Southwest Michigan Today: Thursday July 12, 2018

Jul 12, 2018

Michigan Supreme Court Building - file photo
Credit Cheyna Roth / Michigan Public Radio Network

The Michigan Supreme Court rules on how the state's rape shield law is applied and will consider whether it's OK for a judge to visit a home in a parental rights case. A committee says Battle Creek voters should directly elect the mayor and vice mayor. New details emerge about when state officials knew about the dangers of PFAS chemicals. 

(MPRN) Michigan’s Rape Shield law says alleged victims’ sexual activity cannot be used against them. But the state Supreme Court says those factors can be admitted as evidence in spite of that law in a case where a man was charged with having sex with a 14-year-old girl. She became pregnant and had an abortion. The defense says the prosecution should not have been able to admit evidence of the pregnancy or abortion because of the state Rape Shield Statute. But the Michigan Supreme Court said the evidence can come in under the state’s rules of evidence.

(WCMU) The Michigan Supreme Court is considering whether it is acceptable for a judge to visit a home before terminating parental rights. An Otsego county judge terminated parental rights after visiting the home of a couple whose daughter had a chronic kidney disease. Charles Kronzek is is an attorney who represents parents in CPS cases. He said the Judge in essentially made himself a witness - which is concerning. The appeals court found that the judge’s visit was not permissible, but upheld the termination of parental rights. Both parties are expected to file briefs for the Supreme Court within 35 days.

(Battle Creek Enquirer) An advisory committee says voters, not the City Commission, should pick Battle Creek’s mayor and vice-mayor. The Battle Creek Enquirer says the “blue-ribbon” panel made the recommendation this week. It also says seven city commissioners should represent wards, with the mayor and vice-mayor as the only at-large members. The current commission has five ward seats and four at-large commissioners. The mayor and vice-mayor are chosen by commissioners every year. Changes in the city’s charter must be approved by voters.

(Michigan Radio) It’s now up to a judge to decide if the director of Michigan’s health department should stand trial for “involuntary manslaughter” in connection with a deadly Legionnaires' Disease outbreak. Defense attorneys argued Wednesday that prosecutors have not shown that Nick Lyon did anything but rely on his staff to investigate the outbreak in 2014 and 2015. At least 12 people died.

(WDET) The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality knew six years ago about the harmful effects and widespread contamination of PFAS chemicals. The toxic substances are found in fire-fighting foam and water-repellant products. Many sites in Michigan have tested positive for PFAS in drinking water. The report issued by a DEQ employee in 2012 alerted officials to a widespread need for more research and public education about the toxicity of PFAS. A spokesperson for the DEQ says Michigan is leading the nation in PFAS research. The department is conducting a statewide study of PFAS in drinking water. MLive first received the DEQ study through the Freedom of Information Act.

(The St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Herald-Palladium) A former Benton Harbor police officer faces a felony charge for allegedly hitting a man with his police car. The St-Joseph Benton Harbor Herald-Palladium reports that Steven Johnson was fired from the Benton Harbor police. In May, when he was still on the force, Johnson reported to a call about a stolen lawn mower. A suspect in the theft ran away from police, and Johnson is accused of hitting the fleeing man with his police car. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office says the charge is backed up by video from Johnson’s squad car. A hearing in the case is scheduled for later this month.

(WDET) Rising levels of carbon dioxide threaten monarch butterflies. That's according to a study by scientists at the University of Michigan. They say butterflies exposed to high CO2 levels don't live as long as they should. Report co-author Leslie Decker says many of the drugs people use come from plants that could also be hurt as CO2 levels rise.

Western Michigan University’s medical school, which broke ground in 2012 and welcomed its first class in 2014 has reached an accreditation milestone. Western says the Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine has been granted initial accreditation status from the Higher Learning Commission. In a statement, the university says the new status shows that WMed has “matured beyond being a new school.” The initial accreditation lasts for 10 years but that status will be reviewed after four years.

(The Detroit News) A federal agency says it’s investigating a plane crash in Michigan that happened more than 20 years ago. The wreckage of the aircraft was only found this week. A pilot and one passenger left Drummond Island in a single-engine plane in September of 1997. They traveled about 20 miles before the plane disappeared off the radar. On Wednesday National Forest workers found the wreckage in an area near St. Ignace.

In baseball Battle Creek beat Kalamazoo Wednesday night 8-6. The Bombers and Growlers split their two game series. Both teams will play at home Thursday Kalamazoo will face Fond du Lac while Battle Creek will host Kenosha.