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Michigan Civil Rights & Product Liability Law Blog

Relief for victims of police misconduct

Law enforcement officers in Michigan are granted broad powers to perform their duties. They are limited, though, by the U.S. Constitution and other laws. When police officers violate the rights of citizens, those citizens may be able to turn to state or federal laws for recourse. Among the primary purposes of civil rights regulations is the protection of citizens from abuse by government officials. Recovery for victims of police misconduct often includes compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys' fees.

Police officers are generally immune from lawsuits related to the performance of their duties unless they have engaged in unreasonable willful conduct. Liability will not be established in cases where officers have merely failed to exercise due care, meaning negligence is not enough in most cases. The civil rights law most often relied upon by victims of misconduct is Section 1983 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code. It was originally part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871.

Woman wrongly convicted for child abuse shares her story

The first woman in Michigan to be exonerated and released following a wrongful conviction has told her story at the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School's Auburn Hills campus. In 2003, she was going through the process to adopt her infant nephew when she took him to the emergency room because he was not eating and was bleeding in his brain.

The woman did not know that she was under suspicion for child abuse when she was questioned by law enforcement several days later and did not realize that she might need an attorney. In February 2004, she was charged with first degree child abuse, and in 2005 she was convicted. The prosecution had successfully argued that the baby was injured by shaken baby syndrome, and she was sentenced to a prison term of 10 to 15 years.

5 steps to avoid an e-cigarette explosion

It's a sad reality that many vape devices simply aren't safe. However, most devices can be kept safer by following the manufacturer's directions and by knowing a few helpful tips for using vapes safely.

Vaping devices may malfunction more often in certain situations. These include when the e-cigarette:

  • Gets wet
  • Is kept in a pocket
  • Is overcharged or charged incorrectly
  • Has exposed batteries that are in contact with metal

Michigan's exoneration fund running low on money

A bill introduced into Michigan's state legislature would provide an additional $10 million for the state's compensation fund for wrongfully convicted prisoners. The fund is at risk of running out of money, despite the fact that more wrongful convictions continue to be exposed. Rep. Steve Johnson of Wayland introduced House Bill 4286 in order to provide additional funds to the account created in 2016 as part of the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act.

According to the Michigan Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act ("WICA"), former prisoners who were wrongfully convicted should receive $50,000 for every year they spent behind bars. However, officials said in early 2019 that only $1.6 million remains in the account. There are a number of claims on the fund still pending, and ex-prisoners say they are owed more than this amount. Johnson said that the law was an important step but reliable funding was necessary in order to make its provisions viable.

Ethical policing program may spread to more cities

Police departments in Michigan that are concerned about police misconduct and public dissatisfaction with law enforcement might look to a successful program in New Orleans that is making its way to Baltimore. The "Ethical Policing Is Courageous" training program, or EPIC, encourages officers to intervene when they see misconduct from one another and uses role-playing and other exercises to prepare them for situations in which they might need to act.

The image of law enforcement in New Orleans had suffered after several officers were found guilty for shooting people during Hurricane Katrina and many others abandoned the force. A federal consent decree was placed on the department in 2012 following an officer's killing of a man who was unarmed. Officials determined that a cultural change was needed that ended the silence officers would use to protect one another in cases of misconduct. As evidence of the program's success, there has been a drop in citizens' complaints. The police department also has anecdotal evidence of incidents that would have escalated to force in the past but did not because of peer intervention.

Vape pen explosion cuts carotid artery and kills man

Vape pens or e-cigarettes have become mainstream throughout Michigan, but malfunctions of the battery-operated devices can prove fatal. A recent out-of-state case illustrates the severity of injuries that defective e-cigarettes can deliver. The explosion of a vape pen caused cerebral infarction and herniation after debris dissected a 24-year-old man's carotid artery. He reportedly died in a hospital two days after the explosion.

His relatives told the media that medical staff placed the man in a medically induced coma. His X-rays showed that parts of the vape pen had lodged in his throat. His grandmother did not know why surgery was not attempted for him. A spokeswoman from the medical center could not provide a public comment due to health privacy laws.

Ex-police sergeant, 2 paramedics charged for inmate's death

A former police sergeant and two paramedic workers have been charged in the fatality of a Westland Jail inmate. The trio was bound over on misconduct in office charges on Jan. 22. Manslaughter charges that were filed against the three were dismissed after the judge found that there was insufficient evidence to support such charges.

The incident happened at the Westland Jail in March 2018. According to prosecutors, the inmate was taken into custody and then began having convulsions in his cell. He reportedly yelled for help but was ignored by the former Westland Police Department sergeant and the two paramedics.

Protect yourself: Understand why e-cigarettes explode

E-cigarettes became very popular because of their ability to be used in places where smoking was banned. This helped people who were affected by smoking bans continue to get the nicotine they were addicted to without gums, patches or other treatments.

E-cigarettes also had the benefit of being ideal for curing the smell of smoke. They pose less threat to those around the smoker (though this does not make second-hand smoke "safe"), and they don't produce the smell of cigarette smoke that so many people don't like.

Michigan Conviction Integrity Unit Frees Two Inmates

Over the past three decades, new scientific testing and technology have opened people's eyes to the injustice of the justice system. This is something that is plainly evident in the state of Michigan where 72 prisoners have been exonerated since 1991.

As mentioned in a previous blog, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office has a unit focused on righting wrong convictions. The Conviction Integrity Unity recently made headlines when they discovered evidence that led to the exoneration of two men.

Explosions of e-cigarette batteries cause fires and injuries

Electronic cigarette devices, such as vape pens, have become a routine sight in Michigan, but a growing record of fires and injuries attributed to the devices has prompted authorities to raise the alarm. A state-level fire marshal in another state told the media that the explosion of a vape pen killed one man. The marshal also highlighted another case that involved a man who suffered serious burns after his e-cigarette device blew up in his pocket.

The U.S. Fire Administration reported at least 195 incidents of e-cigarette devices exploding or starting fires between 2009 and 2016. These incidents produced 133 injuries, and 38 cases involved severe injuries.

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