SADO Attorneys to Argue Before MSC October 12, 2017

People v Kenya Ali Hyatt, Docket No. 153081 (to be argued together with Skinner, Docket No. 152448)

Issue: Whether the Court of Appeals conflict-resolution panel erred by applying a heightened standard of consideration and review for sentences imposed under MCL 769.25.

Summary: The 17-year-old defendant helped family members to carry out a plan to rob a security guard of his firearm. During the robbery, the guard was fatally shot. The defendant was convicted of first-degree felony murder and, after a hearing on the prosecutor’s motion, the trial court sentenced him to life without parole under MCL 769.25. The Court of Appeals held that it was bound to follow People v Skinner, 312 Mich App 15 (2015), but declared a conflict, expressing its opinion that a jury need not make the sentencing decision. Subsequently, the Court of Appeals convened a conflict-resolution panel, which unanimously agreed that no jury is needed. However, a four-judge majority of the conflict panel nevertheless ordered resentencing, believing that the trial court had erred by failing to decide whether the defendant exhibited “irreparable corruption” so as to deserve life without parole. The conflict panel declared that sentencing courts must start with the understanding that, more likely than not, life without parole is not a proportionate sentence for a juvenile. The conflict panel also declared the appellate standard of review in these cases to be “abuse of discretion” based on the notion that sentencing a juvenile to life without parole is “inherently suspect” and probably disproportionate. Argument: October 12, 2017 (morning). Jessica Zimbelman.

People v Theodore Paul Wafer, Docket No. 153828

Issues: Whether the trial court erred by denying the defense request for a jury instruction on the rebuttable presumption of MCL 780.951, which applies when a defendant uses deadly force against an individual who is in the process of breaking into the defendant’s dwelling, and, if there was instructional error, whether it was harmless.

Summary: In the early morning hours of November 2, 2013, 19-year-old Renisha McBride, appeared at the defendant’s Dearborn Heights home a few hours after being involved in a car accident. She pounded on the doors of the home—alternating between the front and side doors. The defendant woke up startled and retrieved a firearm he kept in his home. He would later tell the police that, when he opened the front door, McBride ran at him and he discharged his weapon, killing her. He called 9-1-1. In speaking with the police, the defendant gave inconsistent versions of the incident. At a trial on charges of second-degree murder, statutory manslaughter, and felony-firearm, the defendant claimed that he acted in self-defense, believing that someone was trying to break into his home. The jury found the defendant guilty of all charges. The Court of Appeals, in a split decision, affirmed. Argument: October 12, 2017 (afternoon). Jacqueline McCann.

People v Roderick Louis Pippen, Docket No.153324

Issue: Whether the defendant was denied the effective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to adequately investigate and present the testimony of a witness who was present at the time of the alleged offense.

Summary: The defendant was arrested in 2008 after a police officer observed him and another man (Michael Hudson) both throw guns under a vehicle. It was later determined that the gun thrown by the defendant had been used during a carjacking in which the victim was fatally shot. The defendant was bound over to circuit court in 2010 on charges of first-degree felony murder, felon in possession of a firearm, and felony-firearm, but the circuit court granted his motion to dismiss the charges, finding that there was insufficient evidence presented to support the bindover. In 2011, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that the evidence established probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the charged crimes. The Supreme Court denied interlocutory appellate review. The charges were reinstated and, at trial, a codefendant testified that he, the defendant, Hudson, and a fourth man were together on the night in question and that he saw the defendant shoot the victim. The jury found the defendant guilty of all charges. On the defendant’s motion for a new trial, an evidentiary hearing was held regarding his claim that appointed defense counsel rendered ineffective representation by failing to call Hudson as a defense witness at trial.  The trial court held that the defendant had failed to establish that counsel was ineffective where the trial strategy not to call Hudson was reasonable. The Court of Appeals affirmed.  Argument: October 12, 2017 (afternoon). Katherine Marcuz.

The above issues and summaries are taken or adapted from the summaries on the Michigan Supreme Court’s website. The full summaries and the briefs filed in the cases can be found here.

You can follow the arguments by live-streaming here.