Michigan Court Of Appeals Judge Tosses 50-Year Sentence In Murder Conviction

A Grand Blanc, MI man was convicted of second-degree murder for the stabbing death of his wife. He was convicted back in 2017 due to evidence that he knocked her over the head with a flashlight and stabbed her six times with a military style knife. One of the stabs was directly into the victim’s heart. He then took selfie videos after the incident confessing to killing her, but never called 911 or any other help. The judge presiding later sentenced the 46-year old man to a minimum of 50 years in state prison before any eligibility for parole.

In the state of Michigan, a prosecutor can charge what is called “open murder” which gives a jury different options as to which murder charge is most appropriate if any. In the current case, the decision was made by the jury to convict on second-degree murder instead of first-degree murder. The reason this is important in the current case is that when a jury convicts on first-degree murder, the sentence is pretty much set as life or any term of years. If a jury comes back with a verdict finding that the defendant is guilty of second-degree murder, then the judge in the case has wide latitude in determining sentence due to sentencing guidelines. The judge here decided to far exceed the sentencing guidelines as the defendant had a sentencing guideline minimum of 13.5 years. The Michigan court of appeals has now said that the judge went too far in sentencing the defendant to a minimum of 50 years and sent the case back to the trial court for resentencing.

What Are Sentencing Guidelines?

Sentencing guidelines are calculated by a system that assigns point values to a variety of factors about both the current case, and the defendant’s criminal history. Any prior convictions or juvenile adjudications are scored against the defendant in the “prior variable” category. The court will also add points from a set of twenty different factors called “offense variables” relating to the current case. Some examples of questions include whether a weapon was used? Were there multiple victims? Were there any injuries? Once a proper scoring is completed, then a defendant will have a prior variable score and an offense variable score. Once you arrive at these two numbers, you plug these numbers into the appropriate sentencing grid for the offense(s) charged and you are then given a number range which represents how many months behind bars a judge should ultimately sentence the defendant to. Up until 2015, these guidelines were compulsory, which means that a judge had to sentence within the range calculated in the guidelines unless there is some clear and convincing reason why they should sentence higher or lower. Now these guidelines are more advisory and will allow a judge to sentence outside the guidelines with less justification.

What Happens Now?

The defendant in this case now will go back in front of the judge that sentenced him for another sentencing hearing. The court of appeals stated that this defendant was sentenced as if he was convicted of first-degree murder and is directing the trial court to give a more appropriate sentence. The state minimum sentencing guidelines called for a minimum of 13.5 years in prison. The judge here obviously far exceeded that minimum. A 50-year minimum sentence for a 46-year old man is basically a life sentence, and the Michigan court of appeals wants a sentence that is more in line with a second-degree conviction.

Any Further Questions?

Sentencing guidelines are not automatic. They are simply a system that tries to help judges in determining what is the appropriate minimum sentence for a criminal conviction. A skilled defense attorney understands that each point is extremely valuable towards any potential sentence handed down by a judge. It is that attorney’s responsibility to make sure that the scoring is accurate, and that any arguments relating to scoring are well researched and argued properly. A single point can be the difference in length of jail time. Our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully representing people charged with criminal offenses. Sometimes the biggest victories are found in the smallest details. If you or someone you love has a question relating to sentencing guidelines or any other issue related to criminal law, we are available 24/7 for a FREE consultation at 1-800-342-7896, you can contact us online, or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.

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