Articles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court

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Carl Bruner, II was convicted by jury trial for: first-degree premeditated murder; assault with intent to commit murder; being a felon in possession of a firearm; and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. These charges arose in connection with the shooting of two security guards outside a Detroit nightclub in June 2012. No eyewitnesses saw the shooter. Bruner was tried jointly before a single jury with a codefendant Michael Lawson. The prosecution argued that Bruner was the shooter and that he was aided or abetted by the Lawson. Bruner’s defense was that he was not present and was not the shooter. The prosecution planned to call as a witness Westley Webb, who did not testify at Bruner’s preliminary examination but did testify at Lawson’s preliminary examination about statements he claimed Lawson had made to him a few days after the shooting regarding Bruner’s actions on the night at issue. At trial, the prosecutor emphasized in his opening statement that Webb was a key witness who would testify that Bruner had a gun; however, at the close of the prosecution’s case in chief, the prosecutor informed the court that Webb could not be located and asked to read Webb’s prior testimony to the jury. The trial court declared Webb unavailable. The prosecutor conceded that the prior testimony could not be admitted against Bruner and offered to remove mention of Bruner from the transcript of Webb’s testimony. The trial court determined, over defense counsel’s objection, that Webb’s testimony was admissible against Lawson and that a limiting instruction would be adequate to ensure the jury would not consider the redacted testimony against Bruner. When the testimony was read into the record, each mention of Bruner’s name was replaced with the word “Blank,” and the court instructed the jury to consider the testimony only against Lawson. The Court of Appeals affirmed both defendants’ convictions, holding that Bruner’s right to confront the witnesses against him under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution was not implicated by the admission of Webb’s preliminary examination testimony because Lawson’s statements to Webb were not testimonial and Webb’s testimony was neither offered nor admitted against Bruner. After its review, the Michigan Supreme Court found Bruner's right to confrontation was violated. Thus his conviction was reversed and the case remanded for the trial court to determine whether the prosecution established the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Michigan v. Bruner" on Justia Law

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Carl Bruner, II was convicted by jury trial for: first-degree premeditated murder; assault with intent to commit murder; being a felon in possession of a firearm; and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. These charges arose in connection with the shooting of two security guards outside a Detroit nightclub in June 2012. No eyewitnesses saw the shooter. Bruner was tried jointly before a single jury with a codefendant Michael Lawson. The prosecution argued that Bruner was the shooter and that he was aided or abetted by the Lawson. Bruner’s defense was that he was not present and was not the shooter. The prosecution planned to call as a witness Westley Webb, who did not testify at Bruner’s preliminary examination but did testify at Lawson’s preliminary examination about statements he claimed Lawson had made to him a few days after the shooting regarding Bruner’s actions on the night at issue. At trial, the prosecutor emphasized in his opening statement that Webb was a key witness who would testify that Bruner had a gun; however, at the close of the prosecution’s case in chief, the prosecutor informed the court that Webb could not be located and asked to read Webb’s prior testimony to the jury. The trial court declared Webb unavailable. The prosecutor conceded that the prior testimony could not be admitted against Bruner and offered to remove mention of Bruner from the transcript of Webb’s testimony. The trial court determined, over defense counsel’s objection, that Webb’s testimony was admissible against Lawson and that a limiting instruction would be adequate to ensure the jury would not consider the redacted testimony against Bruner. When the testimony was read into the record, each mention of Bruner’s name was replaced with the word “Blank,” and the court instructed the jury to consider the testimony only against Lawson. The Court of Appeals affirmed both defendants’ convictions, holding that Bruner’s right to confront the witnesses against him under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution was not implicated by the admission of Webb’s preliminary examination testimony because Lawson’s statements to Webb were not testimonial and Webb’s testimony was neither offered nor admitted against Bruner. After its review, the Michigan Supreme Court found Bruner's right to confrontation was violated. Thus his conviction was reversed and the case remanded for the trial court to determine whether the prosecution established the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Michigan v. Bruner" on Justia Law

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Tremel Anderson was charged with: assault with intent to commit murder; carrying a concealed weapon; felonious assault; and carrying a firearm during the commission of a felony. The charges arose after an incident that allegedly occurred between her and Michael Larkins, the father of her child. The only evidence presented at the preliminary examination was Larkins’s testimony. According to Larkins, defendant was driving him home when they got into an argument. Larkins testified that defendant threatened to kill him, grabbed a gun from between her legs, and pointed it at him for about five minutes before pulling over to the side of the road near Larkins’s home, where defendant and Larkins continued to argue while defendant kept the gun pointed at him. Larkins testified that defendant then attempted to fire the gun at him, but the gun failed to discharge, and he jumped out of the car and ran away as defendant fired three more shots in his direction. Larkins stated that he reached a neighbor’s home and called the police. The district court found Larkins’s testimony was not credible and therefore dismissed the complaint. The prosecutor appealed to the circuit court where the judge treated the claim of appeal as a motion and denied it without further explanation. The Court of Appeals affirmed in a split decision. The prosecutor sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court determined the magistrate in this case did not abuse her discretion in determining the complainant’s testimony was not credible, and there was no other evidence presented during the preliminary examination. Therefore, the Court affirmed the order dismissing charges against Anderson. View "Michigan v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Tremel Anderson was charged with: assault with intent to commit murder; carrying a concealed weapon; felonious assault; and carrying a firearm during the commission of a felony. The charges arose after an incident that allegedly occurred between her and Michael Larkins, the father of her child. The only evidence presented at the preliminary examination was Larkins’s testimony. According to Larkins, defendant was driving him home when they got into an argument. Larkins testified that defendant threatened to kill him, grabbed a gun from between her legs, and pointed it at him for about five minutes before pulling over to the side of the road near Larkins’s home, where defendant and Larkins continued to argue while defendant kept the gun pointed at him. Larkins testified that defendant then attempted to fire the gun at him, but the gun failed to discharge, and he jumped out of the car and ran away as defendant fired three more shots in his direction. Larkins stated that he reached a neighbor’s home and called the police. The district court found Larkins’s testimony was not credible and therefore dismissed the complaint. The prosecutor appealed to the circuit court where the judge treated the claim of appeal as a motion and denied it without further explanation. The Court of Appeals affirmed in a split decision. The prosecutor sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court determined the magistrate in this case did not abuse her discretion in determining the complainant’s testimony was not credible, and there was no other evidence presented during the preliminary examination. Therefore, the Court affirmed the order dismissing charges against Anderson. View "Michigan v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Anthony White pled guilty to armed robbery, and breaking and entering, all in connection with a gas station robbery during which he held a gun to the cashier’s head. He was sentenced to 108 to 480 months in prison for the robbery charge, and 23-120 months for breaking and entering. White was assessed 10 points for Offense Variable (OV) 4, reflecting a court finding that the victim suffered serious psychological injury requiring treatment because the victim heard the trigger being pulled, which the court determined was enough evidence to show the psychological distress. White challenged that finding: that the trigger sound was enough to support the OV-4. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed this wasn’t enough to support the OV-4 points. Because the subtraction of 10 points lowered defendant’s guidelines range for his guilty plea to armed robbery from a minimum of 81 to 135 months in prison to a minimum of 51 to 85 months in prison, the judgment of sentence was vacated and the case was remanded for resentencing. View "Michigan v. White" on Justia Law

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In his trial for first-degree murder, the trial court improperly denied defendant William Lyles, Jr.’s request for an instruction informing the jury that his evidence of good character could create a reasonable doubt. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court’s review was whether defendant has shown that it was more likely than not that this error was outcome-determinative. Defendant was permitted to introduce his good character evidence; it was, however, minimal and strongly contradicted by the prosecution’s witnesses. Given this and the other evidence implicating defendant in the murder, the Supreme Court could not conclude that the absence of the instruction (the only error alleged here) made the difference: defendant did not show it was more likely than not that the outcome would have been different. View "Michigan v. Lyles" on Justia Law

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Dwayne Wilson was convicted by jury on one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (felony-firearm), and two counts of unlawful imprisonment. Because defendant had two prior felony-firearm convictions, defendant was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment as a third felony-firearm offender under MCL 750.227b(1), followed by concurrent terms of 100 to 180 months’ imprisonment for the unlawful-imprisonment counts. Defendant objected at sentencing, arguing that his felony-firearm sentence was improper because his two prior convictions for felony-firearm arose from a single incident. Defendant cited Michigan v Stewart, 441 Mich 89 (1992), but the circuit court held that Stewart was no longer good law because it relied on Michigan v Preuss, 436 Mich 714 (1990), which had been overruled by Michigan v Gardner, 482 Mich 41 (2008), and the court further held that nothing in the language of MCL 750.227b(1) required the previous felony-firearm convictions to have arisen from separate incidents. Defendant appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded in an unpublished per curiam opinion, holding that defendant should have been sentenced as a second felony-firearm offender rather than a third felony-firearm offender because lower courts remained bound by Stewart unless and until the Supreme Court overruled it. The Court of Appeals further held that defendant was entitled to a remand under Michigan v Lockridge, 498 Mich 358 (2015). The prosecution appealed, and the Michigan Supreme Court overruled Stewart because it found nothing in the text of MCL 750.227b(1) required a repeat felony-firearm offender’s prior felony-firearm convictions arise from separate criminal incidents, and the stare decisis factors did not counsel in favor of retaining the erroneous rule. View "Michigan v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Gino Rea was charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI). A police officer parked his patrol vehicle in the street in front of defendant’s driveway while responding to noise complaints from defendant’s neighbor. As the officer walked up the straight driveway, defendant backed out of his detached garage and down the driveway. When the officer shined his flashlight to alert defendant that he was in the driveway, defendant stopped his car in the driveway, next to the house. Defendant then put his car in drive and pulled forward into the garage, bumping into stored items in the back of the garage. Defendant, who smelled of alcohol and whose speech was slurred, was arrested for OWI after he refused to take field sobriety tests; defendant’s blood alcohol level was later determined to be three times the legal limit. After arraignment, defendant moved to quash the information. The court granted the motion and dismissed the charge, finding that the upper portion of defendant’s driveway, closest to the garage, was not a place generally accessible to motor vehicles for purposes of criminal liability under MCL 257.625(1). On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order, concluding that because the general public is not widely permitted to access the upper portion of a private driveway, defendant’s operation of his vehicle while intoxicated did not fit within the purview of behavior prohibited under MCL 257.625(1). The Michigan Supreme Court held that because defendant’s conduct occurred in an area generally accessible to motor vehicles, the conduct was within the purview of MCL 257.625(1), and reversed the Court of Appeals, vacated the trial court’s dismissal of the case, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Michigan v. Rea" on Justia Law

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Alexander Steanhouse was convicted by jury for assault with intent to commit murder (AWIM), and receiving and concealing stolen property. The court departed from the sentencing guidelines’ recommended minimum range and sentenced Steanhouse to 30 to 60 years’ imprisonment for AWIM, to run concurrently with a sentence of one to five years’ imprisonment for receiving and concealing stolen property. The Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions but remanded under the procedure adopted in Michigan v Lockridge, 498 Mich 358 (2015), from United States v Crosby, 397 F3d 103 (CA 2, 2005), to determine whether the sentences were reasonable. Mohammad Masroor was convicted by jury on 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC-I), and five counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC-II). The court departed from the sentencing guidelines’ recommended minimum range and imposed concurrent prison terms of 35 to 50 years for each of the CSC-I convictions and 10 to 15 years for each of the CSC-II convictions. The Court of Appeals affirmed Masroor’s convictions but ordered a Crosby remand and directed the trial court to apply the proportionality standard adopted in Steanhouse. Both defendants appealed, and the Michigan Supreme Court: (1) held the legislative sentencing guidelines are advisory in all applications; (2) held the proper inquiry when reviewing a sentence for reasonableness was whether the trial court abused its discretion by violating the “principle of proportionality” set forth in Michigan v Milbourn, 461 NW2d 1 (1990); (3) declined to import the approach to reasonableness review used by the federal courts into Michigan jurisprudence; (4) agreed with the Court of Appeals that defendant Steanhouse did not preserve his Sixth Amendment challenge to the scoring of the guidelines and that Masroor did preserve his challenge, but declined to reach the question whether Michigan v Stokes, 877 NW2d 752 (2015), correctly decided that the remedy was exactly the same regardless of whether the error was preserved or unpreserved in light of the fact that both defendants received departure sentences, and that, therefore, neither defendant can show any harm from the application of the mandatory guidelines; (5) reversed, in part, the judgments of the Court of Appeals in both cases to the extent they remanded to the trial court for further sentencing proceedings under United States v Crosby, 397 F3d 103 (CA 2, 2005), finding the proper approach for the Court of Appeals was to determine whether the trial court abused its discretion by violating the principle of proportionality; and (6) because of its ruling in (5), in lieu of granting leave to appeal in the defendants’ appeals the Court remanded for plenary consideration of whether the departure sentences imposed by the trial courts were reasonable under the standard articulated here. View "Michigan v. Steanhouse" on Justia Law

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Defendant Tmando Denson was convicted by jury of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. The charges stemmed from an altercation defendant had with a 17-year-old who was dating defendant’s 15-year-old daughter: defendant discovered the two in the daughter’s bedroom, partially undressed. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court’s review was whether evidence of defendant’s prior act was admissible under MRE 404(b) to rebut claims of self-defense and defense of others: that he honestly and reasonably believed his use of force was necessary to defend himself or another. The Court held the trial court erred when it admitted defendant’s prior act because the prosecution failed to establish that it was logically relevant to a proper noncharacter purpose. The Court also concluded this error was not harmless. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court for a new trial. View "Michigan v. Denson" on Justia Law