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Opinion Date: 09/18/2012
e-Journal Date: 09/25/2012
Full Text Opinion

Practice Area(s):   Criminal Law

Issues: Sufficiency of the evidence to support the defendant's first-degree home invasion and felonious assault convictions; People v. Wilder; People v. Starks; People v. Chambers; People v. Reese; "Circumstantial evidence and reasonable inferences"; People v. Carines; Whether the prosecution had an affirmative duty to produce all res gestae witnesses at trial; MCL 767.40a(1) & (5); People v. Unsworth; People v. Burwick
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: People v. Geierman
e-Journal Number: 52713
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Cavanagh, Saad, and Donofrio

The court held that while there was sufficient evidence to support the defendant's first-degree home invasion conviction, the evidence did not establish that he used a dangerous weapon. Thus, the court reversed his felonious assault conviction. C testified that defendant kicked open the door to his house. C also testified about the resulting damage to the door, as did his sister and the responding police officers, who characterized the damage as "fresh." It was undisputed that several people were in the house at the time defendant kicked open the door, including C's brother, K. The court held that there was sufficient evidence of assault, which can be established by showing either "an attempt to commit a battery or an unlawful act that places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving an immediate battery." C testified that defendant entered the house screaming and carrying "a small club or a bat or something" that he was waving around in a menacing manner, as "if about to swing with it at any moment." Also, there was testimony about K's claimed injury - a red mark on his back. In light of this evidence, the court affirmed the trial court's ruling in defendant's bench trial that the elements of first-degree home invasion were proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The court noted that to establish felonious assault, the prosecution "must prove an assault, with a dangerous weapon, and with the intent to injure or place the victim in reasonable apprehension of an immediate battery." Defendant was accused of felonious assault because he made an assault upon K with a dangerous weapon, a baseball bat, but without intending to commit the crime of murder or to inflict great bodily harm less than murder. However, the evidence showed that he did not assault K with a baseball bat. C testified that he saw defendant holding "a small club or a bat or something." When asked to describe the item, C testified, "See, I couldn't real - - it was a smaller. Like if it was a bat, it wasn't a full size bat. It was a smaller object from what I'm remembering. It was a while ago." C's sister testified that defendant had a "wooden something" that was a couple feet long, but smaller than a full-sized bat. Although not produced, it appeared that the object was not of the type typically considered a "dangerous weapon." It did not appear to have been an "object specifically designed or customarily carried or possessed for use as a weapon" or an object "likely to cause death or bodily injury when used as a weapon." The court's conclusion was supported by the evidence that K, apparently without hesitation, immediately took the object away from defendant, struck him with it, and then threw it back at him. K's sister saw defendant leave the house with the object. It was unrealistic to conclude that K would have reacted as he did if defendant had a "dangerous weapon." That is, it was unlikely that he would have immediately tried to disarm defendant of a "dangerous weapon," and it was even more unlikely that K would have given a "dangerous weapon" back to defendant. Thus, the evidence and reasonable inferences arising from it did not constitute sufficient proof of the dangerous weapon element of the felonious assault charge. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

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