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People v. Railer

April 20, 2010


Ingham Circuit Court LC No. 08-000903.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murray, J.


Before: SAAD, P.J., and HOEKSTRA and MURRAY, JJ.

Defendant appeals as of right his jury trial conviction of unlawful imprisonment, MCL 750.349b, for which he was sentenced as a third habitual offender, MCL 769.11, to 129 months to 30 years' imprisonment.*fn1 We affirm.


This is a case about control. It arises out of defendant's romantic relationship with Amy Nichols. These individuals, having dated sporadically in their youth, resumed their amorous affair and began cohabitating in November 2007. Defendant was jobless, without a car, and completely reliant upon Nichols for his transportation. In Nichols's words, defendant "did what he wanted to do," and while defendant left her ignorant about his activities, "[her] business was his business."

The relationship had a long history of dysfunction. For example, on one occasion in April 2008, Nichols was arrested--while in her car with her children--when a police officer discovered marijuana under her seat. Nichols testified that although the marijuana was defendant's, she decided to take the blame since she still loved defendant, who had nonetheless threatened that if Nichols faced subsequent criminal charges, he would deny his ownership and inculpate Nichols.

Nichols had little contact with defendant following her arrest until June 16, 2008. On that date, defendant approached Nichols, who was in her car. Upon Nichols's attempt to leave, defendant reached through the open car window, grabbed Nichols by the throat, and threatened to kill her. Defendant called Nichols later that night, this time threatening to "slit [her] throat." The next night, June 17, 2008, Nichols was driving to her aunt's house when defendant called her phone and told her to stop the car and back up, whereupon defendant got into the car and began driving. With Nichols unsure of their destination, defendant took Nichols's cellular phone after her sister called. Minutes later, defendant and Nichols arrived at the apartment complex of defendant's friend, but defendant refused to return Nichols's phone or keys, and instead twisted her wrist and told her that she was going to spend time with him. The two went into the apartment, but returned a short time later when defendant needed to retrieve an item from the car. Seizing the opportunity, Nichols ran into the apartment ahead of defendant, borrowed the cellular phone of an unknown man inside, and informed her sister of her whereabouts. Defendant subsequently located Nichols, and took her outside, whereupon Nichols sat down in the middle of the parking lot hoping to buy time until the police arrived.

At that, defendant dragged Nichols by her hair across the parking lot and into the car. Defendant then drove Nichols to another parking lot where he punched her in the mouth and choked her until she lost consciousness because Nichols "wouldn't shut [her] smart mouth." When Nichols resumed consciousness, defendant drove to Meijer. Nichols, however, refused to accompany defendant into the store because she had "wet [her] pants." During this time, Nichols's sister had repeatedly been calling. On the fourth call, defendant held the phone to Nichols's ear and instructed her not to reveal their location and threatened to hang up the phone if Nichols did not comply because, as defendant said, "nobody was going to get in the way of him spending time with [Nichols]." Scared of defendant, Nichols complied.

After the call, Nichols reassured defendant that she loved him and convinced him to go into Meijer, by himself since her pants were wet, to buy her new pants. Once defendant went into the store with Nichols's phone, Nichols enlisted the aid of a man in the parking lot to lead her safely into the store. Inside, the store manager assisted Nichols in reporting the incident to police and her family. Police arrived, and after a brief chase inside the store, defendant was arrested as he was attempting to hide an item on a store shelf. A canine officer later discovered marijuana on a shelf next to the area where defendant was arrested. After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of unlawful imprisonment, possession of marijuana, and assault and battery. The instant appeal ensued.



Defendant first argues that insufficient evidence existed to support his conviction of unlawful imprisonment. Due process requires that, to sustain a conviction, the evidence must show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. People v Johnson, 460 Mich 720, 723; 597 NW2d 73 (1999). In determining the sufficiency of the evidence, this Court reviews the evidence de novo in the light most favorable to the prosecution. People v Tombs, 472 Mich 446, 459; 697 NW2d 494 (2005). We do not consider whether any evidence existed that could support a conviction, but rather, we must determine whether a rational trier of fact could find that the evidence proved the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. People v Wolfe, 440 Mich 508, 513-514; 489 NW2d 748 (1992), amended 441 Mich 1201 (1992), citing People v Hampton, 407 Mich 354, 366 (opinion by Coleman, C.J.); 285 NW2d 284 ...

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