Mich. inmates win lawsuit over unusual parole ban - Fox 2 News Headlines

Mich. inmates win lawsuit over unusual parole ban

Posted: Updated:

By ED WHITE
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- A judge has given new hope to about 130 Michigan prison inmates after striking down an unusual state policy that had denied them any possibility of parole if they committed another crime behind bars.

The practice was so little-known that judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers said even they were unaware of the consequences.

"Outrageous," said Jonathan Sacks, head of the State Appellate Defender Office.

The inmates were sent to prison on life sentences with a chance at parole for crimes that included second-degree murder, assault or other offenses. They typically would be eligible for parole consideration after 10 or 15 years.

But a subsequent crime in prison -- contraband, attempted escape, a homemade weapon -- turned out to have drastic consequences. The Corrections Department and parole board put the inmates in a new category that shut the door on any possibility of parole. The sentence truly turned into life behind bars. Only a merciful governor could release them.

Ingham County Judge Joyce Draganchuk ruled in favor of the prisoners on Sept. 11, saying the state's interpretation of the law was "mistaken." University of Michigan law professor Paul Reingold, who filed the lawsuit with help from students, is proposing that inmates now get parole hearings when they're eligible.

The state is due to file a response next week. The next court hearing is Oct. 30 in Lansing.

"We're not claiming that any of the plaintiffs has a right to parole. They clearly don't," Reingold told the judge earlier this year.  "What they do have, however, is the right to parole consideration."

The group of approximately 130 includes at least two people who were returned to prison after committing crimes while on parole. Amy Nowak, 43, was arrested for shoplifting in St. Clair County in 2010 and is being treated as a mandatory lifer.

Reingold declined to comment this week. The state's policy apparently was discovered during litigation in another case. Separately, Michael Watkins, who has been in prison for more than 20 years, didn't learn about his no-parole status until his family filed a Freedom of Information request.

The attorney general's office said no decision has been made about an appeal of Draganchuk's decision. In an earlier court filing, state lawyers said the interpretation of Michigan law by prison officials "has been consistently applied" and never questioned by the Legislature.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Federal sting ends in gunfire in Highland Park

    Federal sting ends in gunfire in Highland Park

    Saturday, August 2 2014 12:03 AM EDT2014-08-02 04:03:37 GMT
    In what started as a traffic stop, resulted in a shootout between federal agents and a pair of men known to have illegal assault rifles in Highland Park.Police say a task force of ATF and FBI agents who had previously set up a meet with two men, known to have AK-47s and AR-15s in their Chevrolet Cavalier, began to move in. The traffic stop was made near Oakland and Victor about 7:30 p.m. Friday. The car rammed the federal agents vehicle and the driver opened fire with a handgun. The agents re...
    In what started as a traffic stop, resulted in a shootout between federal agents and a pair of men known to have illegal assault rifles in Highland Park.Police say a task force of ATF and FBI agents who had previously set up a meet with two men, known to have AK-47s and AR-15s in their Chevrolet Cavalier, began to move in. The traffic stop was made near Oakland and Victor about 7:30 p.m. Friday. The car rammed the federal agents vehicle and the driver opened fire with a handgun. The agents re...
  • Officer hit by drunk driver on Detroit's east side

    Officer hit by drunk driver on Detroit's east side

    Friday, August 1 2014 11:15 PM EDT2014-08-02 03:15:06 GMT
    An officer was hit by a driver believed to be drunk Friday at 8 mile and Alcoy on Detroit's east side.Police say officers were investigating at the scene of a traffic accident when the driver ran through the barricade and hit the woman.She was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries and the drunk driver was arrested. Police had been conducting an investigation of the original accident in which one of the drivers died. Eight mile is closed in east bound lane by Alcoy.
    An officer was hit by a driver believed to be drunk Friday at 8 mile and Alcoy on Detroit's east side.Police say officers were investigating at the scene of a traffic accident when the driver ran through the barricade and hit the woman.She was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries and the drunk driver was arrested. Police had been conducting an investigation of the original accident in which one of the drivers died. Eight mile is closed in east bound lane by Alcoy.
  • Man arrested after trying to wrestle gun from officer in Detroit

    Man arrested after trying to wrestle gun from officer in Detroit

    Friday, August 1 2014 9:32 PM EDT2014-08-02 01:32:44 GMT
    A man was arrested after he went for an officer's gun trying to wrestle it away from Detroit Police, causing the weapon to fire.SkyFOX was over the scene on Manning Street in Detroit, where the incident occurred Friday,The bullet didn't hit anyone and police took a 27-year-old man from Roseville into custody.Police say the home was a known drug den, and when officers drove by the property -- four people ran from the home.The officer and suspect were treated at a hospital for non life threaten...
    A man was arrested after he went for an officer's gun trying to wrestle it away from Detroit Police, causing the weapon to fire.SkyFOX was over the scene on Manning Street in Detroit, where the incident occurred Friday,The bullet didn't hit anyone and police took a 27-year-old man from Roseville into custody.Police say the home was a known drug den, and when officers drove by the property -- four people ran from the home.The officer and suspect were treated at a hospital for non life threaten...
Powered by WorldNow

WJBK-TV | Fox 2
16550 West Nine Mile Rd.
Southfield, MI 48075

Main Station: (248) 557-2000
Newsroom: (248) 552-5103

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices