Criminal Law

Issues: A closed courtroom and the right to a "public trial"; U.S. Const. amend. VI; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 20; People v. Vaughn; "Special arrangements" for a child victim; MCL 600.2163a(16) & (17); MCL 600.2163a(1)(d)(i) & (2)(a); Denial of request for substitution of appointed counsel; People v. Buie; People v. Ginther; Nix v. Whiteside; Ineffective assistance of counsel; People v. Matuszak; People v. Armstrong; Failure to move for a mistrial based on a police witness's comments; People v. Musser; People v. Gonzales; People v. Hackney; People v. Holly; Presumptions that jurors follow their instructions and the instructions cure most errors; People v. Horn; Whether the prosecutor violated the defendant's right to post-arrest silence; U.S. Const. amend. V; People v. Clary; People v. Bobo; Greer v. Miller; People v. Dennis

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Gratton

e-Journal Number: 57459

Judge(s): Per Curiam—O'Connell, Fitzgerald, and Markey

 

In this case resulting in convictions of CSC I and kidnapping, the court held that the defendant was not denied his right to a public trial based on his claim that the trial court "closed the courtroom" to the public during the child victim's testimony because the record showed that the courtroom was not actually closed. The record also showed that the prosecutor did not actually make any "special arrangements" to protect the child. The court also rejected defendant's claim that the trial court erred by denying his request for substitute appointed counsel on the first day of trial. The trial court made an "adequate inquiry" into the alleged breakdown of the defendant's relationship with his attorney. "[D]efense counsel's refusal to pursue an alibi defense, where defendant's own proposed alibi witnesses were unwilling to testify in support of the defense, and counsel's investigation had not revealed any factual support for an alibi defense, did not establish good cause for substitution. Counsel is ethically prohibited from presenting testimony that he knows is false." Defense counsel was not ineffective for failing to "move for a mistrial after a police detective improperly vouched for the victim's credibility." Defense counsel objected to the police officer's arguably improper testimony, and the trial court sustained the objection. However, "the statement was brief and isolated, and the prosecutor did not comment on it afterward." Also, the prosecutor did not "intentionally elicit[]" the statement, which was "unresponsive to the prosecutor's question . . . ." Further, to the extent "that the statement could be perceived as an improper comment on credibility, any prejudice was cured when the trial court sustained defendant's objection." The court also held that the prosecutor did not violate the defendant's right to post-arrest silence. The challenged testimony was not deliberately elicited, and "defendant has not demonstrated that the testimony affected his substantial rights (i.e., was outcome-determinative), considering that it was brief and the prosecutor did not call attention to it or comment on it in closing argument." Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Sentencing; Denial of motion for resentencing, for enforcement of the plea agreement, or to withdraw defendant's plea; People v. Brown; People v. Mitchell; Whether the trial court was required to inform him that his sentence for escape would run consecutive to his other sentences; Whether defendant made "an understanding plea" under MCR 6.302(B)

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Lateef

e-Journal Number: 57482

Judge(s): Per Curiam—Sawyer, Meter, and Fort Hood

 

The court reversed the trial court's order denying the defendant's motion for resentencing, for enforcement of the plea agreement, or to withdraw his plea, and remanded. His convictions arose from five armed robberies of parking lot attendants in a two-week span with a firearm or sawed-off shotgun. The trial court amended the judgment of sentence to reflect that the defendant's escape sentence was consecutive to the sentences in the other five cases. On appeal, he did not challenge his sentence in the context of sentencing enhancement. Rather, the issue was whether he should have been allowed to withdraw his plea after sentencing when he was misinformed that his three-year minimum sentence for escape would run concurrent to his other sentences. Thus, the court considered whether the trial court was required to inform him that his sentence for escape would run consecutive to his other sentences. "Whether the terms of the plea agreement were fulfilled relates to the voluntariness of defendant's plea under MCR 6.302(C)(1)." Whether the trial court was required to inform him that his sentence for escape would run consecutive to his other sentences related to whether he made "an understanding plea" under MCR 6.302(B). In Mitchell, the court held that "[W]here consecutive and/or mandatory sentencing is ordered by statute, the defendant must be informed of that fact so that he has full knowledge of the true minimum time he will serve by pleading guilty." Mitchell was consistent with the Michigan Supreme Court's decision in Brown, which held that under MCR 6.302(B) "a failure to advise a defendant of the maximum possible prison sentence before taking a guilty plea constitutes an error requiring reversal." Similarly to this case, the "failure to advise defendant of the absolute minimum sentence in light of mandatory consecutive sentences requirements was erroneous." Thus, the court remanded to the trial court with instructions to give defendant accurate information about the consequence of his plea. He will then have the opportunity to affirm the plea or withdraw it.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Claim that defendant was denied his due process rights because he was not sufficiently advised of "the consequences and dangers of self-representation"; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 13; MCL 763.1; Faretta v. California; People v. Allan; People v. Anderson; MCR 6.005(D)(1) & (2); "Plain error"; People v. Carines; Prisoner in possession of a weapon (MCL 800.283(4)); People v. Carpenter; Denial of defendant's request for substitute appointed counsel; People v. Traylor; People v. Mack; "Good cause"; People v. Strickland; Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it denied defendant's request to call mental health professionals as expert witnesses to testify as to his mental health; MRE 402; MRE 401

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Moore

e-Journal Number: 57483

Judge(s): Per Curiam—Cavanagh, Owens, and Stephens

 

The court held that defendant was not denied his due process rights when the trial court accepted his waiver of his right to counsel. Also, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied his request for substitute appointed counsel or when it denied his request to call mental health professionals as witnesses on his behalf. While incarcerated, the defendant struck a corrections officer with a lock that was in a sock. Defendant argued that he was denied his due process rights because he was not sufficiently advised of "the consequences and dangers of self-representation." The court held that in light of the record evidence, including extensive testimony from corrections officers about defendant's possession of a lock in a sock that he used to strike a corrections officer, it could not conclude that any error on the part of the trial court as to accepting his waiver of his right to counsel constituted reversible error warranting appellate relief. Even if plain error occurred as to the trial court's acceptance of his waiver of counsel, "such error did not affect the outcome of the trial and it did not result in the conviction of an actually innocent defendant or seriously affect the fairness, integrity or public reputation of the judicial proceeding independent of his innocence." Further, defendant did not show "that a 'legitimate difference of opinion' gave rise to good cause for the appointment of substitute counsel." The court also concluded that the proposed mental health professional testimony was not relevant and thus, inadmissible. Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Whether the prosecutor's statements were supported by the evidence; People v. Meissner; People v. Mann; People v. Callon; People v. Bennett; Whether the defendant's right to confrontation was violated; Ineffective assistance of counsel; People v. Heft; "Missing witness" jury instruction; People v. Sabin (On Second Remand); Waiver; People v. Kowalski; Whether photo lineups were "unduly suggestive"; People v. McDade; People v. Hornsby; People v. Gray; People v. Davis; People v. Kurylczyk; Admission of a firearm seized during a warrantless search of a car; Whether defendant had standing to contest the search; People v. Zahn; People v. Powell; "Identity" element; People v. Yost; Assault with intent to murder (AWIM)

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Rice

e-Journal Number: 57466

Judge(s): Per Curiam—O'Connell, Fitzgerald, and Markey

 

The prosecutor's statements during closing arguments did not constitute "misconduct" because they "were supported by evidence and reasonable inferences arising from the evidence." Defendant was convicted of AWIM, felonious assault, and felony-firearm. During closing arguments, the prosecutor argued that the case "involved retaliation and 'a gang situation.'" The defendant claimed that these statements "were not supported by the evidence and therefore constituted misconduct." The court disagreed, finding that the circumstances of the altercations provided sufficient support for the prosecutor's remarks. Moreover, "the trial court instructed the jurors that they should only consider the evidence when making their decision and that the evidence includes only the witness testimony and exhibits admitted into evidence." It specifically said that the attorneys' arguments were not evidence. "These instructions alleviated any prejudicial effect" of the prosecutor's remarks. The court rejected the defendant's claim that his confrontation rights were violated because the prosecutor was essentially an "unsworn witness." The court found that her "arguments were supported by the evidence or reasonable inferences from the evidence. Her statements did not indicate that she had some special knowledge that the jury did not." Because the arguments were not improper, defense counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to them. The defendant's claims that he was entitled to a "missing juror" instruction were unavailing because defense counsel expressed satisfaction with the jury instructions as presented. The court found no evidence that the in-court identifications of the defendant were "tainted by unduly suggestive photographic lineups" - physical differences in the lineup participants generally "affect the weight of identification testimony, not its admissibility." Also, the in-court identification had a sufficient "independent basis." The defendant could not contest the admission of the firearm evidence based on an illegal search of another individual's car because he lacked standing to challenge the seizure. The court also held that there was sufficient evidence to identify the defendant as the perpetrator of the crimes. Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Ineffective assistance of counsel; People v. Ginther; People v. Sabin (On Second Remand); People v. Armstrong; Failure to object to expert testimony; Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm, Inc.; People v. Murray; MRE 702; People v. Kowalski; People v. Gioglio (On Remand); People v. Whitfield; Failure to request a hearing as to the admission of the defendant's statements at the police interview; People v. Walker (On Rehearing); People v. Heft; People v. Trakhtenberg; Failure to object to the prosecutor's alleged misstatements; People v. Bahoda; Aiding and abetting; People v. Moore; Failure to make a futile motion; People v. Thomas; Effect of the trial court's correct jury instructions; People v. Grayer; Sentencing; Departure from the minimum guidelines range; People v. Hardy; People v. Babcock; Amount of the departure; People v. Smith; "Objective and verifiable" reason; People v. Abramski; Whether the sentence was "proportional"; People v. Lemons

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Williams

e-Journal Number: 57460

Judge(s): Per Curiam—Donofrio and M.J. Kelly; Concurring in part, Dissenting in part—Gleicher

 

Defense counsel in the defendant's trial on murder, assault, and armed robbery charges was not ineffective for failing to move for a Daubert hearing on the police forensic expert's (N) analysis regarding the duct tape used to bind the victims. N testified that, "based on the theory of 'fracture match' analysis, pieces of duct tape recovered from the victims originated from a roll of duct tape found" at the crime scene. The defendant argued that his counsel should have objected to N's use of the "fracture match" analysis. However, he failed to offer the court "any Michigan case where the fracture match theory has been rejected, thereby signaling that it was objectively unreasonable for counsel not to challenge" N's testimony in that area. Further, the level of N's expertise "was a consideration that went to the weight of his testimony, not its admissibility." In light of "the ostensible minimal weight of the fracture match evidence presented at trial," no reasonable likelihood existed that defendant "would not have been convicted but for defense counsel's inaction." He claimed that defense counsel should have asked for a Walker hearing because the trial court denied his motion to suppress his statements "'without [defense counsel] presenting any evidence or any argument.'" However, the trial court reviewed the entire videotape of the statements, and "it was reasonable for counsel to not request any additional hearings, unless other evidence were to be presented. Clearly, from defense counsel's actions, it can be inferred that he thought that no other evidence was relevant to the issue, and such decisions are matter of strategy that are given wide discretion." Defense counsel was not required "to object to the prosecutor's statement of the law regarding aiding and abetting felony-firearm" or "to request a curative instruction to explain the required elements of felony-firearm under an aiding and abetting theory." Any objection would have been futile, and any error was cured by the trial court's instructions. The trial court cited an "objective and verifiable" fact to support its decision to depart from the minimum sentencing guidelines range on the defendant's armed robbery, assault, and torture convictions. The defendant's claim that his sentence was not proportional because it was higher than that of another codefendant was meritless. "It is inappropriate to compare sentences between disparate defendants, when one gave assistance to the prosecution and the other did not." Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion
Back to e-Journal Mobile
News/Moves | Classifieds | Contacts | Full Version

© 2014 State Bar of Michigan