Drunk Driving Crackdown Underway Again – This Time With A Creative Twist

After much success with the previous statewide drunk driving crackdown, Michigan law enforcement has decided to kick off a new campaign – “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” – which began on Friday August 15th and doesn’t end until September 1st.

This particular campaign involves law enforcement personnel from forty counties across the state, including 150 local police departments, sheriff offices, and Michigan State Police posts.  It is planned to span a period that includes the Labor day weekend, and will be focused on increased patrols for drunk drivers and drivers not wearing their seat belts.

This campaign differs slightly in it’s approach from former drunk driving awareness campaigns, in that it has a new and different approach. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning has designed a series of eye-catching but fictitious beer labels, all produced by the “Traffic Safety Brewing Company”, with the intention of reminding drivers to think before they drink.

Beverages like the “Buckle Up IPA”, “Call a Cab Cider”, “Phone A Friend Porter” and “Left My Keys at Home Lager” are examples of the safety-themed brews intended to remind drivers to drink responsibly. “We hope it serves as a conversation starter and a reminder to make responsible choices,” said Melody Kindraka, communications director for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP).

These clever spoof brews were developed by the Michigan OHSP in an attempt to create a direct and positive link between individual responsibility and alcohol consumption. In a unique partnership with the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, the list of “traffic safety six-packs” have been distributed to their more than 1,100 members to promote safety and responsible drinking among patrons.

“We don’t have a problem with people going out and drinking and having a good time, but when you’re doing that, you’ve got to make those right decisions. If you’re going to get behind the wheel (after drinking) that’s a poor decision.” said Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham in a recent statement explaining the intentions of the agencies involved in the crackdown. “Plan ahead. Have a designated driver. Have a cab, have a limo service.”

Wafer / McBride Murder Trial

The Verdict Is In

Theodore Wafer, the 55-year-old Dearborn Heights man who shot Renisha McBride in the face through his screen door at 4 am, has been convicted of second degree murder by a 12 person jury.

Wafer woke in the early hours of the morning to the sound of violent pounding on his front door. Afraid that someone was trying to get into his home, and determined not to be a victim in his own house, Wafer grabbed a loaded Mossberg 500.  After being unable to find his cell phone to call 911 for help, Wafer opened the front door and, seeing a figure come into view from the side, he fired.

McBride, after consuming a substantial quantity of alcohol and smoking marijuana with friends, crashed her car and then wandered away from the scene of the accident. Some time later she ended up on Wafer’s front porch, pounding violently on his front door and wandering around outside his house, where she was eventually shot and killed.

According to the testimony Wafer gave police when they showed up at his home on the night in question, he hadn’t even realized that the gun was loaded and that he had only meant to brandish it and frighten away the intruders. His attorney, however, claimed that he had acted in self defense, afraid for his life and wanting only to protect himself in the face of a threat to his life.

But the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office argued that Wafer had other options available to him. He could have waited it out to see if it was indeed a home invasion, or called 911 and reported his fears to authorities. He could have brandished the gun, but not fired.

After a 9 day trial, the jury deliberated for only a short time and came back with a guilty verdict.

“We are obviously very pleased with the jury verdict and feel that justice was served today,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says, “We sincerely hope that this brings some comfort to the family of Renisha McBride.”

Wafer was convicted of single counts of second-degree murder, manslaughter due to gross negligence and felonious firearm use. He could be sentenced from 2 years to up to life in prison as a result of the conviction in the Renisha McBride murder trial. His sentencing is scheduled for Monday, August 25th at 9 am.

Detroit Porch Murder Trial Update

 Wafer / McBride Trial Continues

On Monday morning the front porch murder trial of Theodore Wafer resumed with Michigan State Police Detective Lt. David Balash retaking the stand for the defense. Balash, who is a gun and crime scene expert, testified that it was without a doubt that Wafer’s gun had fired the bullet from 2 feet away that killed Renisha McBride.

But when it came to his opinion of the way that the Dearborn Heights Police Department handled the evidence collection, he wasn’t quite so positive. Crime scene protocol requires that officers protect evidence from the elements with tarps, take 360 degree photos of the scene, and always work from the outside toward the center. Continue reading

Detroit Murder Trial

Wafer / McBride Trial Update

Theodore Wafer, who is facing 2nd degree murder charges for the fatal shooting of Renisha McBride, has spent the last week in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit. He is accused of murdering the 19-year-old Detroit woman. However, he claims he shot her entirely out of self-defense.

On Monday, which was the third day of testimony in the murder trial, it opened with 25-year-old Davonta Bynes of Detroit, a friend of Renisha’s who had been in contact with her via text before her death. He told the jury that at about 11 pm he spoke to her on the phone. He was concerned at the time that she had been drugged because she seemed to be severely intoxicated and was slurring her speech very badly.

Wafer’s neighbor also took the stand. Ray Murad, who lives across the street from him in Dearborn Heights, told the court that he had been awake and in his home office that night when he heard noises outside his window. He described the sounds as being like “rain and trees banging” against his car. He said that he looked outside but saw nothing. Continue reading

Michigan “Youth Behind Bars”

Report Criticizes State Law

A recent report on juveniles in prison criticizes the state of Michigan for “funneling children into Michigan’s adult prison system due to a series of harsh ‘tough on crime’ laws…”

From 2003 through 2013, the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency studied incarcerated youth who had been tried as adults; gathering data on the histories, laws and policies that were relevant to their cases. The findings were published in Youth Behind Bars: Exploring the Impact of Prosecuting and Incarcerating Kids in Michigan’s Criminal Justice System.  There is a link to the report at the end of this article.

Michigan is one of only ten states in the US where 17-year-olds are automatically prosecuted as adults for crimes. But according to Michelle Weemhoff, the council’s associate director and co-author of the 18-page report, Michigan’s juvenile justice laws are outdated and do very little to rehabilitate criminal youth or even protect the public. Continue reading

Get a Vasectomy and Get Less Jail?

Virginia Man Offered Unusual Deal

A recent case in Virginia has received much press and public debate, as it is the first of its kind in decades, recalling a less-than-lovely aspect of the country’s legal past.  A Prosecutor in the state of Virginia has offered a man the chance to have his sentence reduced in return for having a vasectomy.

Jessie Lee Herald is charged with child endangerment, hit and run, and driving on a suspended license which resulted in an accident injuring his 3-year-old son. None of the charges are related in any way to a sexual offense.

Shenandoah County assistant prosecutor Ilona White has stated that her primary motive for extending this unusual offer was to keep Herald from fathering more children. He already has seven children by at least six different women. Continue reading

Muskegon Marijuana Arrests

Muskegon Marijuana Advocate Charged

Derek Antol, former Executive Director of the Greater Michigan Compassion Club, is facing felony drug charges . Police allege he was growing marijuana and selling it from the Deuces Wild Smoke Shop on East Apple Ave. in Muskegon.

According to the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office, eight other associates of Antol’s, are also facing charges of marijuana delivery/manufacture, which is a lesser drug felony. This includes Antol’s girlfriend, 24-year-old Samantha Conklin.

The arrests are the result of an ongoing joint investigation between the West Michigan Enforcement Team (WEMET) and the Michigan State Police that began back in 2010. On July 9th, search warrants were issued allowing police to search Antol’s current and former home, and his place of business- the Deuces Wild Smoke Shop. Continue reading

Renisha McBride Murder Trial Update

Recap of Trial: Day Three

The trial continued last Friday for Theodore Wafer, 55, who is facing 2nd degree murder charges as a result of the fatal shooting of Renisha McBride on his front porch in Dearborn Heights last year in early November.

On the third day in court, his attorney Cheryl Carpenter raised multiple concerns regarding the delays in collecting evidence made by the Dearborn Heights Police Department, and also the issue of evidence contamination.

Allegedly police didn’t collect the screen door through which McBride was shot until 9 days after the shooting. Carpenter feels that this is an enormous oversight, as the state of the screen door is critical to the defense’s case, she claims. Continue reading

Fowlerville Teacher Poisoning

No Charges Filed Against Student

The 17-year-old Fowlerville student accused of poisoning his math teacher’s coffee with visine, will not be facing criminal charges. The decision was made following an investigation conducted by the Fowlerville police department and the Livingston County prosecutor’s office.

Mary Aldecoa, the victim of the teacher poisoning, believes that she was poisoned with Visine eye drops. These were put into her coffee over a period of 5 days. She suffered “horrible symptoms”, including stomach pains and headaches that were severe enough to keep her from school.

According to superintendent Wayne Roedel, the high school principal, Bradford Lusk, learned in “casual conversation” with a group of students during lunchtime, that a male student had put Visine in a teacher’s drink. The name of the guilty student was mentioned in the same conversation, and the resulting investigation was concluded that same day. Continue reading

Ionia County Probation Violation

3rd Violation in 1 Year = Prison Time

Adam Sears, one of four people arrested in March 2013 for making meth in an abandoned house in Ionia County, will be going to prison after pleading guilty to his 3rd probation violation in less than a year.

Sears, a 23-year-old resident of Ionia, was sentenced in the Ionia County Circuit Court on July 22nd, by Judge David Hoort, to serve 1 to 2 years in prison. During the hearing Sears’ probation agent recommended he received a sentence of 12 months in the Ionia County Jail with credit for 224 days already served, but Hoort disagreed.

“It just seems like it’s not working, what we’re doing here locally. Two hundred and twenty-four days hasn’t accomplished anything. I’m not seeing a reason why not to send you to prison.” Hoort told Sears in court. Continue reading