Articles Posted in Criminal Procedure

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Michigan resisting arrest case in which the defendant claimed his conviction could not stand because he was lawfully resisting a police officer’s illegal seizure. Ultimately, the court agreed with the defendant, and reversed his conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers received a phone call reporting a man with a gun in a trailer park. Upon the officers’ arrival, the trailer park manager explained several people were in one of the trailers who did not live in the park. One of the men, the manager explained, appeared to be drunk and was waving a handgun around.

Police officers went to the trailer and knocked on the door. A woman answered. Officers told her to have everyone exit the trailer. The defendant exited, and an officer immediately grabbed him, telling him to “come this way.” The defendant complied, but was visibly intoxicated. The officers began asking the defendant questions, which eventually centered around whether he had a gun. The defendant explained he was licensed to carry a gun, and his gun was in his car. He denied brandishing the weapon. The officers asked three times where specifically the gun was; each time, the defendant inquired if they had a warrant. The third time the defendant asked whether the officers had a warrant, one of the officers grabbed the defendant and pushed him up against the car. The defendant resisted, leading to a resisting arrest charge.

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Given the contagious nature of COVID-19, courts across the country are wrestling with how to carry out criminal trials without unnecessarily exposing everyone involved to the virus. Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Michigan sexual assault case discussing an issue that will almost certainly have long-lasting implications in the post-COVICD-19 world. The case required the court to determine whether a defendant’s state and federal right to confront his witnesses was violated when the trial court allowed a key witness to testify over video.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was arrested in 2015 for an alleged sexual assault occurring in 1995. Evidently, while the victim of the alleged assault underwent an examination shortly after the incident, the evidence was not analyzed until 2015, when it was sent to a lab in Utah for analysis. The result of the testing indicated that the defendant’s DNA was present in the sample.

At trial, the prosecution presented the testimony of the lab technician via two-way interactive video. The defendant objected on the basis that allowing the witness to testify over video deprived him of his right to confront the witnesses against him. The trial court overruled the defendant’s objection, and the jury convicted the defendant.

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