Welcome to Open Mike, the podcast where Michigan’s leading attorney Mike Morse lays down the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when it comes to your rights, current events, and so much more. Hear exclusive interviews with superstar authors, leaders, activists, experts, and entrepreneurs telling it like it is. You’ll learn what insurance companies, the government, and other lawyers don’t want you to know — so you can go for the win in law, and in life!
87- Former Tonight Show Writer Has Given 5 TEDx Talks and Shares Tips on How to Get One of Your Own!
As a former writer for The Tonight Show, humor columnist, and podcast personality, Frank King is a natural comedian. However, similar to many comedians, he has battled depression and suicidal ideation his entire life, conditions that run in his family.
Frank realized that his comedic skills provided him a casual platform through which he could reach and educate people on mental illness — when people are laughing, they’re learning. So, he drew upon his personal experiences with depression, framed them through a lens of comedy, and launched a career as a Suicide Prevention and Postvention Public Speaker and Trainer.
While high in entertainment value, Frank’s keynotes are also highly impactful. By blending comedy and education, they start conversations, create a sense of community, and give voice to the feelings and experiences of those who have been affected by mental illness and suicide.
In this episode of Open Mike, Frank reflects on his lengthy comedy career, discusses the state of the pandemic-affected speaking industry, and imparts some serious insight on mental illness, peppering in jokes all along the way.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, or text MHA to 741741.
[00:24] Frank King’s background and bio.
[01:57] Welcome to Open Mike, Frank!
[02:23] That was quite an intro I just read! You’ve done it all, and now you’re doing TEDx Talks on suicide, comedy — I don’t even know where to begin! Let’s start with The Tonight Show — who was the host during the time you were there?
[03:57] You got to work with and meet a bunch of celebrities, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Kevin James… they came to the studio with their own jokes, so would you just meet them when they were in the building, working on the show?
[04:46] You were writing on The Tonight Show, so were you ever on The Tonight Show?
[05:31] Tell us one of your favorite bits or jokes you sold, whatever comes to mind!
[06:55] Now you’re doing TED Talks… tell us how you got into that and the topics you speak on.
[09:05] As someone who has hereditary Major Depressive Disorder and experiences moments of suicidal ideation, Frank realized he could speak on suicide prevention if he got some education on it.
[11:07] So, people are hiring you to help them get TEDx Talks?
[11:21] Tell our listeners and viewers the difference between a TED Talk and a TEDx Talk.
[13:11] You’re talking about a very tough subject, you’re showing vulnerability, and adding some humor… was the first time you took the stage nerve-wracking?
[14:22] What are a few of the takeaways from your talk? So people can search you out on TED and YouTube…
[15:45] What’s the topic of your sixth TEDx Talk coming up in February?
[16:38] Frank’s next talk is about depressive realism, a suggested attribute of people with depression that allows them to see the world as it is, unaffected by “rose-colored glasses.” The idea is to change the frame through which we view depression — not every aspect of it is negative.
[17:56] You don’t get paid for TEDx Talks, correct?
[18:56] What are you striving for? I imagine the goal is number of viewers — what’s a successful talk vs. a not-so-successful talk?
[21:00] We’ve had five people on the show who have been wrongfully convicted, and some of them may want to do a TEDx Talk one day. They may not necessarily be able to afford to hire a coach but would benefit from some advice. What should they do in order to book a TEDx Talk some day?
[25:42] How does one translate a lifelong experience, a story that takes hours and hours to share, into a fifteen-minute talk?
[27:09] If you go to Frank’s coaching website, you can check out a PDF called 6 Things That Will KILL Your Chances Of Landing A TEDx Talk for more guidance
86 - Jeffrey Deskovic: From Murder, Rape Conviction to Exoneree to Lawyer Who Frees the Innocent
At age seventeen, Jeffrey Deskovic was wrongfully sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of a classmate. Authorities knew his DNA did not match that of the actual perpetrator – who would later murder another young woman and mother of two. Nevertheless, they colluded to convict and keep Jeff behind bars for the next 16 years. After his exoneration and release, Jeff successfully sued the responsible parties, and used a substantial portion of the compensation to start The Deskovic Foundation — a non-profit that overturns wrongful convictions and challenges the policies that enable them. Check out this riveting episode of Open Mike to learn more about Jeff’s post-prison life as a lawyer, the Amazon Prime documentary about his case, and how this traumatizing ordeal helped him find his true vocation.
[00:13] Jeffrey’s bio and background
[01:10] Jeff, you were a sixteen-year-old high school student and you were arrested for rape and murder — can you tell us what that was like?
[01:36] What kind of kid were you?
[02:14] Why do you think the police targeted you?
[02:32] Jeff didn’t necessarily fit in at school, so some students referred police to him. When Jeff was emotional over the untimely murder of a classmate, the police misinterpreted that as a sign of guilt. A psychological profile conducted by the NYPD also draw similarities between Jeff’s personal attributes and that of a potential perpetrator.
[03:49] The way you describe those three things… that could have been anybody! There’s no way you could have committed this crime, but I’m reading about a confession you gave while in custody. Tell us about that.
[06:42] After a polygraph and interrogating a terrified Jeff for 6.5-7 hours, police eventually broke Jeff into making a false confession.
[06:51] Did they say you failed the polygraph?
[07:55] After the fact, did you get readouts of this test that showed you came up clean?
[08:18] So you were arrested after you gave this nonsensical confession?
[08:38] You’re an intelligent guy, you went to law school, you’re now helping others in similar positions. Looking back on that confession, can you shed some light on how easy it is to be coerced into giving a false conviction?
[09:55] Was this all on video tape?
[10:15] Are there now laws in most states that confessions must be videotaped?
[10:32] For the sake of time, you had a public defender, were tried by a jury, and convicted… how bad was your public defender?
[12:40] There was some misconduct by a medical examiner, can you give us some details on that?
[13:07] Six months after an initial examination, the medical examiner claimed to have remembered he found evidence the deceased victim was “promiscuous” in an attempt to help the prosecutor explain why DNA found at the scene didn’t match Jeff’s.
[13:40] Was there prosecutorial misconduct other than that?
[14:24] You had a pretty famous prosecutor, yes?
[15:37] How long was the jury trial? You’re incarcerated the whole time?
[16:04] Did you recant the confession right away and tell your family and lawyer?
[16:59] So, you’re tried as an adult, convicted at sixteen-years-old, and sentenced for seventeen to twenty-five years?
[17:28] You’re seventeen, you go to prison, are in solitary confinement for twenty-eight days at one point… how horrible was that? Was that the worst part of the experience?
[18:32] Being in prison at seventeen years old… and with staff passing around pamphlets to let everyone know you’re this horrible sex offender… that had to have been the scariest thing in the whole world!
[19:21] How did you get Barry Scheck and The Innocence Project to take a look at your case?
[20:06] Tell us about the DNA. It’s a little bit confusing… Your DNA wasn’t on the scene… what was the new evidence that was presented?
85 - From G.E.D to Law Degree. How a Former State Representative Turned His Troubled Life Around
Brian Banks is a highly sought-after community educator, author, law school graduate, and former Michigan State Representative. But despite his tremendous career, he has experienced an equally tremendous degree of hardship along the way, from a dysfunctional childhood, to an adolescence marred by fraud charges, to corrupt political forces ousting him from office. In this episode of Open Mike, Banks discusses his personal struggles in depth and reflects on ways they’ve endowed him with the talent and tenacity to continuously create his own success.
[00:35] Brian Banks's intro and bio taken from his book, It Had 2 Happen.
[01:35] Hi, Brian, thank you for being on Open Mike!
[2:28] Our governor instituted some new reform in the no-fault arena, for no reason. What do you think about the no-fault changes that are currently going into effect?
[04:50] Why do you think she gave a gift to the Republicans and insurance companies without thinking about her Michigan constituents? Do you have any insight on that?
[08:13] You have a fascinating story and you’re very open about your story… You’re very open about the criminal activity you unfortunately got involved in, and you took responsibility. So, let’s dig into this — you grew up in Detroit, you went to Denby High School, and you dropped out your senior year. Give us a brief version about how that happened.
[10:15] Due to a troubled home life, Brian started skipping class for weeks on end, after transferring to a different school. He eventually got a job, started hanging out with the wrong people, and started committing credit card and check fraud.
[12:43] Eventually, Brian was charged on seventeen counts of fraud.
[14:31] Eventually, he was sentenced to a year probation with the first six months on a tether, in lieu of jail… the tether was impeding his ability to land a job, so Brian successfully wrote, filed, and argued a motion to remove the tether. The next day, he obtained his GED and enrolled in Wayne State University, with aspirations of becoming an attorney.
[18:03] What year did you get into law school?
[18:28] Did you take the bar exam?
[18:44] For those who don’t know, Michigan lawyers have to go through a process called “character and fitness” where they’re vetted to ensure they’re up to state standards to practice law. Because of Brian’s history, they would not let him be a licensed attorney in the state.
[20:31] When someone experiences poverty, it’s a domino effect. Pair that with a felony conviction, it’s incredibly hard to obtain gainful employment.
[21:36] When are you giving it another shot?
[22:17] You go through the process, they pass you, and then you have to take the bar exam again?
[22:59] Let’s talk about your time in the Michigan state legislature… can you tell us why you decided to run for Congress, here in Michigan?
[26:09] During Brian’s first term, he had 100% attendance and a 100% voting record. Because of his experiences, he was compelled to make sure his constituents’ voices were represented at the capitol. The first community event he held was for ex-offenders, to help get their records expunged.
[27:03] In 2014, Brian was re-elected with more votes than in his 2012 run. He was also elected by his colleagues as chairman of the Detroit Black Caucus.
[27:13] Let’s talk about that — a very powerful Democratic caucus. What was that like, walking in as chairman after all that you went through?
[28:36] As chairman, Brian was essentially the most powerful African American in the state legislature. He started making enemies because he started taking some unpopular positions.
[29:03] What do you think were your most unpopular decisions in 2015, leading up to your 2016 experience?
[31:38] You’re thwarting a powerful Detroit mayor and have an upcoming election for your third term… as t
84 - At 12 He Dealt Drugs, At 16 He Was Charged With Murder. Now He Advocates for Prison Reform
At the age of 16, Mario Bueno was convicted of second-degree murder and spent the next nineteen years in prison — three of which were in solitary confinement. Today, he is a reform expert, author, scholar, and co-founder of LUCK, Inc., an organization dedicated toward mentoring vulnerable populations within the Detroit Metropolitan Area. On this episode of Open Mike, Mario takes the reins and describes the effects prison had on his formative years, the spiritual awakenings he experienced along the way, and community outreach programs he’s currently engaged with.
[00:13] Mario Bueno’s background and bio
[00:59] Mario, welcome to the show!
[01:28] At age sixteen you were convicted of second-degree murder of a twenty-seven-year-old drug dealer… did you please guilty to that murder?
[02:49] You maintained your innocence, but you were found guilty in the second trial?
[04:02] It sounds like, now, you admit that you were involved in that murder?
[05:35] One of the problems with the criminal justice system is that it pits victim and perpetrator against each other and can prevent the offender from truly owning up to what they’ve done.
[06:07] We have an 87% recidivism rate within nine years of someone’s release from prison.
[07:46] To be able to truly convey remorse to a victim or victim’s family is restorative justice. Mario’s nonprofit, Luck, Inc. focuses on this type of justice through peer mentoring of at-risk populations.
[08:45] What was prison like once you admitted responsibility and reached out to the victim’s family? Were you trying to help other prisoners come to their truth as well? What was that process like?
[12:27] The year you spent in Oakland County solitary as a sixteen-year-old… was that the worst year out of the twenty you spent in prison?
[13:09] We need to reexamine the practice of solitary confinement — it’s inhumane.
[15:11] It took a few years for your personal and spiritual transformation to really sink in and manifest, it sounds like?
[16:08] Mario wrote a thesis titled, Incarceration of Adolescents in Adult Prisons: Adults’ Recollections of their Experiences and its Impact on Adult Adjustment in which he measured juveniles who were housed with adults and how they cope with the outside world once they’re released. One of the findings was that in order for juveniles to survive an adult prison, they have to become “conscious sociopaths” as a coping mechanism.
[20:20] There’s so much to unpack. You’re a McNair Scholar, creator of a nonprofit with twelve employees, author of two books — Reformed: Memoir of a Juvenile Killer and Never Going Back, which you wrote during the pandemic lockdown…
[21:58] There are 2,400 parolees in Detroit at any given time and 75% of them are unemployed. There are 8,400 people on felony probationers at any given time and 45% are unemployed. Mario had to create his own employment opportunities because, even with his prolific output, he’s unable to apply for and get a traditional job.
[26:29] You said you were kicked out of one of your prisons… why was that? It was making money stuff, not violent stuff?
[30:30] Mario details the poker and tobacco schemes he ran in prison and how a heart-to-heart with a warden influenced him to change his perspective and his behavior while he fulfilled the rest of his sentence.
[34:40] If you shift your belief system, you can shift cycles you find yourself stuck in.
[34:50] What did you change after coming to that realization?
[36:38] What are you doing right now, through your organizations, to help Detroiters and Michiganders?
[37:11] Mario is a community engagement coordinator for the Youth Justice Fund, servicing juvenile lifers who are returning back to the community. Luck, Inc. is also helping parolees find housing after extended sentences and helping guide them alo
83 - How the Bail Process Unfairly Puts the Poor in Prison
John S. Cooper is the executive director of Safe & Just Michigan, an organization that advances policies that end Michigan’s over-use of incarceration and promote community safety and healing. As currently constituted, Michigan’s criminal justice system prioritizes punishment, over public safety. Most policies emphasize being tough on crime instead of helping people get back on their feet. Check out the latest installment of Open Mike for John’s insights on how we can better advocate for the 2 million Michiganders with criminal records, ways to influence legislators to pass holistic, crime reduction bills, as well as exciting, statewide developments in criminal record expungement.
[00:21] John Cooper’s background and bio as Executive Director of Safe & Just Michigan
[00:53] Welcome to Open Mike, John!
[01:12] Where are you calling in from, so our viewers and listeners are in the know?
[01:47 Before we jump in, what does Safe & Just Michigan do? What are you all about?
[02:55] Is Michigan too tough on criminals?
[03:16] As currently constituted, Michigan’s criminal justice system is about punishment, not public safety — policies emphasize being tough on crime instead of helping people get back on their feet. We hold their criminal records over their heads for the rest of their lives.
[04:48] If there were no prison, what would deter people from committing crimes?
[05:17] Some crimes originate as lack of opportunity. If you throw a poor person into jail for committing a poverty-related crime, nothing is going to change unless you address those underlying problems. When they’re released, it will be worse because they will have fewer job opportunities due to their criminal record. It’s a self-replicating cycle.
[06:16] What does Safe & Just Michigan advocate for instead of prison time?
[06:50] Half of all criminal offenses in Michigan are traffic offenses. The majority of those are low-level misdemeanors, such as driving with a suspended license. 5% of Michigan drivers get their licenses suspended annually. 95% of those suspensions are because the person is too poor to pay a fine. The issue is poverty, not public safety.
[08:09] What is your thought process on drunk driving that doesn’t injure anyone or driving without a valid license? Is jail a deterrent for those types of offenses?
[11:08] Are you working on influencing legislature to change the laws surrounding posting bail?
[11:27] At any given time, there are about 8,000 people in Michigan who are in jail. 50% of them are held pre-trial because they can’t post bail. Most bail postings are less than $5,000 and correlate to low-level misdemeanors. Yet, we have a bail system that operates under the assumption that most people should pay pre-trial, which is inconsistent with our Constitution as shown by the SCOTUS case United States v. Salerno.
[12:53] The Bail Project is a national nonprofit organization that pays bail for people in need, reuniting families and restoring the presumption of innocence. The Bail Project currently operates in 9 cities around the country, including Detroit.
[15:38] 90% of people who post bail show up to their court dates — if you spend that money, you’re going to want it back. People whose bails are paid for courtesy of The Bail Project still show up for court when it’s not their money to recoup.
[16:20] Is it true that Michiganders have longer sentences than other states?
[17:52] 20% of people charged in Michigan are charged habitually. The length of prison sentences has increased dramatically over the last 25 years, partially because lower-level offenders, especially drug offenders, are not being sent to prison as often.
[19:32] Michigan had 37,000 – 38,000 people in the prison system prior to the pandemic. It’s currently down several thousand, although due more to lower of admissions tha
82 - These Top Legal Non-Profits Are Freeing the Innocent & Reforming the Criminal Justice System
Tricia Rojo Bushnell is the Executive Director of the Midwest Innocence Project, which works to free innocent people convicted of crimes they did not commit. Megan Crane is Co-Director at MacArthur Justice Center, an organization that fights cases to right individual wrongs, and confront racial and social inequality. Together, they have partnered to demand effective and sustainable reform of the criminal justice system. In this episode, they discuss encouraging, new trends in the judicial system, recent wins their organizations have landed, and what the future holds for the American mass incarceration crisis.
[01:03] Welcome to Tricia Rojo Bushnell and Megan Crane!
[01:18] Tricia, let’s start with you! Give us a little bit about your background and The Midwest Innocence Project, the clinic you’re currently working on.
[02:20] Tricia, you are an attorney as well, correct?
[02:59] Megan Crane, what are you up to with the MacArthur Justice Center?
[04:39] The litigation you’re discussing… how does it differ from a normal 6500 Motion that has to be filed for relief from judgment?
[05:54] If there is clear misconduct in their case, many exonerees will file a civil suit against the state, county, police department, etc. if it’s clear there was misconduct throughout the process.
[06:47] Tricia, tell us about this partnership between The Midwest Innocence Project and MacArthur Justice Center and how it helps get people who are wrongfully convicted out of prison.
[08:34] You’re covering five states and the majority is coming out of a single city… what are the trends you’re seeing that are coming out of St. Louis?
[09:12] There have been historic problems with law enforcement in St. Louis… it hasn’t had the same type of reckoning that cities like Chicago and Detroit have had with their police departments and prosecutors’ offices.
[12:44] Is your focus more on prevention of wrongful conviction, or getting the wrongfully convicted released from prison, or both?
[15:54] Michigan does have some great innocence organizations, but who’s advocating the legislature for change?
[16:55] I love that you’re finding these problems in cases and bringing it to legislators’ attentions, urging them to change laws. And it sounds like you’re getting some amazing traction with the legislature and governor in Kansas who are creating and passing these protective laws. Are you finding they’re receptive to your requests?
[18:47] Have you been successful in keeping the corruption of jail house informants to a minimum?
[20:16] Have you had all of those requests passed in any one state?
[20:54] Megan, what are some initiatives you and MacArthur are working on to fix these problems?
[21:39] The Missouri public defender system is run by people trying to do the right thing who haven’t received the bare minimum amount of money from the state to adequately represent clients.
[23:40] People become public defenders because they have a passion for it, but they’re fighting with their hands tied behind their back.
[24:56] The Bail Project is doing incredible work across the nation as a critical tool to prevent needless incarceration oftentimes caused by racial and economic disparities.
[25:31] The lawsuit that you’re talking about — are you gaining traction on that currently?
[26:40] Oftentimes people facing charges are poor, uneducated, and are handed an attorney whose case history is hard to verify… there’s no Google star-rating. In all the cases we’ve looked at, an attorney has been disbarred or reprimanded after wrongful convictions where people have served years behind bars. There’s no system of accountability. What can these people do to protect themselves?
[28:23] Tricia is one of the 2% of American lawyers who are Latina. When you create a public defender’s association or community
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Cool podcast so far. Wide range of topics from local news to health and wellness. Fun and entertaining. Highly recommend.
This is my attorneys podcast. Highly recommend. Covering some great issues.
A great informative podcast!!