Author Event | Jill Grunenwald: Reading Behind Bars

Author Jill Grunenwald reads from her new book Reading Behind Bars: a True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian. After graduating with a Masters in Library and Information Science, Jill returned to Northeast Ohio and took a job as a librarian at an all-male, minimum security prison on the far west side of Cleveland. Reading Behind Bars is the true account of her experiences there.

Author | Washington Post Associate Editor Steve Luxenberg: Separate: The Story of Plessy V. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation

Plessy v. Ferguson is synonymous with Jim Crow laws and the unjust legal doctrine of “separate but equal.” But few Americans know more than the name of the case and have just a superficial understanding of its origins and outcome. Joins us as award-winning author Steve Luxenberg discusses one of the most compelling and dramatic stories of the 19th century and his award-winning new book Separate: The Story of Plessy V. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation.

Who Holds the Power: Policing in Ann Arbor

Who holds the power in Ann Arbor when it comes to law enforcement? What does that mean for those who are not in power? How has this all changed over time? A panel of local experts discuss the role of police around the city and on the University of Michigan campus.

This was the second of a series series of discussions addressing the question: Who holds the power in Ann Arbor? The series, a partnership with the Michigan Daily, was made possible by the Poynter College Media Project. 

Proving Innocence: Freeing the Wrongfully Convicted

The success of podcasts like Serial and documentaries like Making of a Murderer has drawn attention to the issue of wrongful convictions, and to flaws in the criminal justice system that allow these problems to persist.

In 2007, Bill Proctor, a journalist and reporter with WXYZ-TV Channel 7 in Detroit, founded Proving Innocence to investigate wrongful conviction claims and educate the public about the need for reforms. Bill talks about the cases that inspired him to take action, and brings along guest speakers who have experienced wrongful conviction and exoneration to share their perspectives.

Proctor was an award-winning journalist, reporter, producer, and anchorperson whose career of nearly forty years spanned electronic media, radio, television, and documentaries. He concluded his career as senior staff reporter for WXYZ-TV in Southfield, MI, retiring in May 2013.

#3 Ann Arbor Stories: Martian Madness

On the night of March 20,1966, Frank Mannor’s six dogs started barking like they’d never done before. He went outside to shut them up and that’s when he saw what he saw. Something flying through the night sky. At first it looked like a shooting star, then it slowed. It changed color. And it landed in the woods a few hundred yards from his Dexter farmhouse.

Music by Diego & The Dissidents and The Dead Bodies.

#2 Ann Arbor Stories: Death of a Policeman

Crime was never a big problem in Ann Arbor in 1935. There were occasional break-ins, robberies, stolen vehicles, assaults, a riot or protest or two, but Prohibition was over and the gangsters and bootleggers had moved on. An Ann Arbor police officer had never been killed in the line of duty, nor even died from a horse, car, or motorcycle accident while on duty. Not even a random heart attack. Until March 21, 1935.

Music by Ben Benjamin, and Aeroc made possible by Gholicense. Additional music by Chris Bathgate.

Redistricting in Michigan: Should Politicians Choose Their Voters?

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area (LWV-AAA) hosted this educational Town Hall on redistricting. This talk explores how legislative lines are drawn in Michigan, who draws them, and why it is a critically important question for those concerned about fair representation. The speaker is Susan Smith, Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan.

In Michigan, the district lines are drawn by elected officials in the legislature, effectively allowing politicians to choose their voters and giving the political party in power at the time a tremendous advantage. Topics discussed include: what are the ramifications of partisan-drawn districts that favor one party over another, is there a better and fairer way to do this, and what are the alternatives?

Award-Winning Mystery Author Allison Leotta Discusses Her Detroit-Based New Novel "A Good Killing"

Allison Leotta is a former federal sex-crimes prosecutor who creates compelling and thrilling fiction based on her real-life experience. She served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington DC, where she handled sex crimes, domestic violence, and crimes against children.

In her latest novel, A Good Killing, Leotta turns her eye toward small-town secrets hidden in a big football program. Drawing inspiration from the Steubenville rape case and the Jerry Sandusky trial, this novel features a strong female protagonist, a gripping premise, and heart-wrenching suspense that will keep you hooked until the last page.

A graduate of Michigan State University and Harvard Law School, Allison Leotta has provided legal commentary for outlets such as CNN, PBS, Reuters TV, and MSNBC. Other novels include Law of Attraction, Discretion, and Speak of the Devil. Allison also runs an award-winning blog called The Prime-Time Crime Review, where she reality-checks TV crime dramas.

This event was cosponsored by Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore.

The May 5 State Ballot Proposal: What Is It? What Would It Do?

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area (LWV-AAA) hosted this discussion of the May 5 Ballot Proposal, “A proposal to amend the State Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6% to 7% to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other transportation purposes by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.”

Susan Smith, President, League of Women Voters of Michigan, lead the discussion, which aimed to provide information on the proposal to amend the Michigan Constitution and on new laws that would be triggered by the amendment's approval. The presentation includes information on how state revenue would be increased and how it would be spent, and discussion of pros and cons of passing the legislation.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization and this event's cosponsor, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Nerd Nite #19 - Coroner’s Court

Coroner’s Court
The Coroner’s Court is a now rarely used legal procedure used to investigate a death under mysteries circumstances. The County Coroner, or medical examiner, would impanel a jury, usually six men, who would view the remains, hear witnesses and study the evidence. This was not a trial, as no one was then accused of a crime. The jury was to determine, first, if the person was dead, and if dead, was the cause of death due to, natural causes, accident, suicide or murder. When the jury determined the cause of death was due to accident or murder, then, if possible, name the one most likely to have caused the death. Sometimes the jury returned a verdict of: “due to person or persons unknown to us at this time.”

About James Mann:
James Mann is a local historian and the author of eight published books on local history. His books include Wicked Washtenaw County, Wicked Ann Arbor and Wicked Ypsilanti. He hosts Lantern Tours of Highland Cemetery, in Ypsilanti, the last two weeks of October.