Criminal Law

Issues: Sentencing; Miller v. Alabama; Claim that the defendant's sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was unconstitutional; U.S. Const. amend. VIII; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 16; People v. Carp; Applicability of MCL 769.25

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Leak

e-Journal Number: 58239

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Meter, K.F. Kelly, and M.J. Kelly

 

Holding that MCL 769.25 applied and that the defendant was entitled to be resentenced in accordance with the statute, the court remanded for further proceedings as to sentencing. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder, armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. The trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder conviction, and 20 to 60 years for the armed robbery and the conspiracy to commit armed robbery convictions. He appealed, and the court affirmed his convictions but remanded for resentencing in accordance with Miller. "At resentencing, the trial court referenced, and made findings on, several factors articulated in Miller for consideration when sentencing a juvenile offender convicted of first-degree murder. The trial court again sentenced defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for his first-degree murder conviction." He argued on appeal that this sentence was unconstitutional. In Carp, the Michigan Supreme Court recently held that "neither the Eighth Amendment nor Const 1963, art 1, § 16 categorically bars the imposition of a sentence of life without parole on a juvenile first degree-murder offender . . . ." MCL 769.25 "applies to a defendant who was less than 18 years of age at the time of commission of certain offenses, including first-degree murder." If a defendant was convicted before the effective date of the statute, the statute still applies "if either of the following circumstances exist: (1) '[t]he case is still pending in the trial court or the applicable time periods for direct appellate review by state or federal courts have not expired' or (2) '[o]n June 25, 2012 the case was pending in the trial court or the applicable time periods for direct appellate review by state or federal courts had not expired.'" Defendant was less than 18 years of age when he committed first-degree murder. Further, although he was convicted of this crime before the effective date of the statute, his case is still pending on direct review and on 6/25/12, "the applicable time periods for direct appellate review by state or federal courts had not expired." While the trial court already made specific findings at the resentencing hearing on the factors articulated in Miller, as required by MCL 769.25(6), "the statute also sets forth additional requirements, and defendant is entitled to have the trial court consider this statute during further sentencing proceedings."

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Request for a jury instruction on involuntary manslaughter; People v. McMullan; People v. Holtschlag; People v. Gillis; "Gross negligence" for purposes of involuntary manslaughter; People v. Albers; People v. Lanzo Constr. Co.; Waiver of claim that the trial court should have sua sponte instructed the jury on "accident"; People v. Carter; Ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to request a jury instruction on accident; People v. Carbin; People v. Fonville; Self-defense; People v. Wilson; Inconsistent defenses; People v. Cross; Matters of trial strategy; People v. Gonzalez; People v. Dunigan; Prejudice; Assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder (AWIGBH); Carrying a concealed weapon (CCW)

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Robinson

e-Journal Number: 58236

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Murphy and Riordan; Dissent – Shapiro

 

Concluding that no rational view of the evidence supported a finding of gross negligence, the court held that the trial court did not err in denying the defendant's request for an involuntary manslaughter jury instruction. Further, defense counsel was not ineffective for failing to request a jury instruction on accident given that the "evidence clearly established that defendant acted with malice." Thus, the court affirmed defendant's convictions of second-degree murder, AWIGBH, three counts of felony-firearm, felon in possession of a firearm, and CCW. Defendant knew that his friend was friends with the victims (B and T) "and that a gun was not necessary for the meeting. Even with the knowledge that the meeting was meant to be peaceful, defendant brought a gun with him to the parking lot. He brought the gun out during the meeting, flashing it" at B. Further, the evidence showed that the barrel of the gun was pushed up against T's body when the gun was fired. "Therefore, '[b]ased on this chain of events,' a rational view of the evidence shows that 'defendant's actions constitute a malicious series of intentional acts[.]'" He testified that "he did not pull out his gun until one of the individuals at the scene walked away and stated that he was going to retrieve his gun, although there was other evidence indicating that defendant brandished his own gun earlier." There was evidence that "the murder victim then spoke some words to defendant" before jumping on him and slamming him to the ground. "Defendant testified that his gun discharged during the ensuing struggle, ultimately resulting in the victim's death." He insisted that he did not intentionally shoot the victim. In the context of the situation, the court could not conclude that "defendant's conduct in simply bringing his gun to the scene and displaying it amounted to gross negligence. Perhaps had defendant, with gun in hand, instigated the tussle with the victim, we might be prepared to rule that defendant acted in a reckless or wantonly indifferent manner, i.e., in a grossly negligent manner, by deciding to physically wrestle with the victim" with a gun in hand. "But none of the evidence suggested that defendant decided to engage in a struggle with the victim." At most, it reflected that he "was holding a gun and the victim jumped on him, leading to the unintentional discharge of the firearm. In those circumstances, the trial court's determination that an instruction on involuntary manslaughter was not supported by the facts in evidence did not constitute an abuse of discretion."

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Sufficiency of the evidence to support the defendant's bribing, intimidating, or interfering with a witness conviction; MCL 750.122(7)(a); MCL 750.122(6); People v. Greene; Identity; Credibility issues; People v. Milstead; Whether defendant's conviction was against the great weight of the evidence; People v. Musser; Prosecutorial misconduct; People v. Callon; People v. Dobek; People v. Mann; People v. Brown; "Vouching"; People v. Seals; Ineffective assistance of counsel; People v. Trakhtenberg; People v. Vaughn; Failure to object to the prosecution's opening statement and closing argument; Failure to raise futile objections; People v. Ericksen; Alleged failure to investigate; People v. Armstrong; Sentencing; Upward departure from the guidelines range; People v. Smith; A "substantial and compelling" reason; People v. Anderson; People v. Babcock

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Wagner

e-Journal Number: 58238

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Riordan, Cavanagh, and Talbot

 

The court held that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, was sufficient to support that the defendant committed the crime of bribing, intimidating, or interfering with a witness. Further, his conviction was not against the great weight of the evidence, the prosecutor did not commit misconduct, and the court rejected his ineffective assistance of counsel claims. It also held that he was not entitled to resentencing because the trial court provided substantial and compelling reasons for its upward departure in sentencing defendant. Thus, the court affirmed his conviction and his sentence of 9 to 15 years in prison. He argued on appeal that he was incorrectly identified as the person who visited C's house on the afternoon of 12/10/12. He contended that C's "identification of him was not credible because she only saw him outside her home for a few seconds." However, the court found that this argument lacked merit. C testified that she clearly saw defendant's entire face through her front window, and she remembered him when she later saw him in the courthouse hallway on 1/4/13. Defendant also asserted that the evidence was insufficient because his brother (D) provided an alibi for his whereabouts on the day of the offense. This issue related to the witnesses' credibility, which was for the jury to decide. While the prosecution's closing argument alluded to the fact that D's credibility may be affected because he is defendant's brother, the prosecution's statements did not amount to misconduct as the prosecution did not imply that it had special knowledge as to the truthfulness of D's testimony, or suggest that defense counsel was trying to mislead the jury. Rather, the statements were an appropriate argument that D was not worthy of belief. The trial court articulated several reasons for its departure from the guidelines, including (1) defendant's numerous prior convictions, (2) his status as a parolee at the time of the offense, and (3) the nature of his conduct. "The above reasons for departure were considered by the prior record and offense variables." However, the trial court provided further support for its departure "when it expressed its outrage at the circumstances of the case" and explained that defendant's "attempt to influence the jury and the court systems was the most outrageous that the court had seen in 17 years."

 

Full Text Opinion
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