been exhibited and screened at venues worldwide. In addition to her teaching responsibilities in art and women's studies at the University of Michigan, Jacobsen serves as Director of the Michigan Women's Justice and Clemency Project (formerly the Michigan Battered Women's Clemency Project). In that capacity, she advocates for the human rights of women prisoners and seeks freedom for women wrongly incarcerated. Her projects have been sponsored by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, COYOTE, Women's Prison Association of New York, the American Civil Liberties Association, and other non-profit organizations. PardonPower asked Prof. Jacobsen about her work:

PardonPower: Was there a particular event, or series of events which led up to the creation of the Michigan Battered Women's Clemency Project and/or how did you come to be associated with the Project?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MIchigan: Good Odds, Considering ...

According to this article at the Chicago Tribune, fugitive-mom-recently-turned prisoner Susan LeFevre does not have the best chance of getting a commutation of sentence from Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), but the timing could have been worse. The article notes:
In her first term, Granholm commuted nine sentences of sick or aging inmates thought to be close to death. Yet since winning re-election and creating a clemency council early last year to help review cases, Granholm has ended 14 prison terms early -- including four this year for non-medical reasons, according to data reviewed by The Associated Press. All four offenders freed for non-health reasons had committed drug crimes resembling what landed LeFevre, now 53, in prison in 1975.
But the piece also notes Michigan's Parole Board has reviewed "thousands" of clemency requests during Granholm's tenure and recommended commutastions in only 31 instances. Granholm agreed 23 times and continues to review other cases, but she is now said to be receiving hundreds of e-mails on LeFevre's behalf. Lo, and behold, last week:
Granholm commuted the sentences of Ronald Seeger, 49, and Sally Smith, 60. Seeger has served nearly 16 years of a minimum 20-year term for delivering drugs in Oakland County. Smith has served more than 18 years of a life sentence for conspiring to deal narcotics in Oakland County. Their pending freedom comes on the heels of two drug-related commutations in February, the first time Granholm approved releasing people who weren't sick.
Michigan's previous governor, John Engler (R) only granted clemency in four cases by this point in his tenure, but granted a majority of his commutations (34) in his last year in office. Previous to Engler, Governor Jim Blanchard (D) commuted just once sentence by this point and added only five more before the end of his term.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Michigan: Editorial on Fugitive

The Detroit News has an editorial which provides the following commentary on Susan LeFevre, the fugitive from justice recently turned captive:
Under the Michigan constitution, Gov. Jennifer Granholm has the power to pardon LeFevre or commute the sentence. The process typically takes a month or two and begins with an application that goes to the 10-member state parole board. The panel reviews the case and recommends whether to commute the sentence or not. Governors and parole boards are generally wary of pardons and commuted sentences. There's a political and safety risk if the released prisoner commits a violent crime. There's no such risk here. LeFevre is expected to soon ask for the sentence to be commuted. Both the parole board and governor should approve the request. Writing mercy into the Constitution goes with the expectation it will be used at the appropriate time. This is one of those times.
See full editorial here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Michigan: Clemency for Fugitive Mom?

In 1975, Susan LeFevre plead guilty to drug-trafficking charges and received a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison. She was 19 years old at the time, but was making several thousand dollars a week selling cocaine. But LeFevre only served a single year of her sentence, because she climbed over a barbed-wire fence and hopped in a getaway car driven by her grandfather. LeFevre married, raised some kids and changed her name to Marie Walsh. Last week, 32 years after the escape, she was arrested in San Diego. Her attorney says that he now will petition Michigan's Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, to commute the nine years remaining on the 53-year old mom's sentence. Granholm has commuted only 20 sentences since taking office in 2003, and all but two of those were for medical related issues. That is to say, the inmates were terminally ill and not expected to live much longer. See story here and here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Michigan: Rejection

Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has refused to grant medical parole for a former day care operator who is serving out a 6- to 15-year sentence for inflicting permanent brain damage on an infant. 51-year-old Diane Robinson was diagnosed with lung cancer that has now spread to her brain. She now asks Governor Granholm to release her so she can die at home. The response:

While the governor is indeed sympathetic to your serious medical condition and its impact on you and your loved ones, the governor is also sympathetic to the child victim of your crime and finds compelling the strong opposition expressed by the victim's family to this commutation. Under these circumstances, the governor has determined clemency is not warranted.
The infant's mother also has a lawsuit pending against Robinson. See story here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Michigan: Commuted, But Still in Prison

Wow. Remember Larry Drum? PardonPower noted that his 17-year sentence had been commuted by Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) back on February 15. But guess what? The guy is still in prison! It is said that Drum may walk free on April 1, because a parole board has to determine the conditions for his release and make sure there are no problems with home where he will live. Drum is 70 years old. A corrections spokesman explains, "It takes some time to process." See story here.

Michigan: Request (Update)

Previously (here) PardonPower reported on the case of one Charles Fackelman who was sentenced to more than five years in prison on four felony charges for pulling a gun on a man - Randy Krell -and kicking in a neighbor's door while pursuing him. The incident occurred after Krell participated in a car chase that led to an accident that killed Fackelman's 17-year-old son. As Krell was given only a six-month sentence, supporters of Fackelman have initiated a petition asking Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) to commute his sentence. Now Circuit Judge Joseph A. Costello Jr. is responding to criticisms of his decision making in the case. Costello says that he was bound by the law and, as a result, the sentence was proper. As he puts it, "All procedures were followed." See story here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Michigan: Report / Request

This article reports that, during her five years in office, Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) has ordered commutations in only 20 of the 3,438 requests that have come before her, and mostly for "medical reasons."

Now comes an "online petition" that asks her to commute the prison sentence of one Charles Fackelman who threatened two men with a loaded handgun and could serve up to 20 years in prison for it. The incident occurred after a car crashed into a tree, killing Fackelman's 17-year-old son. Fackelman's brother calls the sentence "excessive" as Charles is "not the criminal type." Ironically, the driver of the car received only six months for negligent homicide. The brother also called the minimum sentence of 5 3/4 years a "death sentence" for the 47-year old Fackelman. The online petition, and additional information on the case, can be found here. A lively group discussion of the case can also be found here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Michigan: Commutations

Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has commuted the sentences of two drug offenders. A spokeswoman said Larry Drum's application "was thoroughly reviewed, and given his age, given that he does not pose a threat to the community, the recommendation to the governor was that his sentence be commuted." Drum is 70 and has been in prison over 15 years. Granholm also commuted the sentence of Vickie L Hoskins, 40, of Oakland County. The commutations were the first approved by Granholm for non-medical reasons since she became governor. See full story here and here.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Michigan: Petition and Controversy

The Daily Telegram (MI) reports that Judge Tomothy P. Pickard and prosecutor Irving Shaw have been recently informed that a petition has been filed with the Michigan Parole Board calling for the release of 71-year old Wilbur Scott. More specicfically, the petition (filed by Scott's sister - a former Tecumseh mayor and city council member) asks that he be considered for a pardon or commutation. The Telegram reports that, in 1965, Scott "deliberately" shot his wife in the back with a rifle as she tried to get into a car. When the victim's mother attempted to shield her daughter from furhter attack, Scott shoved her out of the way and fired two more bullets into his the victim's back. Judge Pickard says that he must, "in the strongest terms, oppose any such action by the Governor.” He also notes that, "In a state which has no capital punishment for first degree murder, life in prison should mean life in prison.” Prosecutor Shaw also says that he “vigorously opposes and objects to any reprieve, commutation or pardon in this case.” See full story here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Michigan: Request

In a report here, the Flint Journal notes Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) is being asked to consider the clemency application of a 70-year old prisoner whose case is getting "widespread attention." Larry Drum was arrested in 1986 after delivering small amounts of cocaine to an informant and cocaine was found in his roommate's apartment bedroom. He was then sentenced to life in prison under a since-changed law that was intended to snare "drug kingpins." With 17 years behind him, Drum will be in prison at least until he is 82. In 2006, the state parole board recommended against his commutation. But Drum repeated his case for freedom before the board again this past November. Laura Sager, a consultant with Families Against Mandatory Minimums, says the sentence is the by-product of a "Draconian law."

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