Michigan Court Of Appeals Orders Resentencing In The Murder Of A Detroit Firefighter

Original Case Details

A Detroit man was convicted back in 2008 of second-degree murder after he paid someone $20 to burn down an abandoned house which resulted in the death of a firefighter who went to attempt to extinguish the fire. The man who actually set the fire cut a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to second degree murder and testify against the Detroit man. Due to his cooperation, the man was sentenced to 17 to 30 years as part of his plea agreement. He testified that the man wanted the house burned down to collect insurance money and escape from a mortgage that he was behind on.
The man was later sentenced by Wayne County Circuit Judge Margaret Van Houten to a minimum sentence of 37 years, which far exceeded the minimum sentence set by the Michigan Criminal Sentencing Guidelines manual. The man’s sentencing guidelines were from 19 to 31 years for the conviction. The sentencing guidelines are meant to ensure that people are sentenced consistently across the state no matter if the case happened in a small town or a big city. If a judge wants to exceed or go below the sentencing guidelines, then the judge has to state on the record why he or she is doing so. If the judge goes outside the sentencing guidelines and does not give a proper explanation and finding on the record as to why he or she is going outside the guidelines, then that case can be ripe for an appeal. That is exactly what has happened in this case. The Michigan Court of Appeals has acknowledged the tragic nature of this case, but also stated that the Wayne County judge did not properly explain why the man deserved such a significant sentence that exceeded his guidelines.

What Has Happened Since

Since the man’s conviction in 2008, he has been sentenced three times by two different judges. He was initially sentenced to 41 years in prison by Judge Michael Callahan, later brought back for resentencing where the same judge upheld his original sentence. He was again sent back for resentencing after the Court of Appeals again decided the sentence was excessive, and this time removed Judge Callahan from his case. This time the man was sent for sentencing in front of Wayne County Circuit Judge Margaret Van Houten where he was sentenced to 37 years in prison instead of 41 years. Again, the Michigan Court of Appeals has found this sentence to be excessive and is still looking for legitimate reasons on the record why either of these judges keeps exceeding the sentencing guidelines. Further, the Michigan Court of Appeals has also noted that the man had exhibited good behavior in his time in prison, and that also factored into their decision since his behavior is a proper thing to consider when determining resentencing in this case. This case will likely never be over until this man is either finally sentenced within the guidelines or the sentencing judge states adequate reasons on the record why the court should sentence him in excess of his guidelines. This is a stalemate that will likely be won by the Michigan Court of Appeals no matter what ends up happening. His resentencing date is still to be determined.

Any Further Questions?

If you have a loved one who is incarcerated and is looking to appeal his or her sentence, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. There may be legal relief if there are the correct legal issues are present. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.

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