by J.C. Riley #288310
Ahh, a New Year. Everything can start over. The madness of 2020 is behind us and a rejuvenated sense of New Beginnings can inspire us to strive for all we hope for.
A New Year always starts with a litany of Top 10 Lists and Predictions; this article is no different. It is a list of Predictions I hope to come true in 2021.
Let’s count them down from 5 to 1; #5. Michigan will be the first State to require the same Legal Resources for the Accused that are available to the Prosecution.
One of the biggest Injustices in America’s “Justice System” is the disparity in resources available to Prosecutors compared the Accused. Prosecutors spend vast amounts of public funds on experts who testify to every detail of a Prosecutor’s theory. They spend a truck load of money on investigators who track down witnesses, no matter where in the world they might be.
However, if you are poor and accused of a crime, you might be lucky to get a Public Defender with less than 10 trials scheduled for the month. Most Public Defenders don’t investigate witnesses, not even the ones the Prosecutor offers. This is the #1 cause of false convictions and why the “Justice System” is under the scrutiny it is today.
In 2021 Defendants will be afforded the same resources as Prosecutors to secure experts and witnesses and will be allowed to pursue their innocence without worry of expense in doing so.
#4, Michigan’s Felony Murder Statute will be struck down.
Murder by any name is an unspeakable wrong. These wrongs are divided into Degrees as the level of culpability rises or falls based on Intent. Most of the people I know convicted of a Murder Charge in Michigan were found guilty under the Felony Murder Statute, a statute that doesn’t require an Intentional killing to be found guilty of 1st Degree Murder (A crime that requires intent). In fact, the Jury Instruction for 2nd Degree Murder and 1st Degree Felony Murder is exactly the same, but the degree of proof is much different, while the penalty for Felony Murder is a Mandatory Life Sentence with no consideration to the role an Accused played in the crime.
Prosecutors in Michigan charge Felony Murder more than any other Murder Charge to force people into confessions and plea deals. Plea deals used to flip witnesses out of codefendants who may or may not be truthful or trying to curry favor with a Prosecutor by sacrificing a codefendant. This is yet another practice that has led to countless false convictions, and confessions over the years.
In 2021 Prosecutors will be required to prove every element of the Charged Offense. 2nd Degree Murder will remain a charge for crimes that haven’t risen to the level of 1st Degree by actions of the Defendant. Any underlining charges will remain underlining charges for which a defendant will be sentenced if found guilty of that crime.
#3, Michigan Prisons will become Reformatories instead of Warehouses.
Over the past 20 years Michigan has become a leader in Prison Industry. This was done by removing Education from Incarceration and requiring prisoners to nearly complete their sentence before offering any type of programming, as an afterthought. In 2021 Michigan will no longer classify prisoners for programming based on their Earliest Release Date, or ERD. Instead, Prisoners will begin programming immediately upon incarceration.
An equal opportunity for programming will be offered to all prisoners regardless of sentence. Completion of all programming will be considered in a prisoner’s pursuit of parole eligibility. Thus, Michigan Prisons will become Reformatories.
#2, Gov. Whitmer will End Mandatory Minimum Sentences.
In the 80s and 90s Michigan instituted sweeping changes to sentencing laws with Proposal B (No Good Time) and Truth in Sentencing. These laws eliminated incentives for prisoners to reform by incarcerating people for extended periods of time, up to 100% of their maximum sentences and well beyond their earliest release dates. The laws had a devastating effect on prisoners working to improve themselves and ignited a population surge in prisons over the last 20 years. A period that saw no decline in crime rates.
For that reason Gov. Whitmer will use her Power to Commute Sentences to place any Prisoner who qualified under former Good Time laws on “Model Prisoner Status”. She will go down as the most compassionate Governor in history by further ending Mandatory Minimum Sentences. She will instruct the Michigan Parole Board to abandon their Life Means Life Philosophy and in 2021 the Parole Board will immediately and seriously begin considering the eligibility of Prisoners serving Life Sentences after 25 years.
#1, Michigan will End the Draconian practice of sentencing Teenage Offenders to Life in Prison.
In 2012 Courts held that it was wrong to sentence a Juvenile to Life in prison who wasn’t directly responsible for Murder. In 2015 the Courts extended that ruling to Juvenile Offenders capable of being reformed. Since then, Courts have acknowledged the diminished culpability of adolescents, yet have declined to extend protection from Life Imprisonment to all adolescents, or Teenage Offenders (age 18-21).
In Michigan Teens cannot purchase alcohol, tobacco, or handguns because legislators understand that youth breeds immaturity. Yet, these same Teenage Offenders can serve dramatically longer sentences than their Mature Adult counterparts. In 2021Michigan will end the practice of incarcerating Teenage Offenders capable of reform to Life in prison, and the People of this State will lead the charge.
With the above changes put into action I predict the People of Michigan will be blessed beyond measure and lead the nation in prosperity. And with that said I wish all the TBTW Readers and Supporters a Happy and Blessed New Year