Journalists from the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, and Metro Times won top honors in the State Bar of Michigan 35th Annual Wade H. McCree Jr. Awards for the Advancement of Justice. The awards are presented annually to foster greater public understanding of the legal and judicial system.
The Detroit Free Press duo of M.L. Elrick and Jim Schaefer were honored for exposing the rampant pattern of abuse and deceit by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and other city officials, including lies the mayor and members of his staff told in depositions, before juries, and in public statements. The revelations led to Kilpatrick's resignation, guilty pleas to two felonies, loss of his law license, and a promise to pay $1 million in restitution to the city.
Detroit News Lansing correspondents Charlie Cain and Gary Heinlein won for their series on Michigan's prison system, an operation that costs the state $2 billion annually. The in-depth articles explored the role of law enforcement and parole policies on the prison population; the cost of corrections in the context of overall state spending; and efforts to modernize the prison system.
Metro Times reporter Sandra Svoboda was recognized for her feature on two men, DeShawn Reed and Marvin Reed, who each received 20-year prison sentences in the 2000 shooting that left an Ecorse man paralyzed even though there is overwhelming evidence that another man actually committed the crime. A Wayne County judge is currently considering whether to overturn the convictions.
Journalists earning honorable mention this year are Detroit News reporter George Hunter, Detroit Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson, and Traverse City Record-Eagle writers Brian McGillivary and Bill O'Brien and editor Mike Tyree. Hunter examined the issue of traffic enforcement in Michigan in a four-article series; Dickerson wrote two columns about questionable methods Oakland County law enforcement used to interrogate an autistic teen whose parents were accused of sexual assault; and the Traverse City team led by McGillivary provided extensive coverage of illegal contributions to Acme Township election campaigns by retail giant Meijer in 2005 and 2007.
The McCree Awards will be presented by State Bar President Ed Pappas during the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Sunday, April 19 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing.