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Many of us that practice law decided to do so because we did not want to deal with numbers. As any good criminal lawyer will tell you, numbers can be manipulated. Still, when statistics are clear, the court officers need to examine the numbers, no matter how ugly that may appear. In Michigan, we are in a time of crisis in our criminal justice system. With COVID-19 creating a new normal, we see time for a change. Sadly, one difference that is not present is the number of black men and women behind bars. Depending upon one’s political affiliation, a subjective slant is presented.  President Donald Trump has called for more significant incarceration while leaders such as Bernie Sanders have called for “Restorative Justice,” a term that is opened to interpretation. To understand the numbers, the issues, and the current state of events, we spoke to several of the top lawyers in Michigan.

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of McManus and Amadeo in Washtenaw County, Michigan. McManus is known as one of the top legal minds in Michigan and provided insight into the numbers. McManus said, “The data is startling.  In our state, black people make up 15% of the population and 53% of the prison population at the Michigan Department of Corrections.  Whatever argument you make, the numbers show a clear problem with our system. Those numbers are hard to believe at first glance, but when you study the issue and break things down by county, the issue becomes one of tragedy instead of legislation.”

Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo and has built a reputation as one of the top family lawyers in Michigan. Kelley added to the McManus commentary when she said, “With a black population of 15% in Michigan, 37% of black defendants are in our jails.  While those numbers are disturbing, it becomes even more horrifying when you study the difference between prison and jail. There is a reason why the numbers are more disproportionately in prison than in jail. We have a serious issue that needs to be addressed.”

During COVID-19, an issue that many defense lawyers are facing for clients is whether a national pandemic should afford people a second chance at rehabilitation. With COVID still on the rise and many inmates at risk for their life, we have to wonder, are we genuinely concerned with improvement? To discuss this issue in greater detail, we spoke to several of the top lawyers in Michigan.

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of McManus and Amadeo and has built a reputation as one of the legal community’s sharpest minds. McManus, who wrote several successful, compassionate release motions provided insight when he said, “There is certainly a communication problem. On plea deals, we still see PSI’s that do not take into account COVID-19 and even disregard sentence agreements that are in place. There is no question that probation has a difficult job, but we have seen some PSI’s that are illegally written requesting violation of the “Tanner-Max” rules. It is disturbing that this would happen during COVID.  The quick answer is, let’s try every case if we cannot work towards rehabilitation.”

Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo and has built a reputation as a top family law attorney. When asked about releasing inmates during the pandemic, Kelley stated, “Each case needs to be dealt with subjectively.  Regardless of the offense, if somebody is older and in the frail condition, they need to play a role in early release. The whole point of prison is to rehabilitate, not strictly to punish. When we put the aging into the prison system, it places their lives at risk and adds to the taxpayers’ burden. Socioeconomics and morality have to play a role in these decisions.”

A new Pennsylvania law will take steps towards eliminating institutional racism.  On July 1, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation that forbids the state’s licensing boards from automatically disqualifying applicants because of their criminal history.

Previously, it didn’t matter how long ago a crime occurred or whether the offense had any relation to the license’s qualifications. The rules often shut convicts out.

Now, each situation must be reviewed on its merits, and within the profession, they want to enter. Details of the legislation are still left up to interpretation, but this is a step in the right direction for those that have been into the criminal justice system. To learn more about this law and see how it may affect Michigan, we spoke to several top lawyers in our state to gain their insight.

Ypsilanti, Michigan, is a city that has made national news of late. The tragedy of the beating of Sha’Teina Grady El, the commentary from former mayor Beth Bashert, the threats to residents at Sycamore Meadows and questionable charges made by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie has led the small city that sits 15 minutes outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan the topic of controversy.  While Ann Arbor is praised as having the highest level of education of any city in the United States, Ypsilanti has not been afforded the same respect on Google.  In greater detail, we spoke to several lawyers that are very involved in the Ypsilanti community.

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of McManus and Amadeo in Washtenaw County, Michigan. He is known as one of the top researchers in the state.  McManus spoke of the criminal issues when he said, “When Bill (Amadeo) took on the Grady El case, we were confused as to why they were being charged in the first place.  It was clear that the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Officer almost killed Sha’Teina.  We thought things were under control after the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office furthered the case. Still, as you study the situation further, the Grady El case was just one of many tragedies in Ypsilanti.  It’s regrettable to see how people are treated in our judicial system based upon skin tone’s socioeconomic status.  The comments made by Mayor Bashert in the wake of this tragedy was also surprising.”

Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo. She is known as one of the top divorce attorneys across Michigan. Kelley stated, “After the mayor made her comments (insert), our phones were ringing off the wall.  We started studying cases coming out of Ypsilanti and saw there was clear mistreatment of those residents. We are working to rectify this situation.”

An issue that has been making national news during COVID-19 is the value of the polygraph.  A polygraph exam is known as a “lie detector test.” It is a tool utilized by prosecutors and police officers to find out the truth.  While many view the polygraph exam as a ticket to their freedom, many pitfalls come with the test. To learn more about the polygraph exam, we spoke to several of the top lawyers in Michigan to gain their insight on the issue.

Matthew McManus and is the Managing Member of McManus and Amadeo in Washtenaw County, Michigan. McManus is known as one of the top criminal motion writers and business attorneys in Michigan. When asked about the polygraph, McManus stated, “There are many risks associated with the test. For example, we had a client who suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. His mental deficiencies did not allow him to comprehend the questions on the test.  It is well established that a defendant’s competency is also at risk, along with their credibility when they take the test.  This causes concern with young people and that with disabilities.”

Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo. She is known as one of the top divorce lawyers in our state. Kelley stated, “We use polygraphs in civil litigation, and it carries a lot more weight.  When we started using the polygraph in our divorce filings, there was a lot of confusion to opposing counsel, but I value the polygraph. Of course, there is a major difference between criminal and civil litigation. This is not a one size fits all scenario.”

One of the keys to picking a proper jury is the study of the jury questionnaires. A jury questionnaire is a series of questions that the potential jury pool fills out and allows both the prosecutor and the defense to view. A generic jury questionnaire will tell the attorneys where the prospective juror lives. It will indicate what they do for a living if they have ever been charged with a crime, and other issues are explored depending upon who draws up the questions. The point of this is for the attorneys to gauge the preferences and biases of the jurors. The problem with this is that each county, and for that matter, each judge, has a different view on the availability of these questions.


The utilization of jury questionnaires varies from county to county. For example, in Shiawassee County, a judge such as Matthew Stewart will make sure that all sides have an ample opportunity to study the questions and maintain a fair trial.  In Washtenaw County, judges such as Cedric Simpson in district court and Archie Brown in circuit court are always concerned about fairness.  In Wayne County, there is a multitude of volumes, and the attorney may never get to study jury questionnaires, and in Caro, you will not obtain these documents until the morning of trial.  With such a lack of unity of law, the study of jurors becomes more complicated.

When a defense lawyer is faced with the challenge of picking a jury, one of the most important aspects they need to know is how to use a jury challenge. Jury challenges come in a variety of forms.  To have a better understanding of how to challenge jurors, we will present an outline of how this issue should be addressed. We will then obtain insight from some of the top lawyers in our state.


Challenges to potential jurors come in two flavors:  A challenge for cause. A challenge for purpose is a challenge because there is a clear bias on behalf of the juror. Things such as racism, bigotry, family members involved in the case, friendships with the witnesses, and anything that could affect the objectivity of the jurors could lead to a challenge for cause. In Michigan, there is no limitation to challenges for cause, but making such a challenge is at the discretion of the judge that is in charge of the trial. The second type of challenge is the “Peremptory Challenge,” which is described in Michigan Legislature Section 768.13.

What if I told you that you were going to trial and your fate would be decided before anybody provided testimony?  Would you believe me?  Probably not, however, the reality is that the process of “Voir Dire” is the key to success in a criminal trial.

Voir Dire is a legal phrase for a variety of procedures connected with jury trials. It originally referred to an oath taken by jurors, to tell the truth (Latin: Verum dicere), i.e., to say what is right, what is objectively accurate or subjectively honest, or both. In Michigan, we use the term Voir Dire to discuss jury selection.

In the State of Michigan, the concept of jury selection can be a complex one.  To study this issue, we break the topic down to jury questionnaires, challenges, and social media research.  Today, we will discuss the topic broadly.  To gain insight into the issue of voir dire, we spoke to several of the top lawyers in our state.

When arguing that a criminal defendant is not competent, the defense counsel has an uphill battle. The standards for competency in the State of Michigan are harsh, and many times criminal defendants in need will be deemed competent despite having issues of mental capacity that are often overlooked. One disease that will not deem a defendant incompetent but will help with an argument to mitigate a crime is “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome.”

“Sleeping Beauty Syndrome” is known in the medical profession as Kleine–Levin syndrome (KLS). KLS is a rare sleep disorder characterized by persistent episodic hypersomnia and cognitive or mood changes. Many patients also experience hyperphagia, hypersexuality, and other symptoms. Patients generally experience recurrent episodes of the condition for more than a decade and may return at a later age. Individual events last typically more than a week, sometimes lasting for months. The disease significantly affects the personal, professional, and social lives of sufferers. The severity of symptoms and the course of the syndrome vary between sufferers. Patients commonly have about 20 episodes over about a decade. Several months generally elapse between events.

Patients with Kleine–Levin syndrome (KLS) experience recurring events of prolonged sleep (hypersomnia). In most cases, patients sleep 15 to 21 hours a day during events. Excessive appetite (hyperphagia) and unusual cravings are present in half to two-thirds of cases. About half of patients, mainly male patients, experience dramatically increased sexual urges (hypersexuality). Several other symptoms usually accompany the syndrome, including marked changes in mood and cognitive ability. Derealization and severe apathy are present in at least 80 percent of cases. About one-third of patients experience hallucinations or delusions. Depression and anxiety occur less commonly; one study found them in about 25 percent of patients. Individuals usually cannot remember what happened during episodes. Repetitive behaviors and headaches are widely reported. Some patients act very childlike during incidents, and communication skills and coordination sometimes suffer. To gain further insight into this issue, we spoke to several of the top lawyers in the State of Michigan.

While most people will not admit it, criminal law is big business. There is a plan to place people in county jails and to send defendants to the Michigan Department of Corrections. That plan is not always punishment; it is also employment. In our criminal justice system, there is a lot of money that is spent on court costs, salaries for those on our bench, probation officers, prosecutors, and public defenders. The reality is that economics does play a role in people being incarcerated. With the advent of COVID-19, the cost to house inmates has risen dramatically.  With so many different agendas going on in our criminal justice system, there is some debate over whether safety and economics are colliding.?

Before COVID-19, the average cost to house an inmate in the state of Michigan was $35,809 per year.  In the federal prison system, the average price was $34,704.12 before the coronavirus.  Since COVID-19, the cost of medicine has gone up dramatically. With the danger of judicial economy being compromised, we are left to wonder how our legal system will handle this situation. To dig deeper into this situation, we have spoken to several attorneys in our state.

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  McManus has found success with his research on both the state and federal levels and has examined this issue at length. McManus stated, “On its face, there does not appear to be a big difference between the costs of state and federal incarceration. However, if you look deeper into the analysis, we see that Michigan did away with good time credit. When legislation was passed, eliminating good time credit, the government assured longer prison states.  This was a plan to create employment at the Michigan Department of Corrections and also provided a higher rate of taxes for the citizens of our state.”

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