Criminal Law

Issues: Due process; Exculpatory evidence; Brady v. Maryland; People v. Chenault; People v. Lester; Suppression of evidence; People v. Davis; Discovery; People v. Walton; Undiscovered evidence; People v. Harris; Expert testimony; MRE 702; Gilbert v. DaimlerChrysler Co.; People v. Jones; Right to counsel; United States v. Cronic; People v. Williams; Maine v. Moulton; U.S. v. Ross (6th Cir.); Ineffective assistance of counsel; U.S. Const., amend. VI; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 20; People v. Cline; People v. Jordan; People v. LeBlanc; Trial strategy; People v. Matuszak; Sentencing; Scoring of OV 3; MCL 777.33; People v. Cathey; People v. McDonald; Sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE)

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Clark

e-Journal Number: 57412

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

 

The court held that the defendant was not denied his right to due process or counsel, his counsel was not ineffective, and the trial court did not err in admitting expert testimony. However, it did err in scoring OV 3 at 10 points. He was convicted of CSC III and domestic violence. He was sentenced to serve concurrent terms of 10 to 15 years for the CSC III conviction, and 93 days for the domestic violence conviction. On appeal, the court rejected his argument that his right to due process was violated when images of the victim's exterior genitalia and anus taken during a colposcope examination by a SANE were not produced. "Given the nurse's testimony that she did not observe any external injury to the anus or genitalia, it appears the images were cumulative in that they would have only confirmed that the nurse did not see any injuries during her examination" of the victim. "Thus, admission of the images would not have put the whole case in such a different light as to undermine confidence in the verdict." It next rejected his argument that the testimony of the SANE who examined the victim was improper expert testimony as it was not subjected to scrutiny required of scientific data. "In light of the nurse's experience and training as a certified SANE, the trial court allowing her to give an expert opinion was not an abuse of discretion." The court also rejected his claim that he was deprived of his right to counsel during his competency hearing. "The trial court accepted defendant's representation that he considered the competency report with his attorneys and accepted the stipulation that defendant was competent. It is evident that defendant was not deprived of his right of counsel during this critical stage of the proceedings." It further rejected his argument that his trial counsel was deficient in not requesting that the jury hear a recording of a police officer interviewing defendant that would allegedly have contradicted the officer's trial testimony, and in failing to exclude two possibly biased jurors from the jury. "Unless defendant's trial counsel knew that the recording unequivocally refuted the officer's testimony, which it does not, defendant has not demonstrated that failure to request that the recording be played was not sound trial strategy." Trial counsel's performance was not deficient for failing to excuse two jurors because counsel could have reasonably determined that both jurors would be able to approach trial with an open mind. The court agreed with defendant that the trial court erred in scoring OV 3 at 10 points, holding there was insufficient evidence to support the finding that the victim "was physically injured by the assault and required medical treatment." It ordered correction of his PSIR to reflect an OV 3 scoring of 0. However, the correction did "not warrant a resentencing when defendant's guidelines remain the same." Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Sentencing; Departure from guidelines; MCL 769.34(3); Whether the factors considered by the trial court for departure were "substantial and compelling" and "objective and verifiable"; People v. Babcock; People v. Abramski; Embezzlement (MCL 750.174)

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Enos

e-Journal Number: 57401

Judge(s): Per Curiam - Borrello, Servitto, and Beckering

 

The court held that the trial court erred in departing from the guidelines in sentencing the defendant because it did not limit its reliance to only the legitimate reasons articulated. Thus, because it could not discern "whether the court would depart to the same extent if it relied on only the legitimate reason(s) articulated," it remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing and rearticulation of the reasons supporting departure. She pleaded guilty to two counts of embezzlement of $1,000 to $20,000, and one count of forgery, for taking money entrusted to her by local youth sports teams. She was sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment for 3 to 5 years, an upward departure from the sentencing guidelines. On appeal, the court first found that the trial court's observations about the future impact of defendant's actions on the children of the community and on the affected organizations were "neither objective nor verifiable" and, thus, not "substantial and compelling such that they would support a departure" from the guidelines. "Likewise, the dismissal of the other charges, and the number of times and the period of time over which defendant embezzled funds are either taken into account by the sentencing guidelines or are unexceptional characteristics of the offense of embezzlement." However, "the fact that the organizations from which defendant embezzled were nonprofit, be it actually or effectively, that primarily served the needs of children, does provide a substantial and compelling reason to depart from the sentencing guidelines." It also found that, "because the trial court did not clearly indicate that it would depart to the same extent even if some of its reasons for departure were found to be invalid," Babcock required remand for resentencing and rearticulation.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Motion to suppress a minister's proffered testimony; Applicability of the clergy-penitent privilege; People v. Bragg; MCL 767.5a(2); MCL 600.2156; Scope of religious functions covered by the privilege; Cox v. Miller (6th Cir.); Scott v. Hammock (UT); Whether the communication was conveyed to the cleric in his capacity as a spiritual leader; Whether the communication was considered privileged by the rules of practice of the cleric's denomination; Questions of intent as factual determinations for the trier of fact; People v. Burns; Deference to the trial court when credibility is at issue and facts are in dispute; People v. Roberts

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Richard

e-Journal Number: 57484

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Owens, Borrello, and Gleicher

 

The court found no clear error in the trial court's conclusions that the communication between defendant and the minister (H) did not serve a religious function, was not made to H in his professional capacity, and was not considered confidential by H's Baptist faith. Thus, it held that the trial court did not err in finding H's testimony admissible against defendant, and in denying his motion to suppress. Defendant was charged with CSC I, second offense. Claiming a clergy-penitent privilege, he moved to suppress H's testimony about statements he made to H in which "defendant admitted to sexually assaulting the victim." Following the trial court's denial of his motion, the court granted defendant's interlocutory application for leave to appeal. The court recently addressed the scope of the clergy-penitent privilege as it applies to pastoral testimony of congregants' statements in Bragg, where it held that MCL 767.5a(2) creates an evidentiary privilege precluding the incriminatory use of "any communication made by a congregant to his clergy when that communication was 'necessary to enable' the cleric 'to serve as such' cleric." A communication is "necessary to enable a cleric to serve as a cleric" when it - (1) "serves a religious function, such as providing guidance, counseling, forgiveness, or discipline," (2) "is conveyed to the cleric in his or her capacity as a spiritual leader," and (3) is considered privileged under the practices of the denomination. As to the first factor, the court concluded that "the trial court placed too much emphasis on the lack of confession in the Baptist Church," and did not appear to "understand that confidential counseling can serve a religious function" according to H's testimony. However, the court could not be certain of defendant's intent in approaching H, and it found no clear error in the trial court's determination that he was "seeking assistance in locating his victim's family." Further, the conversation was short (it only lasted 2 minutes) and "even if defendant intended to seek out spiritual counseling or guidance, the meeting did not reach that point." H and defendant "did not engage in religious discussion and they did not pray until later in the day, after the police were contacted." As to the second factor, H did not state that he acted as a pastor during his communication with defendant. Neither H nor defendant "used religious language and defendant did not explicitly ask for forgiveness or guidance." As to the third factor, H testified that, "although some communications are considered confidential under Baptist doctrine, the circumstances of his meeting with defendant did not trigger that confidentiality." The trial court was required to accept H's position as to Baptist doctrine.

 

Full Text Opinion
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