Every year, the state's Health Care Fraud Division investigates cases that involve the filing of fraudulent claims and embezzlement of benefits. These felonies could lead to significant fines and jail sentences if convictions are obtained. A 50-year-old Michigan woman who faces charges of felony embezzlement is likely exploring her defense options.
By signing the First Step Act into law recently, President Trump brought about the first step in the reform of criminal justice. He did this by altering the guidelines for federal sentences. While Michigan and other states will likely take additional steps, judges will have leeway that they did not previously have when it comes to sentencing convicted criminals, regardless of the severity of the felonies committed.
People in Michigan will no doubt be aware of the use of DNA in criminal investigations. Cold cases and new felonies are resolved by comparing a suspect's DNA profile with evidence to assess the likelihood of his or her involvement in a crime. It could take weeks to get DNA evidence from the crime scene to identification facilities. However, a new rapid DNA program in another state recently helped law enforcement to arrest a suspected burglar and recover stolen property within six days.
In 2014 and 2015, Legionnaires' disease broke out in Mid-Michigan, and several key people, including the chief medical executive of Michigan, Dr. Eden Wells, are accused of failing to prevent the outbreak. She is facing involuntary manslaughter charges. These types of felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $7,500. About 90 people in Genesee County contracted Legionnaires' Disease, and 12 cases ended in death.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Memorial Day weekend will be upon us soon. It is widely known as the unofficial start of summer (since by the calendar it starts in June). Nevertheless, holiday gatherings and celebrations have become a tradition in Michigan, and they commonly involve alcohol.