Daily Briefs

Man sentenced to life for shooting deaths outside Walmart store

CORUNNA, Mich. (AP) — One of two men convicted of murder in the January shooting deaths of two men outside a mid-Michigan Walmart store has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Otis Smith Jr. of Grand Rapids earlier was convicted in Shiawassee County Circuit Court in the deaths of 31-year-old Joseph Michael Carson and 39-year-old Anthony Lee Hammond, both of Flint. Their bodies were found in a car at the store's parking lot in Caledonia Township.

Smith learned his punishment last week. Co-defendant Anthony Holloway is awaiting sentencing Friday.

Authorities say Smith was the triggerman and the slayings stemmed from a deal to sell marijuana that was arranged online via Craigslist.

Defense lawyers argued that the shootings were in self-defense. A woman who served as a getaway driver already was sentenced.


Part-time Legislature group seeks signatures

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Organizers of a ballot drive to make the Michigan Legislature a part-time body and slash lawmakers' pay said they have mailed hundreds of thousands of petitions to voters in the hopes they will gather signatures from their friends and family.

The Clean Michigan committee announced the plan Monday, in conjunction with radio and online ads urging people to sign the petition. The group needs roughly 315,000 valid signatures within a 180-day window to get the constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot.

Spokesman John Yob said the committee is two-thirds of the way toward its goal and is on track to submit the petitions to the state by the mid-January deadline. The ballot committee has also been using paid circulators and volunteers to collect signatures since July.

The constitutional amendment would require lawmakers to adjourn their regular session by April 15 of each year. Their pay would be cut from nearly $72,000 to roughly $32,000, or half the average teacher's salary. Although the measure would tie legislator pay to teacher pay, it would have no effect on how much teachers earn or benefit them in any discernable way. The proposal also would lock into the constitution an existing ban against lawmakers getting a pension or health care in retirement.

As of October, the group had raised $887,000, spent $733,000 and had $154,000 on hand. Nearly all of its money came from three sources: the Fund for Michigan Jobs, a 501(c)(4) "social welfare" nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors ($666,000); Capital Sales Co., a Hazel Park-based distributor of snacks, tobacco and other items to convenience stores and other businesses; and Kalamazoo-area businessman William Parfet.

The group also received $301,000 of in-kind media and advertising support from a Calley-connected independent political action committee.

The proposal is opposed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which says it would dramatically weaken the legislative branch in favor of the executive branch and further empower non-elected state bureaucrats.

Michigan, where legislators can serve no more than 14 years, is among 10 states with a full-time legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.