In April of 2012 James Wilcox, a Coldwater resident who was 18 years old, was found guilty on four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with the alleged sexual assault of his cousin between 2009 and 2010, when the boy was seven years old. Wilcox was charged with five counts of first-degree CSC, but found not guilty on one count according to a news article at WTVB. In May of 2012, Wilcox was sentenced to 15 to 40 years in prison.
At the time of the allegations, the defendant’s young cousin claimed that Wilcox coerced him into sexual acts on three occasions at the defendant’s home. Wilcox, who did not testify at trial, maintained his innocence saying at his sentencing hearing “I did not touch him. I treated him like a little brother.”
Rhonda Ives, Wilcox’s defense lawyer at trial, requested a “Bill of Particulars” which detailed the alleged offenses. She said that it was not possible to determine which allegations resulted in acquittal or conviction, and which had not been tried. The Michigan Court of Appeals said that the information used at the defendant’s trial was provided in the preliminary exam.
Ives questioned the alleged victim regarding previous sexual experience at trial, however Branch County Circuit Judge Bill O’Grady said those questions were prohibited by Michigan’s Rape Shield Law. The COA agreed.
Ultimately, the Court of Appeals found that the only fault was that in scoring one sentencing guideline, Judge O’Grady was not clear that he used a “preponderance of evidence” standard, only saying that there was “some evidence” the victim had been exploited by the defendant. In the end, the defendant’s sentence may be reduced by nine months on the minimum 15 years, and 15 months off of the maximum 40 years.
While the appeals court remanded the case back to trial court to evaluate sentencing, a footnote was added saying “We note that the trial court is free to impose the same 15-point score on remand, if it is warranted; we are simply remanding for an evaluation under the proper standard.” Essentially, it isn’t likely that Wilcox’s sentence will be reduced.
When an individual has been sentenced and feels errors may have been made by the judge, there may be grounds for appeal. The same holds true when a defendant feels he or she has been wrongly convicted, or found guilty of a crime he or she did not commit. While getting the Michigan Court of Appeals to overturn a conviction or sentence is extremely difficult, defendants have the best chance of winning by hiring a highly experienced and successful Michigan criminal appeals attorney.