Criminal Law

This summary also appears under Juvenile Law

 

Issues: Motions to waive jurisdiction; People v. Whitfield (After Remand); MCL 600.606; MCL 712A.2(a)(1); MCL 712A.1(2) & (3); People v. Thenghkam; MCL 712A.4(4); MCL 712A.4(a)-(f); MCL 750.110a(5) & (6); MCL 750.360; Findings as to MCL 712A.4(4)(a), (c), (d), & (e); People v. Fowler; People v. Dunbar; Abandoned issue; People v. Kevorkian; Whether the respondent-juvenile was unfairly prejudiced at the waiver hearing by the expert testimony of the psychologist who examined him; "Plain error"; People v. Cameron; People v. Carines; People v. Elston; Ineffective assistance of counsel at the waiver hearing; Strickland v. Washington; People v. LeBlanc; People v. Grant; Factual predicate requirement; People v. Hoag; Trial strategy; People v. Horn; People v. Hyland

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: In re Edwards

e-Journal Number: 59762

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Meter, Sawyer, and Boonstra

 

The juvenile court did not err in granting the prosecution's motions to waive jurisdiction. Also, the respondent-juvenile was not denied the effective assistance of counsel. Respondent argued that the juvenile court erred in finding that waiver of jurisdiction was appropriate. He was over the age of 14 when he was charged, and the charged offenses would amount to felonies if committed by an adult. Thus, the prosecution had discretion to move the juvenile court to waive jurisdiction to the circuit court of general jurisdiction. Because respondent waived the first phase of his waiver hearing, the sole issue before the juvenile court "was whether respondent's best interests and the community's best interests required the waiver." Respondent contended that the juvenile court erred in its findings as to MCL 712A.4(4)(a), (c), (d), and (e). The court found no error in the juvenile court's findings. The court held that "substantial evidence and a thorough investigation show that respondent was 'not amenable to treatment, or, that despite his potential for treatment, the nature of his difficulty [wa]s likely to render him dangerous to the public if he were to be released at the age of nineteen or twenty-one . . . .'" Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Whether there was sufficient evidence to support the defendant's conviction of operating while intoxicated causing death (OWICD) (MCL 257.625); Claim that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to find that defendant proximately caused the victim's death because the evidence did not support beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant's intoxication was the cause of the accident; People v. Ericksen; People v. Nowack; People v. Feezel; Great weight of the evidence; People v. DeLisle; People v. Musser; "Plain error" review; People v. Carines; People v. Lemmon; Jury instruction on flight; People v. Kowalski; People v. Mitchell; People v. Coleman; People v. Taylor; Sentencing; Scoring of PRV 5; People v. Hardy; People v. Gibbs; People v. Crews; People v. James; Ineffective assistance of counsel; People v. Wilson; People v. Ginther; People v. Douglas; U.S. Const. amend. VI; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 20; People v. Trakhtenberg; Strickland v. Washington; People v. Horn; Failure to argue the issue of proximate cause to the jury in the closing argument; Trial strategy; People v. Cline; Failure to completely investigate the phenomenon of "hot shock"; People v. Gingrich

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Cortes-Azcatl

e-Journal Number: 59766

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Hoekstra, Markey, and Donofrio

 

There was sufficient evidence to support the defendant's conviction of OWICD. However, because scoring PRV 5 at zero points results in a lower guidelines recommended sentence range, he was entitled to resentencing. A Ford Focus, travelling between 47 to 53 MPH, driven by H, hit a Saturn van, travelling between 15 and 22 MPH, driven by defendant. H's vehicle "t-boned" defendant's vehicle on the passenger side, where defendant's fiancée, E, sat. H and his passenger, T, were injured in the crash. Defendant sustained a head injury and E died in the accident. He had a BAC of .15. On appeal, he argued that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to find that he proximately caused E's death because the evidence did not support beyond a reasonable doubt that his intoxication was the cause of the accident. Although he admitted that he was intoxicated, he argued that there was insufficient evidence for a jury to find that the Ford Focus's headlights were on at the time of the accident. Defendant argued that the lack of headlights was the cause of the accident. While the prosecution's expert, L, opined that the "Ford Focus's headlights were on at the time of the accident, the basis of the opinion that one intact light extracted from one of the headlights exhibited 'hot shock'" was unreliable. The court held that defendant's argument failed for two reasons. First, L's testimony was just one part of the evidence that supported the prosecution's theory that the Ford Focus's headlights were on. T and H testified that "the headlights were on." Defendant testified that "he could not see the Ford Focus approaching." The jury plainly determined that T and H were credible, and defendant was not. Second, defendant asked the court to rely on information that was not before the jury in order to find that there was insufficient evidence to convict him. He did not cross-examine L as to the "phenomenon of false positive results during hot shock tests." Thus, defendant's theory that L's test results were unreliable was not presented to the jury. L did, however, testify to other inconsistencies that might suggest to the jury that the headlights were off. L testified that "he observed the headlight switch in the off position at the towing station after the accident. He also testified that there were various reasons that this might occur, including that the driver of the vehicle, the emergency personnel, or the wrecker driver could have turned the lights off before the vehicle was towed." Nonetheless, L "indicated that he had 18 years of experience reconstructing crash scenes, and from this experience, he believed that at the time of impact, the left lower fender light of the Ford Focus was on, functioning as either a parking lamp or in headlight position." The jury verdict supported that it accepted his testimony as credible, which the court will not disturb. The court affirmed defendant's conviction but remanded for resentencing.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Whether there was sufficient evidence to support the defendant's convictions of armed robbery, two counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder (AWIGBH), and felony-firearm; Whether defendant was the person standing by the bushes near the automated teller machine (ATM); People v. Lanzo Constr. Co.; Identity; People v. Davis; Aiding & abetting; People v. Robinson; People v. Carines; People v. Turner; Due process; Claim that the prosecution suppressed material evidence consisting of a videotape showing the victim at the ATM; People v. Odom; People v. Miller; Brady v. Maryland; People v. Chenault; Sentencing; Scoring of OVs 9 &14; People v. McDonald; People v. Hardy; People v. Carter

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Hudson

e-Journal Number: 59760

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Beckering, Cavanagh, and Saad

 

The evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the prosecution, was sufficient to establish that the defendant was the person standing near the bushes by the ATM. Also, the record evidence supported his convictions under an aiding and abetting theory. He was convicted of armed robbery, two counts of AWIGBH, and felony-firearm. The victim, a woman using a drive-thru ATM with two small children in her car, was targeted by defendant and a juvenile. He argued that the evidence was insufficient to establish that he was the person standing by the bushes near the ATM or that he aided and abetted the juvenile in the commission of the crimes. He contended that "the evidence failed to show that [he] was at the scene." Apparently, he was arguing that the victim's testimony was not credible and her identification of him should not have been accepted by the trial court. But the court may not interfere with the trier of fact's role of determining the credibility of identification testimony. In any case, he was wrong. The victim testified that "she had a clear view of defendant when she was at the ATM, particularly when she looked through her open window directly at him." She saw him again when he ran out of an alley in front of her car. Then she saw him run into the house on E street. When she was riding past that house with a police officer, she immediately identified him. She also identified him in photos the police took after they went to investigate the house on E street. The victim "unequivocally testified at trial that defendant was the person she saw standing by the bushes." Defendant also argued that the evidence was insufficient to establish he acted as an aider and abettor to the juvenile. The evidence, considered in the light most favorable to the prosecution, showed that he partnered up with the "juvenile who, because of his age, would not appear threatening. They had a plan to rob someone who was using the ATM. The juvenile would use a concealed gun and defendant would act as a lookout for him. But, when the victim saw the juvenile and looked him in the eyes, the juvenile stopped - apparently reconsidering." He looked to defendant who was standing nearby. Defendant directed or encouraged him to continue with their plan to rob the victim at gunpoint. Inspired, the juvenile returned his focus to the victim, and began walking faster toward her car. When she fled, "in a show of bravado for defendant's benefit, the juvenile fired at her vehicle. He then ran away with defendant." They were eventually found together at the E street house, with the black hoodie the juvenile had been wearing and several guns, and were arrested. Defendant's convictions and sentence were affirmed.

 

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Issues: Motion to suppress; People v. Jones; People v. Hyde; People v. Wilkens; People v. Kazmierczak; People v. Steele; Whether the police had a "reasonable suspicion" to stop the defendant's vehicle; Claim that the officer's continued detention after he knew defendant's gender was unreasonable People v. Davis; People v. Williams; Terry v. Ohio

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Kiley

e-Journal Number: 59777

Judge(s): Per Curiam – O’Connell, Fort Hood, and Gadola

 

The trial court properly denied the defendant's motion to suppress. He was convicted of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, third offense, and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license. He argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Specifically, he asserted that "the police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle." He further argued that, even assuming Officer L had reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle, "his continued detention after he knew defendant's gender was unreasonable." It was undisputed that L "was entitled to run a computer check of the license plate number of the vehicle, even in the absence of reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that a traffic violation or crime had been or was being committed." Defendant asserted that L "lacked reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle because he lacked an articulable suspicion that the car's owner, a woman, was driving, because he could not ascertain the sex of the driver." The court disagreed. This argument was contrary to the holding in Jones, where the court stated, "[i]n the absence of evidence to the contrary, a police officer may reasonably suspect that a vehicle is being driven by its registered owner." L testified that "he did not know the sex of the driver before he stopped the car," and the trial court found L's testimony credible. Thus, there was "no evidence to contradict the reasonable suspicion that the car was being driven by its owner." The court agreed with the prosecution that upon approaching defendant's vehicle, independent suspicion arose based on the fact that L smelled alcohol. While a precise timeline of when L realized defendant was male and when he smelled alcohol was unclear from the record, the court's overall impression was that "the events happened fluidly." Thus, "even assuming the reasonable suspicion justifying the initial stop no longer existed," L had "a basis to continue the stop and investigate whether defendant was intoxicated." Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Docket No. 313302 (defendant-Lee) - Sufficiency of the evidence to support the assault with intent to murder (AWIM) conviction; People v. Ericksen; Docket No. 313303 (defendant-Cain) - Admission of evidence under MRE 804(b)(6); "Forfeiture by wrongdoing"; People v. Burns; MRE 402 & 403; People v. Sholl; People v. Mock; People v. McGhee; Jury instructions on how to consider this evidence; "Plain error" review; People v. Aldrich; Denial of a motion for a directed verdict; Aiding & abetting; People v. Moore; Denial of motion for an adjournment; "Good cause"; People v. Coy; Ineffective assistance of counsel; People v. Brown; People v. Dendel; Prosecutorial error; People v. Watson; People v. Banks; Alleged appeal to the jury's sympathy; Alleged Brady v. Maryland violation; People v. Chenault; Motion for a mistrial after the trial court gave preliminary jury instructions improperly including certain lesser-included offenses; Effect of a curative instruction; Presumptions that jurors follow their instructions & instructions cure most errors; People v. Abraham; Sentencing; Effect of a within guidelines sentence; People v. Kimble

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Lee

e-Journal Number: 59749

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Talbot, Murphy, and Gleicher

 

In these consolidated appeals, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to support both defendant-Lee's and defendant-Cain's AWIM convictions. Further, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of Cain's involvement in the later abduction and murders of the victims under MRE 804(b)(6), or in denying his request for an adjournment. The court also rejected Cain's ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial error claims. Victim-C called her friend, victim-B, to pick her up. C told Cain that B would drive her home because she had school the next day. Cain then unsuccessfully tried to take the keys out of the ignition of B's car. He called over Lee, "and asked Lee whether he had his gun on him. Lee responded in the affirmative. Cain then directed Lee to first shoot the driver, and then 'shoot up' the car," if B and C drove away. "Cain commented that the women could roll up the window of the car and decide what they were going to do. Cain also stated that he had 'already beat two murder cases' and that he would make" them the third. B was too scared to drive, so C switched seats, and B "lowered her head and upper body while seated in the passenger seat." As C drove away, "Lee fired two shots into the air followed by seven shots at" B's car. "The back window of the car was shattered and one of the rear tires flattened." C was struck by a bullet fragment in the back of the head. After the shooting, Cain allegedly offered both women $5,000 each if they did not testify against him. Before the trial, they "were abducted and were later found murdered. Cain and Lee were two of five individuals charged with those crimes." As to the sufficiency of the evidence, the court noted that before "Lee began to fire, Cain instructed him to kill the car's driver and 'shoot up' the car if the women attempted to drive away." When C drove away, Lee fired nine shots, seven of which were aimed at B's car. A bullet fragment hit C in the head. After the assault, Lee left the scene and told a witness not to worry about what had occurred. "Taking these facts in the light most favorable to the prosecution, a rational jury could easily have determined that Lee intended to kill" the women. As to the evidence of Cain's involvement in the abduction and murders of the women, it "was highly relevant." It "demonstrated Cain's consciousness of guilt, as it showed that he wished to cover up his crime" by preventing them from testifying against him. The court also held that there was sufficient evidence for a rational juror to convict Cain of AWIM under an aiding and abetting theory. Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Search and seizure; Admission of a BB gun; U.S. Const. amend. IV; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 11; People v. Champion; "Probable cause to arrest"; MCL 764.15(1)(b); MCL 750.50b; People v. Walker; Seizure from the doorway of defendant's home; United States v. Santana; Credibility determinations; People v. Cress; Effect of the fact defendant was handcuffed; People v. Zuccarini; Claim that the search for the gun was based on coerced consent; People v. Roberts; Whether defendant's statements to the police were admissible; U.S. Const. amend. V; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 17; Self-incrimination; People v. Cheatham; Ineffective assistance of counsel; People v. Heft; Failure to move to suppress the BB gun and the statements made by defendant; Failure to advocate a meritless position; People v. Snider; Failure to introduce medical evidence; People v. Horn

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Nowicki

e-Journal Number: 59756

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Meter, Sawyer, and Boonstra

 

The court held that the totality of circumstances surrounding the defendant's consent supported a finding that he voluntarily consented to the search that produced the BB gun, and that the gun was admissible. He was convicted of one count of killing or torturing an animal. He argued that his BB gun was not admissible into evidence because the gun was obtained after an illegal seizure of him and because the officers' search for the gun was based on coerced consent. Defendant's neighbor (S) called the police reporting trouble with her neighbor, and "told the responding officers that defendant had shot a cat with his BB gun, describing the gun as a black rifle." S also reported that "defendant had shot other animals previously, and she described defendant and provided his address. Officers observed the injured cat and immediately went to defendant's address. Defendant appeared at the door, matching the given description." The facts and circumstances known to the officers when they detained defendant on his front porch "were sufficient to lead a person of reasonable caution to believe that a felony had been committed and that defendant had committed it." The record supported that "at the time the officers detained defendant they had probable cause to arrest him, and thus could properly seize and detain him without a warrant." Further, his argument that the police lacked probable cause to arrest him, because the only information they had that he had committed a crime was an anonymous tip, was not supported by the record. "In the first place, the tip was not anonymous;" the responding officers spoke with S, who provided additional information. "Further, the tip was corroborated by the presence of the injured cat. When even an anonymous tip is corroborated by additional information, it can provide probable cause to support an arrest." Also, the fact that defendant was seized from the doorway of his home did not alone make his detainment illegal, and the fact that he was subsequently handcuffed did not make his detainment illegal. Affirmed.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Whether there was sufficient evidence to support the defendant's conviction of first-degree child abuse (MCL 750.136b(2)); People v. Malone; People v. Johnson-El; People v. Maynor; People v. Kissner; "Serious physical harm"; MCL 750.136b(1)(f); MCL 750.316(1)(b); Whether defendant "knowingly and intentionally" caused serious injury; Whether defendant's act caused serious injuries; Ineffective assistance of counsel; People v. Sabin (On Second Remand); People v. Chapo; People v. Wilson; U.S. Const. amend. VI; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 20; People v. Nix; People v. Armstrong; People v. Payne; Failure to provide an alternative theory to explain the injuries the victim sustained; Failure to meet the investigative duty when no witness was called and no expert testimony was offered to rebut the prosecution's theory of shaken baby syndrome; People v. Russell

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Sanders

e-Journal Number: 59775

Judge(s): Per Curiam – O’Connell, Fort Hood, and Gadola

 

There was sufficient evidence to support the defendant's conviction of first-degree child abuse. Also, he was not denied the effective assistance of counsel. He was convicted of first-degree felony murder and first-degree child abuse. He was convicted of killing his infant daughter. Defendant asserted that the prosecution presented insufficient evidence that he "knowingly and intentionally" caused serious injury to the victim. Although there was no direct evidence that showed he "knowingly and intentionally" caused the victim to sustain serious injuries, the circumstantial evidence of the element was strong. He was alone with the three-and-a-half-month-old when she stopped breathing. The record showed that the victim was fine when she was left in defendant's sole care. She suffered a "severe head injury with a subdural hemorrhage and her brain was dead or dying a few hours after she was brought to the hospital. The evidence showed that considerable force or impact was required to cause such traumatic brain injury. The evidence also showed that even a fall from a height onto a hard surface would not cause this type of injury. There was also evidence that the retinal hemorrhages that the victim sustained typically can only be found in rollover type motor vehicle accidents, child abuse cases, or where a child's head is crushed." Thus, the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the prosecution, indicated that defendant had an intent to commit the act and an intent to cause serious physical harm to the victim. He also contended that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence that his act caused serious injuries to the victim. The evidence showed that the victim "suffered an injury when she was alone with defendant, and she had several deep bruises to her scalp, showing that she must have been hit against something." He admitted that "he shook the victim (ostensibly to revive her), but the evidence establishes that shaking the child alone could not have caused the type of traumatic head injuries inflicted. Again, the retinal hemorrhages were rarely seen in accidental trauma." Affirmed.

 

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