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Can sneakers be a “weapon?” MI Supreme Court asked to decide

The Michigan Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether sneakers and flip-flops can be considered dangerous weapons for the purpose of charging a teenager with assault.

Oral arguments in the case took place Wednesday.

There are multiple issues in this case where a group of bullying students kicked and punched their target while the student whose case wound up before the Supreme Court videotaped the attack.

The video was later shared with others. It showed one of the attackers wore sneakers and the other wore flip-flops during the assault.

Livingston County assistant prosecutor William Worden said the trial court can hold a hearing on whether the charge is warranted. But he said the injuries – including a concussion – speak for themselves.

“What is a dangerous weapon if it’s used in a dangerous manner. A butter knife can be a dangerous weapon,” he said. “There’s even a case that says a dog can be a dangerous weapon.”

What matters, he said, is what happened to the victim.

“The best evidence of whether it’s a dangerous weapon is the injury,” said Worden. “In this case, the victim had a concussion. So that’s good evidence that the shoe was used as a dangerous weapon.”

The public defender for the teen said that stretched the boundaries of the law.

Livingston County assistant public defender Kristina Dunne said a shoe does not fit in the same category as guns, knives, clubs and other devices meant specifically to hurt people.

“I believe that is what the Legislature intended and that’s why they put that language in there – ‘carried and used as a dangerous weapon’ -- and not shoes you wear every day to school,” she told the court.

The teenager in this case was charged as an adult. The other students who were videotaped engaging in the physical assault pleaded guilty and were sentenced under a Michigan law that allows youth offenders to have their records cleared after serving probation.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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