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People v. Putman

Court of Appeals of Michigan

February 19, 2015

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL BRIAN PUTMAN, Defendant-Appellant

Page 594

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 595

Wayne Circuit Court. LC No. 13-005448-FC.

For People of MI., Plaintiff-Appellee: Timothy A. Baughman, Detroit, MI.

For Michael Brian Putman, Defendant-Appellant: Jonathan B.D. Simon, Birmingham, MI.

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

Page 596

[309 Mich.App. 242] Per Curiam.

Defendant Michael B. Putman appeals as of right his jury-trial convictions of two counts of assault with intent to murder, MCL 750.83 possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (felony-firearm), MCL 750.227b armed robbery, MCL 750.529 and second-degree murder, MCL 750.317, after he shot three people, one fatally, while robbing a residence. Defendant was sentenced to 15 to 30 years' imprisonment for each of his convictions for assault with intent to murder, two years' imprisonment for his felony-firearm conviction, 15 to 30 years' imprisonment for his armed-robbery conviction, and 25 to 50 years' imprisonment for his second-degree-murder conviction. For the reasons explained in this opinion, we affirm.

Defendant first contends that the trial court erred when it did not properly administer to the witnesses the oath to testify truthfully as required by MCL 600.1432(1). Further, defendant asserts that this failure by the trial court resulted in a violation of his Sixth Amendment right of confrontation and that trial counsel [309 Mich.App. 243] was ineffective for failing to object to the form of the oath.

Defendant did not object to the form of the oath given to the witnesses at trial. Therefore, the issue is unpreserved. See People v Metamora Water Serv, Inc, 276 Mich.App. 376, 382; 741 N.W.2d 61 (2007). This Court reviews unpreserved issues for plain error affecting a defendant's substantial rights. People v Carines, 460 Mich. 750, 763; 597 N.W.2d 130 (1999). In order for defendant to avoid forfeiture under the plain-error standard, he must show that (1) an error occurred, (2) the error was plain, meaning clear or obvious, (3) and the plain error affected substantial rights. Id. The third prong requires a showing of prejudice, which occurs when the error affected the outcome of the lower court proceedings. Id.

Under MCL 600.1432 and MCL 600.1434, witnesses in judicial proceedings must swear or affirm that their testimony will be true. Donkers v Kovach, 277 Mich.App. 366, 369; 745 N.W.2d 154 (2007). The typical manner for administering oaths is set forth in MCL 600.1432(1), which provides:

The usual mode of administering oaths now practiced in this state, by the person who swears holding up the right hand, shall be observed in all cases in which an oath may be administered by law except as otherwise provided by law. The oath shall commence, " You do solemnly swear or affirm" .

There are exceptions to this general rule, including MCL 600.1434, which provides that " [e]very person conscientiously opposed to taking an oath may, instead of swearing, solemnly and sincerely affirm, under the pains and penalties of perjury." Moreover, the administration of oaths and affirmations is a purely procedural matter, and it thus falls within the authority of [309 Mich.App. 244] our Supreme Court to promulgate rules governing the practices and procedures for administering oaths. Donkers, 277 Mich.App. at 373, citing Const. 1962, art 6, § 5. To this end, MRE 603 provides:

Before testifying, every witness shall be required to declare that the witness will testify truthfully, by oath or affirmation administered in a form calculated to awaken the witness' conscience and impress the witness' mind with the duty to do so.

Comparing MRE 603 to the identical language of its federal counterpart, FRE 603, this Court has concluded that " no particular form or language is necessary when swearing or affirming to testify truthfully" in accordance with MRE 603.

Page 597

Donkers, 277 Mich.App. at 372-373. " As the plain language of MRE 603 makes clear, no particular ceremonies, observances, or formalities are required of a testifying witness so long as the oath or affirmation 'awaken[s]' the witness's conscience and 'impress[es]' his or her mind with the duty to testify truthfully." Id. at 373 (alteration in original). See also People v Ramos, 430 Mich. 544, 548; 424 N.W.2d 509 (1988). Because the administrations of oaths and affirmations is a purely procedural matter, to the extent MRE 603 conflicts with MCL 600.1432 and MCL 600.1434, MRE 603 prevails over the statutory provisions, meaning that no specific formalities are required of an oath or affirmation. Donkers, 277 Mich.App. at 373. Therefore, witnesses need not raise their right hands when taking an oath to testify truthfully, and such oaths need not be prefaced with any particular formal words. See id. at 372-373.

In the present case, the trial court asked each witness, including defendant's own witnesses, if they promised to testify truthfully or some similar variation [309 Mich.App. 245] of that question.[1] Each witness answered the trial court's question in the affirmative. This oath was sufficient to awaken the witnesses' consciences and impress the witnesses' minds with the duty to testify truthfully. Therefore, no plain error occurred.[2]

On appeal, defendant also maintains that defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to the oath administered by the trial court. This argument lacks merit, however, because counsel is not ineffective for failing to raise meritless or futile objections. People v Eisen, 296 Mich.App. 326, 329; 820 N.W.2d 229 (2012). Any objection by counsel to the oaths administered would have been meritless because, as stated earlier, the oath administered to the witnesses was sufficient to awaken the witnesses' consciences and impress the witnesses' minds with the duty to testify truthfully. Thus, counsel's failure to raise a meritless objection to the oaths did not deny defendant the effective assistance of counsel. See id.

Defendant next argues that he was denied the opportunity to confront the witnesses against him when a police officer testified about information received from an anonymous source. Defendant failed to object to this testimony at trial, meaning defendant's Confrontation Clause claim is unpreserved and reviewed [309 Mich.App. 246] for plain error affecting his substantial rights. People v Chambers, 277 Mich.App. 1, 10; 742 N.W.2d 610 (2007). In the alternative, defendant argues that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the use of this alleged testimonial hearsay. Because defendant failed to move for a new trial or a Ginther [3] hearing, our review of this ineffective-assistance argument is limited to mistakes apparent on the record. Id.

Page 598

" Both the United States and Michigan constitutions guarantee a criminal defendant the right to confront the witnesses against him or her." People v Garland, 286 Mich.App. 1, 10; 777 N.W.2d 732 (2009), citing U.S. Const, Am VI; Const 1963, art 1, § 20. The Confrontation Clause prohibits the admission of out-of-court statements that are testimonial in nature, unless the declarant was unavailable at trial and the defendant had a prior opportunity to cross-examine the declarant. Chambers, 277 Mich.App. at 10, citing Crawford v Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 68; 124 S.Ct. 1354; 158 L.Ed.2d 177 (2004). The Confrontation clause does not, however, bar the use of out-of-court testimonial statements for purposes other than establishing the truth of the matter asserted. People v Henry (After Remand), 305 Mich.App. 127, 153; 854 N.W.2d 114 (2014). " [A] statement offered to show the effect of the out-of-court statement on the hearer does not violate the Confrontation Clause." Id. at 153-154 (citation and quotation marks omitted). " Specifically, a statement offered to show why police offers acted as they did is not hearsay." Chambers, 277 Mich.App. at 10.

In this case, Detroit Police Officer Steven Ford testified that he received a tip through Crime Stoppers that the individual who shot the victim was named " Mike" and that he " lived on Central." Acting on this [309 Mich.App. 247] information, Ford did more investigating and discovered that defendant fit the description of the tip. Ford then placed defendant's photograph in an array that was shown to several witnesses to the shooting. In this context, it is clear that the tipster's statement was not elicited from Ford to prove the truth of the informant's statement, i.e., that " Mike" committed the murder; rather, it was used to explain why Ford put a photograph of defendant in the photographic array. Because the Confrontation Clause does not prevent the use of out-of-court testimonial statements to show why a police officer acted as he did, the admission of this testimony did not violate defendant's right of confrontation and he has not shown plain error. See id. at 10-11. Furthermore, because the testimony in question did not violate the Confrontation Clause, any objection on this basis would have been futile, and defense counsel is not ineffective for failing to make a futile objection. Eisen, 296 Mich.App. at 329. In short, defendant was not denied his right of confrontation and he was not denied the effective assistance of counsel on this basis.

Next, in a Standard 4 brief,[4] defendant contends he was denied the effective assistance of counsel on other grounds. In particular, defendants contends that counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to call defendant's brother as a witness, failing to object to testimony that Officer Ford obtained defendant's name from the crime reporting system CRISNET, and failing to properly cross-examine witnesses.

Because defendant failed to move for a new trial or a Ginther hearing, our review of his ineffective-assistance claim is limited to mistakes apparent on the record. Chambers, 277 Mich.App. at 10. To establish [309 Mich.App. 248] ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must show that " (1) defense counsel's performance was so deficient that it fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and (2) there is a reasonable probability that defense counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the defendant." People v Heft, 299 Mich.App. 69, 80-81; 829 N.W.2d 266

Page 599

(2012). A " defendant was prejudiced if, but for defense counsel's errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Id. at 81. Effective assistance of counsel is presumed, and a defendant bears a heavy burden of proving otherwise. Eisen, 296 Mich.App. at 329. Defendant also " bears the burden of establishing the factual predicate for his claim." People v Carbin, 463 Mich. 590, 600; 623 N.W.2d 884 (2001).

Decisions regarding whether to call or question a witness are presumed to be matters of trial strategy. People v Russell, 297 Mich.App. 707, 716; 825 N.W.2d 623 (2012). Trial counsel's failure to a call a witness is only considered ineffective assistance if it deprived the defendant of a substantial defense. Id. A substantial defense is one that could have affected the outcome of the trial. People v Daniel, 207 Mich.App. 47, 58; 523 N.W.2d 830 (1994). Likewise, decisions regarding what evidence to present, what evidence to highlight during closing argument, whether to call witnesses, and how to question witnesses are presumed to be matters of trial strategy. People v Horn, 279 Mich.App. 31, 39; 755 N.W.2d 212 (2008). This Court will not " second-guess counsel on matters of trial strategy," nor will it " assess counsel's competence with the benefit of hindsight." Russell, 297 Mich.App. at 716.

Defendant first contends that trial counsel was ineffective for not calling defendant's brother as a witness. Defendant contends that his brother would [309 Mich.App. 249] have testified that he was in possession of defendant's cellular telephone on the night of the shooting, which is why the phone registered at the cell tower located on Central Avenue, within close proximity to the scene of the crime and quite a distance from the house where defendant claimed to be at the time of the shooting. This argument fails, however, because the record is devoid of any indication regarding the potential testimony of defendant's brother. Particularly, nothing in the record suggests that defendant's brother would have testified that he was in possession of defendant's phone on the night of the shooting. Consequently, defendant has failed to establish the factual predicate for his claim, and he has not overcome the presumption that his counsel's decision was a matter of sound trial strategy. Further, defendant has not shown that the failure to call defendant's brother as a witness denied him a substantial defense because defense counsel in fact presented two alibi witnesses who testified that defendant was not in the area of the murder. On the record presented, defendant has not shown that the failure to call his brother as a witness constituted ineffective assistance.

Defendant next contends that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to " challenge the prosecution's witnesses for truthfulness, accuracy and contradiction concerning testimony given." In particular, defendant argues that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to " stress" to the jury that, upon viewing an earlier photographic array, Donald Davie had identified someone other than defendant as the person who had shot him. Defendant likewise contends that counsel was ineffective for failing to reveal the bias that witness Layman Giddings held against defendant, and that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to discredit Stephen Lewis's version of the events. Defendant's [309 Mich.App. 250] arguments in this regard are factually unsupported. The record demonstrates that trial counsel thoroughly cross-examined Davie regarding his misidentification of a man named Michael Terry and discussed the issue during closing arguments, plainly bringing this issue

Page 600

to the jury's attention. Further, defendant's counsel questioned Giddings regarding his bias against defendant, prompting Giddings to admit that he told police he " never liked" defendant. Similarly, trial counsel thoroughly cross-examined Lewis regarding his testimony about how the shooting occurred. Particularly, defense counsel impeached Lewis's testimony with a prior inconsistent statement Lewis made to police, and highlighted those inconsistencies during closing arguments. We see nothing unreasonable in defense counsel's performance in this regard. Moreover, on the record presented, it is not probable that additional questioning on these issues would have altered the trial's outcome, given that there were ultimately several eyewitnesses who identified defendant as the shooter and that his cellular telephone placed him in close proximity to the scene. Defendant has not shown that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel.

Defendant also contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel by the failure to object to Officer Ford's testimony that he found defendant's information on the CRISNET reporting system. Apart from the unsubstantiated and undeveloped assertion that Ford's use of CRISNET was somehow " discriminatory" and " illegal[]," defendant has failed to specify on which ground counsel should have objected, meaning his claim in this regard may be considered abandoned. See People v Watson, 245 Mich.App. 572, 587; 629 N.W.2d 411 (2001). Indeed, defendant has not advanced any basis on which counsel could have objected or explained why the testimony was improper. [309 Mich.App. 251] Under these circumstances, defendant has not shown that trial counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness or that, but for counsel's performance, there was a reasonable probability of a different outcome. He was not denied the ineffective assistance of counsel.

Defendant also asserts that he is entitled to reversal of his armed-robbery conviction because the jury verdict was inconsistent. Specifically, defendant claims that the jury rendered an inconsistent verdict by convicting defendant of armed robbery and second-degree murder while at the same time acquitting defendant of first-degree felony murder. Even assuming inconsistency, defendant is not entitled to relief because inconsistent verdicts within a single jury trial are permissible and do not require reversal. People v Wilson, 496 Mich. 91, 100-101; 852 N.W.2d 134 (2014). " [J]uries are not held to any rules of logic nor are they required to explain their decisions." Id. at 101 (citation and quotation marks omitted). Although defendant complains of a purported inconsistency, he makes no effort to establish that the jury was confused, that they misunderstood the instructions, or that the jury engaged in an impermissible compromise. See People v Lewis, 415 Mich. 443, 450-452 & n 9, 330 N.W.2d 16 (1982); People v McKinley, 168 Mich.App. 496, 510-511; 425 N.W.2d 460 (1988). Absent such circumstances, inconsistent verdicts within a single jury are permissible, and defendant is not entitled to reversal of his convictions. See Wilson, 496 Mich. at 100-101.

Affirmed.

Christopher M. Murray Joel P. Hoekstra Kurtis T. Wilder


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