Thursday, 15 March 2018

Davontae Sanford

Davontae Sanford Pursues Civil Case Against Detroit

Davontae Sanford was 14 years old when he found himself at the scene of four murders. He had been in the area where police were investigating the scene when officers approached and began to question him. The officers took Sanford, who was wearing his sleep attire, to the police station because they believed he had information regarding the murders. Unbeknownst to Sanford, however, the police would soon pin him as the primary suspect in the killings.

According to reports, the police repeatedly questioned Sanford at the station for two days, trying to get as much information out of him as they could. Like many other youths, Sanford was prone to expressing himself through fictitious stories. However, the officers were not taking Sanford’s stories lightly, and soon after the questioning, they pinned the murders on the teenager. Sanford, the news reports, had been illiterate and had learning difficulties at the time.

During Sanford’s trial in 2008, he admitted to the multiple homicides in what reports say was part of a plea agreement. The judge sentenced him to up to 90 years behind bars in an adult prison. A spokesperson from the Michigan Innocence Clinic stated Sanford’s confession was the product of repeated questioning without a lawyer or guardian present, and that his statements were largely inconsistent with police findings.

Four years after Sanford’s conviction, Vincent Smothers, an alleged hitman who was currently behind bars, confessed to the four murders. With this new glimpse of hope, Sanford attempted to repeal the charges against him. However, in a surprising strike, the court did not allow Sanford to go through with the repeal, and he remained in prison with no hope of getting out.

It was not until 2014 that lawyers, working for free, decided to lend Sanford their aid. Smothers submitted a lengthy document in which he came clean about the four murders that the court had pinned on Sanford. In it, Smothers stated that he had never had any association with Sanford, or even knew who he was. He said that the court had wrongfully blamed Sanford for the killings.

The lawyers pursued their finding in court, and started an investigation to prove Sanford’s innocence. In 2017 and after nine years behind bars, the court recognized Sanford’s innocence and released him from prison. Now, as a result of the misjustice against him by the city of Detroit, Sanford is pursuing a civil case to recoup what he had lost during his incarceration. As always, we will update you when we have more!

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Wednesday, 7 February 2018

How to Get Out of Jail

If you are a loved one are locked up behind bars, the first and primary concern is how to get out of jail. One’s freedom is a privilege they do not want to lose regardless the circumstances that led to the incarceration. There is no get out of jail free card. In some cases, especially for first offenses, the court will release a person on their own recognizance. However, that is not always the case. During the initial arraignment, a judge will likely set a bail. Once this bail is paid, or backed by collateral or a fee, the arrestee is free to go home on good faith that they will return to court at a later date.

Getting out of jail is not always that simple. Bail is usually expensive, and for a good reason. The money a defendant pays for his or her bail is much like an investment. It shows the court trust, meaning the defendant is putting down a large sum of money or valuable assets with the promise that he or she will return to their next court date. So long as no court dates are missed, the court returns the bail money to the defendant. If the defendant misses the court date, they risk losing the bail money or assets and their freedom.

Once arrested and booked into jail, the arrestee is arraigned before a judge, who will then decide the bail amount. It is sometimes possible to know how much the bail will be beforehand based on the law allegedly broken. Contacting a bail bond agency as soon after the arrest as possible can shorten the time in jail drastically. In most cases, the bondsman can arrange to cover the bail right after or even before it is set.

picture of a bail bond agency building

Bail bond agents make the process of getting out of jail easier as they will complete all the paperwork necessary and have an in-depth understanding of the law. They can, in many cases, even get a loved one or friend out of a jail located in another city or state. The bondsman is not obligated to ensure the defendant returns to their court dates. When you hire a bondsman, they will ask for a fee, which is generally 10% – 15% of the bail amount. They may also ask for some sort of collateral should the defendant skip the following court dates and incur the court to not refund the bail amount. This collateral will not be at risk once the trial ends and the bail is no longer necessary.

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Sunday, 17 December 2017

How Better Policing can Contribute to Criminal Justice Reform

picture of police handcuffs

Many wonder whether criminal justice reform is tenable or not. Skeptics argue that the moment for reforming the criminal justice system has passed because the right mechanisms are not yet in place. In addition, efforts aimed at reforming the sentencing system have also stalled. In its place, the relationship between local communities and the police has been on the spotlight.

Recently, news headlines have been awash with incidents of excessive use of force by the police when handling members of the public. The recent Black Lives Matter protests have equally exposed rifts between the police and the communities that they serve. Here are some tips that can help reform the criminal justice system and ultimately improve the relationship between the police and local community members.

Using Special Prosecutors to Investigate Police Misconduct

In recent months, the role that prosecutors play has come immense scrutiny. Failure by grand juries to prosecute officers accused of using excessive force has raised doubts about the ability of juries to remain unbiased in cases that involve law enforcement officers operating within the same jurisdiction. Typically, prosecutors rely on police officers to arrest, investigate cases, interrogate the suspects, and testify during trial. Most cases that involve police misconduct have conflicts of interests, which affect the prosecution process. The perceived biasness can only be eliminated by assigning such cases to special prosecutors.

Implementing Implicit Bias Training

Law enforcement officers who are involved in all forms of federal task forces need to undergo bias training because in most cases, police-civilian conflicts arise from perceived biasness. This has greatly influenced the way police perceive and treat civilians, and vice versa. Bias training will help mitigate the devastating effects of prejudice. During the training sessions, the law enforcement officers should be challenged to pinpoint significant police scenarios and decisions that manifest biasness. This will prevent unlawful arrests and the use of excessive force, thus improving relations.

That injustice and inequality exists in the criminal justice system is undeniable. This is a great challenge, which needs to be nipped in the bud so that it doesn’t escalate further. It should be noted that the challenges facing the criminal justice system reflect broader challenges within the society. Since the police play an important role in the criminal justice system, involving them in reforms will not only improve policing but will also help repair their relationship with local communities.

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Friday, 10 November 2017

Should Nude Photographs Be Made Available in Public in Museums

I recently wrote an article about how sex on TV should be monitored. This article may seem like I am backtracking from that article, but just bear with me.

I personally do not find that a lot of the nude photographs in museums should be hidden to the public. The difference between the sex scenes that I talked about in my other article and nude photographs, at least in my opinion, is that the nude photos in museums are not meant for sexual purposes. Yes, they may make someone uncomfortable, but they are not meant to be sexual. They are meant to tell a story, to create art, and to speak for the artist. A lot of the sex scenes on TV that I discussed were not meant to do anything. I guess the writers could argue that it is art, but those scenes seem to be there to just stir the pot, not to teach a lesson or open someone’s eyes.

Topics like this are very subjective. At the end of the day, the photos are still provocative, and they still show inappropriate images. However, I have seen sex scenes on TV and I have seen nude photographs in museums, and the whole demeanor of both are completely different. The photographs are speaking for the artists. Therefore, they are invoking their right to freedom of speech. Do not get me wrong, if the photos in museums were to get to the point where they looked like pornography, I would certainly feel that they should not be made available in museums. I just do not think that that is case with most of the photos. Everything in life is interpreted by on how it is done. Two people can tell you “Hi,” and one person can make you feel amazing, while the other person can make you feel terrible. That is same thing with the TV sex scenes and the nude photos in a museum. It is all about context.

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Monday, 23 October 2017

Tips for Lawyers: How to Handle a Crying Client

It’s 5:00PM on Friday and you’re in a fabulous mood. You’ve worked so hard and you’re ready to start your weekend off right. Just as you start to pack your bag, the phone rings. You recognize the number – it’s that client that calls crying every week. Your mood instantly changes. What do you do?

1. Acknowledge that your client is sad and upset. You can’t just ignore that your client is crying. You must acknowledge it. Tell your client that you understand this is a very difficult and stressful time.
2. Take deep breaths. If you can remain calm, chances are that you can help your client calm down. If you become upset or annoyed, you’re only going to make the situation worse.
3. Tell your client that crying is okay. Reassure your client that crying is not an unreasonable reaction, given what your client is going through. Be as empathetic as possible. This should help your client calm down a bit.
4. Remind your client that you and your staff are there to help. Remind your client that you are on his or her side. Explain that you are there to fight his or her battles. If you have staff, remind your client that your staff is also there to help. Make your client feel more confident. Remind your client that he or she in good hands.
5. Move the conversation along. Finally, must transition the conversation to more productive matters. This is critical. You need the client to look ahead. Start talking about the next steps you and your firm will be taking. Bring the conversation back to your goals. Talk about the bigger picture. If you do not do this, your client may just keep crying.

If you have a client that is simply inconsolable, practice Step 1 through 3 to the best of your ability. Then, tell the client that you can take a break and pick up the conversation at a better time. If you don’t reschedule the call, the sobbing may only get worse. Of course, use your best judgment.

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Saturday, 23 September 2017

Three Kinds of Damages a Court Might Award

When a plaintiff files a lawsuit because of some other person’s legal wrong, the plaintiff is often seeking damages. Damages are a judicial award of money. Depending on the kind of wrong that the plaintiff alleges, there are different kinds of damages that he or she might be able to recover. A short blog post like this couldn’t possibly list them all, but here are three common kinds of damages that are available to an injured plaintiff:

1. Nominal Damages

Nominal damages are the judicial equivalent of a slap on the wrist. When a party is awarded nominal damages, the award will usually be something like $1.00—yes, one dollar. A court will award nominal damages when, though there’s been a technical legal wrong, it didn’t result in damages. For example, if someone walks through her neighbor’s yard without the neighbor’s permission, but doesn’t cause any damage to the property, the neighbor could sue for trespass. If the neighbor prevails, the court would award nominal damages, but nothing else.

2. Compensatory Damages

An award of compensatory damages is meant to make a party whole for any harm caused by the wrong of another. This is actually a very broad class of different measures of damages. For example, in a personal injury action, the amount of money that the injured party paid for medical expenses to treat his or her injury could be awarded as compensatory damages. Damages for pain and suffering would also qualify as compensatory damages, even though it can be difficult to pin down a dollar amount that would compensate for such injuries. In the context of a breach of contract, compensatory damages would be the value that the non-breaching party expected to receive under the contract, less the value actually received. The unifying theory behind these different measures is that they are designed to make the injured party whole.

3. Punitive Damages

As the name suggests, punitive damages are meant to punish a party for particularly egregious behavior. When punitive damages are allowed, the jury will get to hear evidence of the wrongdoer’s wealth, because that is one factor they will consider in fixing the amount of punitive damages. If they were to set the amount too low, a wealthy wrongdoer would not be dissuaded from engaging in such behavior in the future. However, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, an award of punitive damages can be so great as to violate the Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Of these three kinds of damages, compensatory damages are the most common. If the only damage award available to a plaintiff is nominal damages, then the plaintiff is unlikely to want to waste the time and money necessary to win a lawsuit. While punitive damages would have the opposite effect, making filing a lawsuit more attractive to a plaintiff, they are only available in certain kinds of cases.

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Monday, 21 August 2017

A Synopsis of the American Legal System

America is known for having one of the most complex legal systems all over the world. The system bases itself on federal law but is supported by laws that are passed by state legislatures. The rights and freedoms that American citizens enjoy are enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The US constitution and American law apply to everyone within the country irrespective of their immigration status or citizenship. Besides this, even those who immigrated to the US illegally also enjoy most of the basic rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

The US constitution stipulates that every state in the union can establish its own unique system of civil and criminal laws. This means that the country has 50 dissimilar state legal systems that are supported by different laws, law enforcement agencies, courts, and even prisons. There is also a huge difference between local and state laws, which means that one must understand the laws of another state before moving there.

The US Judiciary

This is an autonomous arm of the US government. It comprises the US Court of Appeals, the US District Courts, and the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in America’s legal system. It is made of 9 judges appointed by the president to serve for life. The decisions made by these officials is final and binding. When it comes to determining cases, the Supreme Court typically evaluates the activities of federal and state governments before deciding whether these laws are constitutional or not. The court has the power to even nullify laws that have been passed by Congress. This proves how powerful it is.

Federal Courts

This is a distinct system of courts, which typically operates together with state courts. Federal courts mainly deal with cases that arise under any treaty or law, or the US constitution. They similarly hear and determine cases pertaining to disputes between state governments. Cases that fall within the jurisdiction of federal courts are often heard by federal district judges.

Criminal and Civil Courts

There is a clear distinction and separation between American civil courts and criminal courts. Generally, the former handle disputes such as child custody after divorce while the latter prosecute individuals who violate the law. Crimes may either be categorized as felonies or misdemeanors. Felonies are serious crimes such as drug dealing and robbery.

Those who are found guilty of such crimes are often sentenced to jail. Misdemeanors are lesser violations including illegal parking or dropping litter. Individuals who are charged with misdemeanors are often issued with summons or even left with a warning. Regardless of the violation that one commits, it is advisable to involve a lawyer who will help hasten the bail process or represent them in court. The US legal system has a provision for plea bargaining. This entails the defense and prosecution making a deal in such a way that the accused pleads guilty to a less serious charge.

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