Criminal Law

Issues: Whether the petitioner was entitled to habeas relief; The Antiterrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act; 28 USC §§ 2254 & 2254(d); The petitioner's right to "supplement a rejected claim"; § 2254(d)(1); The Confrontation Clause; U.S. Const. amend. VI; Pointer v. Texas; Davis v. Alaska; Delaware v. Van Arsdall; Cross-examination under Michigan's "rape shield" statute (MCL 750.520j); Michigan v. Lucas; Dorsey v. Parke; Gagne v. Booker; Jordan v. Warden, Lebanon Corr. Inst.; Whether any error was "harmless"; Chapman v. California; Fry v. Pliler; Vasquez v. Jones; Brecht v. Abrahamson

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit

Case Name: Batey v. Haas

e-Journal Number: 57970

Judge(s): Sutton, Suhrheinrich, and Cook

 

[This appeal was from the ED-MI.] In a previously unpublished opinion now designated for publication, the court held that petitioner-Batey was not entitled to habeas relief on his CSC I conviction based on an alleged Confrontation Clause violation. On remand after the court previously reversed the district court's grant of relief to petitioner, the district court gave him leave to supplement his closing argument claim to raise a Confrontation Clause claim. However, the court had already rejected this claim when it was presented as a Sixth Amendment fair-trial claim and only remanded the case for the district court to consider whether habeas relief was "'warranted on the other, previously unconsidered claims'" raised in the petition. The court "did not say that the district court could supplement one of the rejected claims by converting it into a Confrontation Clause claim under the Sixth Amendment, as opposed to a fair-trial claim under the Sixth Amendment." Neither did the court "say that the claimant could add new claims well after the statute of limitations had run." Also, "the claim fails on the merits." Batey argued that "the Michigan trial court's application of the rape shield law violated his confrontation right by barring him from questioning his accusers about their motives to shift the blame" for the abuse. However, "neither the Confrontation Clause nor the Due Process Clause guarantees cross-examination 'in whatever way, and to whatever extent, the defense might wish.'" The state trial court "permissibly limited the scope of cross-examination for at least four reasons." The Supreme Court has upheld Michigan's rape-shield statute as serving "legitimate governmental interests[,]" and "state trial judges 'retain wide latitude' to impose reasonable limits" on cross-examination. The court concluded that the trial judge "reasonably balanced the competing factors at play in this case." The "net potential benefits to Batey" of the desired cross-examination "were not high and potentially counter-productive." Moreover, "[e]ven if the trial court's application of the rape-shield law violated Batey's constitutional rights, he still would not be entitled to relief." The court considered "whether limitations on cross-examination affected the jury's verdict," and found "no reversible error in the state court's harmlessness conclusion." Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Discovery; MCR 6.201(A)(6); MCR 6.201(B)(1) & (2); Actual prejudice; People v. Greenfield (On Reconsideration); A criminal defendant's due process right to certain information in the prosecutor's possession; People v. Canter; Brady v. Maryland; People v. Cox; Kyles v. Whitley; Waiver; People v. Carter; Whether the verdicts were against the great weight of the evidence; People v. Lacalamita; People v. Plummer; People v. Brantley; People v. Lemmon; "Plain error" review; Elements of second-degree murder; People v. Randy Smith; "Malice"; People v. Goecke; Aiding and abetting; People v. Turner; People v. Robinson; Inferring malice from the use of a deadly weapon; People v. Carines; Motion for a directed verdict on open murder and assault with intent to murder (AWIM) charges; People v. Watkins; People v. Hoffman; Intent; People v. Jackson; People v. McRunels; Intentional discharge of a firearm at someone; People v. Lipps; Prosecutorial misconduct; People v. Abraham; People v. Rodriguez; Shifting the burden of proof; People v. Rosales; People v. Fyda; Response to defense counsel's argument; People v. Kennebrew; Handling of a note sent to the trial court by a juror; Former MCR 6.414(A); People v. France; People v. Marshall; Motion for a mistrial; People v. Lugo; People v. Hicks; Juror misconduct; People v. Messenger; People v. Fletcher; Distinguishing People v. Wilson; The trial court's treatment of defense counsel; People v. Moore; People v. Ross; People v. Anderson

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Lor

e-Journal Number: 57753

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Servitto, Fort Hood, and Beckering

 

The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support both defendants' second-degree murder convictions beyond a reasonable doubt, and the trial court properly denied defendant-Tong Lor's motion for a directed verdict on the murder and assault charges. It also held that Tong Lor waived any claim of error related to discovery, and that there was no basis to conclude that defendant-Tou Lor was prejudiced by the failure to produce certain police reports. It rejected Tong Lor's prosecutorial misconduct claim, and Tou Lor's claims related to a juror's note to the trial court. Further, the "trial court's conduct did not pierce the veil of judicial impartiality or deprive Tou Lor of a fair trial." Tong Lor was convicted of second-degree murder, two counts of AWIM, and three counts of felony-firearm. Tou Lor was convicted of second-degree murder, two counts of felonious assault, and three counts of felony-firearm. The court noted that the "evidence showed that Tong and Tou Lor headed up a group of men who confronted the victims outside Tong's house. Tou Lor, who owned a .45-caliber Taurus semi-automatic handgun, was armed with a handgun and Tong Lor was armed with some type of long gun. Another unidentified member of the group was armed with some type of handgun. There was conflicting evidence regarding who opened fire, but evidence indicated that both defendants fired in the victims' direction." Victim-K was shot and killed. The evidence did not conclusively show who fired the shots that struck K. "However, the evidence supported an inference that the shots could only have come from one or more of the guns possessed by defendants and the other man in their group because they were the only persons armed with and firing weapons outside the house that night. Regardless of who fired the actual shots" that struck K, "the evidence was sufficient to show that both defendants possessed the requisite malice to be convicted of second-degree murder. Malice may be inferred from the use of a deadly weapon." The evidence showed that "each defendant allied himself with others who confronted" K and his friends while openly armed with guns. Thus, they "had reason to know that the others at least intended an assault, and the evidence showed that both defendants participated in that assault." K's death "was a natural and probable consequence of each defendant's participation in the assault 'because a homicide might be expected to happen if the occasion should arise within the common enterprise of committing' an armed assault." There was "no evidence suggesting that the shooting could be justified or legally excused." K and his friends "were unarmed and had done nothing to threaten defendants or anyone else." Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to assert an insanity defense on defendant's behalf; People v. Heft; People v. Russell; People v. Jackson; People v. Newton (After Remand); People v. Seals; People v. Lloyd; Trial strategy; People v. Grant; Denial of defendant's right to testify in his own defense; Waiver of right; People v. Moore; People v. Carter; Claim that the trial judge misinformed defendant as to his legal right to testify; People v. Hunter

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. McDonald

e-Journal Number: 57754

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Ronayne Krause, Wilder, and Stephens

 

The defendant was not denied the effective assistance of counsel. The record supported a finding that he knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to testify in his defense. The record did not support a finding that the trial court interfered in any way with his right to testify. Thus, the court affirmed his convictionz of first-degree murder, first-degree home invasion, and felonious assault. He argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to assert an insanity defense on his behalf. The court held that trial counsel adequately investigated an insanity defense. The trial court did not commit clear error when it found that defendant's trial counsel and an expert witness (H) in the field of psychology, who testified on the issue of dissociative amnesia, specifically discussed defendant's criminal responsibility, and that H told trial counsel that he believed defendant was criminally responsible for his actions. Further, after trial counsel was apprised of this opinion from H, "it was reasonable for trial counsel to believe that there was no basis for an insanity defense and thus it was reasonable trial strategy for trial counsel to attempt to mitigate the charge from first-degree murder to a lesser offense using" H's testimony of defendant's disassociation at the time of the crime. The court "will not reverse where failure to raise an insanity defense is a question of trial strategy." The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it found that "trial counsel's performance was based upon strategic decisions that were reasonable in light of professional norms."

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Sentencing for Class A offenses such as CSC I; MCL 777.62; Departure from the sentencing guidelines; People v. Houston; Reasons for departure; MCL 769.34(3); People v. Smith; People v. Johnigan

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Sattler

e-Journal Number: 57755

Judge(s): Per Curiam - Murphy, Shapiro, and Riordan

 

The court held that the trial court erred in sentencing the defendant to life in prison for CSC I because his PRV and OV levels did not qualify him for a life sentence as part of the applicable minimum sentence ranges. He was sentenced to life in prison in two cases of CSC I. On appeal, the court found that the trial court departed from the guidelines without explaining its reasons for the departure. The trial court "was not even aware that it was departing from the sentencing guidelines, making no reference whatsoever to a departure or the principles applicable to departures." Thus, the court vacated his sentences and remanded for resentencing. "On remand, the trial court is to impose sentences within the guidelines range or, if it wishes to once again depart from the guidelines, which it is absolutely free to do, it must articulate substantial and compelling reasons consistent with MCL 769.34 and the principles enunciated in Smith and other applicable authorities."

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Dismissal of charges for conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner (MCL 750.157a(d)); Defining the terms "legal act" and "illegal manner" by consulting a dictionary; People v. Haynes; Collection of signatures to place a candidate on the ballot; MCL 168.542 et seq.; MCL 168.544f; MCL 168.544c; Secretary of State (SOS)

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Seewald

e-Journal Number: 57784

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Saad and Donofrio; Dissent – Jansen

 

The court held that it was impossible for the defendants to have conspired to commit a "legal act in an illegal manner" in violation of MCL 750.157a(d) because they "did the exact opposite - they conspired to commit an illegal act in an illegal manner." Thus, the circuit court correctly quashed the bindover because "defendants did not violate MCL 750.157a(d) under a proper reading of that statute." They worked as staffers in former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter's district office. The day before the nominating petitions for placing McCotter on the 2012 ballot were due, defendant-Yowchuang "discovered that several of the petitions had not been signed by their circulators, which meant that the signatures they contained would not count" toward the signatures needed to place McCotter on the ballot. Yowchuang informed defendant-Seewald of the problem, "and they decided to solve it, after a fashion, by signing the petitions themselves." Yowchaung submitted the petitions to the SOS. "Both subsequently admitted that they signed the petitions with the knowledge that it was illegal," with the purpose of filing illegitimate petitions with the SOS. The state discovered the irregularities, and charged them with falsely signing nominating petitions, a misdemeanor, and conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner, a felony under MCL 750.157a(d). The district court bound them over on both charges, but the circuit court granted Seewald's motion to quash as to the conspiracy charges, stressing that they "did not conspire to do a legal act." Noting that MCL 750.157a does not define the terms "legal act" or "illegal manner," the court consulted dictionary definitions. The prosecution argued that defendants committed a "legal act in an illegal manner" when they - "(1) signed nominating petitions as circulators, despite the fact that they did not circulate the petitions" and (2) submitted the petitions to the SOS, with the intent of placing McCotter's name on the ballot. The court held that this claim lacked merit "because at no time during their conspiracy did defendants engage in a 'legal act.'" They decided "to violate MCL 168.544c(7)(c) and 168.544c(8) when they signed nominating petitions as circulators, despite the fact that they did not circulate the petitions. This conduct is 'illegal' because it is 'forbidden by law' - namely, MCL 168.544c(7)(c) and 168.544c(8)." They then tried to pass off the "petitions as valid and genuine" by submitting them to the SOS, "and thus committed fraud." The purpose of the conspiracy was to defraud the SOS, "which is also 'illegal' because it is 'forbidden by law.'" Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Whether defendant-Fields' plea agreement was breached; United States v. Robison; United States v. Herrera; United States v. White (Unpub. 6th Cir.); United States v. Villareal; Whether Fields' sentence was "substantively reasonable"; United States v. Bolds; United States v. Tristan-Madrigal; United States v. Phinazee; Motions to sever; United States v. Saadey; United States v. Walls; United States v. Martin; Fed.R.Crim.P. 8(b) & 14(a); Zafiro v. United States; United States v. Crotinger; Alleged Brady v. Maryland violations; Carter v. Bell; United States v. Davis; United States v. Spry (Unpub. 6th Cir.); Kyles v. Whitley; Smith v. Metrish (Unpub. 6th Cir.); Whether the government knowingly offered "perjured testimony"; Miller v. Pate; United States v. O'Dell; Brooks v. Tennessee; Napue v. People of State of IL; Whether there were "evidentiary errors"; Stevens v. Bordenkircher; Chapman v. California; United States v. Terry; FRE 704 & 611(a); Whether a "variance" in the proof of conspiracy occurred; United States v. Smith; United States v. Chilingirian; United States v. Warner; United States v. Schultz; Whether the "cumulative error doctrine" warranted reversal; United States v. Hernandez; United States v. Sypher

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit

Case Name: United States v. Fields

e-Journal Number: 57832

Judge(s): Marbley, Sutton, and Cook

 

The United States did not breach its plea agreement with defendant-Fields on his racketeering conspiracy, drug conspiracy, and money laundering charges where it did not move for a downward sentencing departure because the plea agreement did not obligate it to do so. The government "did not move for a downward departure at Fields' sentencing because Fields was involved in a cocaine deal . . . after his guilty plea and testimony." The plea agreement "made clear that not only was it within the United States' sole discretion to determine whether Fields provided substantial assistance, but also within its judgment to assess the 'value, truthfulness and completeness of any assistance [] Fields offer[ed],' as well as whether Fields 'committed or attempted to commit any additional crimes.'" Additionally, his sentence was substantively reasonable. Fields "offered no evidence to show that the district court gave impermissible weight to the Guidelines range - indeed, the district court varied from the recommended sentence of life imprisonment in order to take into account" his substantial assistance. The court also concluded that the Lewis defendants' seven-week conspiracy trial was "not marred by reversible error." The district court properly denied their motion to sever. They failed to demonstrate "'specific and compelling prejudice' that would 'mislead and confuse the jury in the absence of a separate trial.'" They were also not entitled to relief based on Brady violations because they did not establish that the witnesses' inconsistent statements hampered their ability to prepare for trial, or that "the delayed disclosure actually affect[ed] the outcome of the trial." Although some of the witnesses' testimony "differed," the court upheld the district court's conclusion that the discrepancies in their testimony "were due to lapses of memory or differences of perception[.]" There also was no evidence that the United States knowingly presented false testimony. The court held that there were no evidentiary issues that affected the outcome of the trial. The Lewis defendants alleged that "a variance occurred because evidence presented at trial proved multiple conspiracies, while the indictment alleged only a single conspiracy." The court rejected this claim, as well as their contention that "cumulative error" required reversal. Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion
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