Below the law
As if things weren't already bad enough in Michigan's correctional facilities, the state House last week took a giant step toward making them even worse by passing legislation that would exempt prison and jail inmates from the state's Elliott-Larsen civil rights law.
State Rep. Michael Bishop, who introduced the bill, assured Metro Times the proposed law doesn't actually strip prisoners of all their civil rights: They will still be protected by the U.S. Constitution. What will be lost if the bill becomes law, say critics, is an important layer of protection. For example, 32 female inmates are currently suing Michigan Department of Corrections for alleged sexual abuse by prison guards, saying the abuse violated their civil rights under state law. Bishop's bill, had it been in place when the suit was filed, would have gutted the prisoners' case.
And what about all those allegations — along with a handful of convictions — that continue to pile up. "I've spoken at length with the Department Of Corrections about these things," Bishop says. "The bottom line is, they do investigate. They have internal investigations going on all the time."
When pressed further, however, Bishop admitted that he doesn't have a clue. "I have no idea what's going on in the correctional facilities," he confessed. "... I'm not close enough to these allegations to know whether they are an emergency situation or if this is being blown all out of proportion."
Washtenaw County prosecutors have finally won one in their ongoing attempt to make sure the streets of Ann Arbor are safe for white supremacists. Thomas C. Doxey Jr. was convicted of felony assault for allegedly throwing a rock that hit a police officer at a rowdy protest that shut down the May 9, 1998 Ku Klux Klan rally in Ann Arbor. The 22-year-old East Lansing resident, who had no previous criminal record, was sentenced late last month to three years' probation in addition to the five days he had already spent in jail. Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Donald E. Shelton also sentenced Doxey to 30 days in the jail's work program.
Of the 20 anti-Klan protesters charged in connection with the rally, 16 were previously acquitted or had their cases dismissed by a judge. Three more cases have yet to go to trial.
Even Doxey's conviction is not necessarily a done deal. Attorney Miranda Massie, maintaining her client's innocence, alleged in court that the only eyewitness to testify against Doxey perjured himself. She plans to seek a new trial.
Is it possible for one African-American to discriminate against another on the basis of race? Let the lawyers sort it out, you say. Well, that's part of the problem. ... The lawsuit African-American employees are bringing against the City Law Department and its African-American head, Phyllis James, was certified as a class action by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Stephens last week. The suit, which was filed last year as a result of a departmentwide reorganization that began in 1994 after Mayor Dennis Archer took office, may include more than 200 plaintiffs, says their attorney, Alice Jennings.
Judge Stephens included lawyers, law clerks and interns in the class action, but ruled that legal secretaries and other support staff would not be part of the suit. A separate case may be filed on their behalf and could include about 50 employees, says Jennings.
Former, current and prospective employees allege that they were terminated, denied promotions or not hired because of their race, according to the lawsuit.
Are city officials worried about being sued by a passel of its own lawyers? No, says mayoral spokesperson Greg Bowens: "We definitely believe this case will be resolved favorably for the city."
Donuts don't cut it
If the recent media preview of the Motor City Casino is any example, a calories-to-column inches equation might be developing. When the local media were invited to scope out Motor City Casino's decor last week, visions of the lavish (and totally free) spread the MGM Grand put on for its press preview were almost certainly still dancing in the heads of reporters looking for another high-rolling pig-out. But alas, the only edibles in the former Wonder Bread factory were a few Krispy Kreme donuts. A cynic might speculate that's the reason the Detroit News only gave the casino a bit more than a page of copy the following day — much less than the full-section of advertising, whoops, coverage that the MGM got in the dailies.