Robert Schwander, son of a Grand Traverse County sheriff’s department deputy, was sentenced to 40 to 70 years in prison by Circuit Judge Thomas Power after being convicted on a charge of second-degree murder. Now, the Michigan Court of Appeals has ordered Power to provide an explanation as to why the sentencing guidelines were exceeded in the case. Schwander was convicted for killing 16-year-old Carly Jean Lewis in June of 2011.
News reports claim that Schwander had lived with Lewis’s family on a temporary basis after being kicked out of his own home. When Lewis went to visit Schwander in an abandoned building where he was living at the time, she allegedly noticed that Schwander had possessions from her family’s home. The two allegedly fought before Lewis died; Schwander eventually revealed to police where he had buried her body, after denying that he had harmed her. Police found Lewis’s blood along with a pair of scissors in the abandoned building.
While several challenges the defense had brought forward were dismissed by the appeals panel, justices Douglas Shapiro and Joel Hoekstra determined the sentence handed down to Schwander to be “an extraordinary departure” from sentencing guidelines. While the majority of the panel felt that there was sufficient reason to justify some measure of departure from the sentencing guidelines due to Schwander’s failure to call for medical help and his betrayal of the victim’s family’s trust, they did find that the trial court did not clarify why the reasons justified imposing a minimum sentence on Schwander which was nearly double the highest minimum sentence under Michigan sentencing guidelines.
State sentencing guidelines typically call for minimum sentencing of 13 1/2 to 22 1/2 years for second-degree murder; two of the three appeals panel justices felt that Judge Power had failed to articulate on the reasons he exceeded sentencing guidelines by such an extreme measure.
Michigan homicide defense attorneys understand that criminal penalties in the state are extremely harsh, and that in some instances such as the above, an individual faces penalties which are a severe upward departure from minimum sentencing guidelines.
If you have been convicted of a serious or violent crime and feel that sentencing is unfair, consult with a Michigan criminal appeals lawyer who can review your case to determine whether you may be eligible to appeal.