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Felonies Archives

Felonies: DNA helps to identify Michigan runaway teen from 1979

With the significant advances in technology, more and more cold cases are solved based on DNA evidence. In some cases, it might only serve to determine the identification of remains that were recorded as unknown decades ago. However, it could also lead to arrests and convictions of felonies if DNA evidence of perpetrators is discovered and linked to a cold case crime.

Open-source ancestry websites help to solve cold case felonies

The body of a 12-year-old girl was found in a fire pit in 1986, and police had no suspects. Only in 2006, sometime after law enforcement in Michigan and across the country started using DNA to solve felonies, police had a test done on DNA found at the murder scene, but there was no match in existing databases at the time. With advancing technology, open-source ancestry sites became available for people who wanted to learn more about their roots.

DNA might be the answer for wrongful convictions for felonies

The National Registry of Exonerations is a jointly run organization by Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and a university in another state. They determined that almost a third of the 2,245 people who were exonerated since 1989 were convicted for felonies based on mistaken identities. A significant number of these wrongful convictions were overturned upon presentation of post-conviction DNA evidence. An organization in another state called the Innocence Project focuses mostly on sex crimes and homicides. It claims that eyewitness misidentification was a factor in 71 percent of exonerations.

Will prosecutors always turn over exculpatory evidence?

Prosecutors and criminal investigators may push a suspect for answers by saying “help me help you.” While this may sound enticing and reassuring, the famous line from “Jerry Maguire” may be anything but helpful. After all, prosecutors seek evidence to help gain a conviction.

Do longer sentences actually deter crime?

The political season won’t begin in earnest for a few months in Michigan, but one topic that is certain to garner a great deal of attention are sentencing guidelines. It is no secret that sentencing (and the varying opinions behind them) have been a divisive issue in Michigan politics for quite some time. Yet there are still proponents of tougher sentences.

Mis-identification by eyewitnesses is still a problem

One of the bedrock principles of our criminal justice system is that the accused is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The collection of constitutional protections afforded to the accused is supposed to make the process fair criminal defendants. After all, it is not uncommon for criminal defendants to be falsely or even negligently accused of crimes, especially due to false eyewitness accounts.

Do privacy rights die with the person owned them?

Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, private citizens are supposed to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by police. This essentially means that law enforcement must have a warrant signed by an impartial judge before initiating searches of areas that a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

MSU official arrested in wake of Nassar scandal

Shortly after the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar for his conduct involving young gymnasts during his tenure with USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, speculation was rampant as to who else may be responsible for enabling Nassar to operate undeterred for so long. Some suspected that current and/or former MSU officials could be held accountable in the same manner that others were held responsible in the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University.

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