e-Journal Summary

e-Journal Number : 53761
Opinion Date : 01/22/2013
e-Journal Date : 02/12/2013
Court : Michigan Court of Appeals
Case Name : Berghuis v. Shaw
Practice Area(s) : Personal Protection Orders
Judge(s) : Per Curiam – Whitbeck, Saad, and Shapiro
Full Text Opinion

Denial of respondent's motion to terminate petitioner's PPO; Hayford v. Hayford; In re JK; MCR 2.613(C); MCL 600.2950(4); MCL 600.2950(4)(i); "Stalking"; MCL 750.411h(1)(d); "Harassment" defined; MCL 750.411h(1)(c); Nastal v. Henderson & Assoc. Investigations, Inc.; H J Tucker & Assoc., Inc. v. Allied Chucker & Eng'g Co.; Exclusion of respondent's rebuttal witnesses; Elezovic v. Ford Motor Co.; Linsell v. Applied Handling; MRE 611(a); MRE 402; MRE 401; MRE 103(a); Detroit v. Detroit Plaza Ltd. P'ship; People v. Grant; People v. Elston; Morales v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co.; Exclusion of respondent's expert witnesses; MRE 608(a); MRE 608(b); People v. Spanke; Judicial bias; People v. Jackson; MCR 2.003(B) & (C); Cain v. Department of Corrs.; Bayati v. Bayati; Right of confrontation under the Sixth Amendment; Abandonment; People v. Matuszak; Caldwell v. Chapman; In re Brock; Department of Corrections (DOC)


The court held, inter alia, that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it granted the petitioner-Berghuis's request for a protection order, because the outcome was within the reasonable range of principled outcomes. In 1999, Berghuis testified as a witness in a criminal trial that she called 911 after she saw respondent-Shaw standing on an overpass and aiming a rifle at passing cars. In that case, the jury found Shaw guilty. In 2011, Berghuis filed a petition for an ex parte PPO. She requested that the trial court prevent Shaw from contacting her directly or through third parties. Before the trial court sentenced Shaw in the 1999 case, Berghuis received a threatening letter that had Shaw's fingerprints on it. While incarcerated, he sent Berghuis two letters that contained white powders and stated, "Got ya." Berghuis attached police investigation reports to her petition. The reports indicated that the letters were "bogus 'anthrax' type letters," contained a harmless substance, and contained Shaw's name and his Michigan DOC identification number. Berghuis further alleged that she received "hundreds" of letters from other inmates, and that she frequently received telephone calls from Shaw's prison. Finally, Berghuis alleged that when Shaw was reviewed for parole, he listed her address as the address at which he would live if released. Shaw argued that his statements in the letters served the legitimate purpose of encouraging Berghuis and DOC staff to stop harassing him, and that the trial court erroneously found that the statements were threats. He stated in one instance that Berghuis was "done" and that no one could protect her, and in another instance stated that he would "destroy" Berghuis and her husband. The trial court had copies of the documents before it. Shaw argued that the trial court improperly interpreted his statements as threats because he was only threatening future legal action against Berghuis. She testified that the letters were threats that Shaw would retaliate against her for her testimony during the 1999 trial. The trial court believed Berghuis's explanation over Shaw's. The court deferred to the trial court's credibility assessment of which witness to believe. Given the strong language that Shaw employed in the letters and the more typical meanings of such phrases, the court held that the trial court's determination that the statements contained in the letters were threats was not clearly erroneous. Berghuis alleged and testified that these letters made her feel terrified. Thus, the letters fitted the definition of harassment under the stalking statute.

Full Text Opinion