Circuit Court. LC No. 11-011939-FC.
PEOPLE OF MI, Plaintiff-Appellee: DAVID A. MCCREEDY, DETROIT,
ALEXANDER JEREMY STEANHOUSE, Defendant-Appellant: CHARI K.
GROVE, DETROIT, MI.
WILDER, P.J., and OWENS and M. J. KELLY, JJ.
Mich.App. 5] Per Curiam.
appeals as of right his jury trial convictions of assault
with intent to commit murder, MCL 750.83, and receiving and
concealing stolen property less than $20,000, MCL
750.535(3)(a). He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years'
imprisonment for his assault with intent to commit murder
conviction and one to five years' imprisonment for his
receiving and concealing stolen property conviction. We
affirm defendant's convictions, but remand for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
and Antonin (Anton) Valoppi were good friends and often
smoked marijuana in the basement of the home that Anton
shared with his parents, Rory and Suzanne
Valoppi. In September 2011, the Valoppi
residence was robbed. Two weeks later, defendant told Anton
that he knew the individuals who had broken into the Valoppi
home and offered to retrieve the stolen items if Anton paid
him. According to defendant, he discovered that Derrin Evans
had committed the robbery, and defendant retrieved the items
from Evans. Defendant partially returned the stolen property
to Anton, who gave him " reward" money in return.
Defendant testified that he subsequently gave a portion of
the " reward" money to Evans.
Mich.App. 6] On October 16, 2011, defendant went to the
Valoppi residence to smoke marijuana with Anton. Anton and
Rory did not recall anyone except defendant entering their
home. However, defendant testified at trial that he and Evans
both went to Anton's home to smoke
marijuana. When defendant arrived, Anton and
defendant went into the basement. Anton then went upstairs to
retrieve his box of marijuana and returned to the basement.
The next thing Anton remembered was waking up with his throat
" hanging open" and seeing defendant standing in
front of him, staring at him, and " wait[ing] for [him]
to die." Defendant made no attempt to help Anton.
ran upstairs to get help and told Rory " [t]hat his
friend tried to kill him." While Rory and Suzanne were
helping Anton, Rory saw defendant run up the stairs and out
the side door of their home even though Rory shouted at
defendant for help. Suzanne asked Anton what happened, and
Anton replied, " A.J. stabbed me."  In response
to questions by the 911 operator, Anton indicated that A.J.
Steanhouse committed the assault and provided defendant's
address. Anton did not actually see who assaulted him, but he
believed that defendant was the only other person in the
basement when the assault occurred. Additionally, Anton
believed that he was struck in the head with a wrench before
his throat was slit, drawing this inference because he
sustained a skull fracture, and he later found a wrench with
" hair sticking out of [it]."
to defendant, Evans was the perpetrator of the assault. When
Anton, who was " past over [sic] the level of being
high," went upstairs, Evans told defendant that he was
going to rob and kill Anton. [313 Mich.App. 7] After Anton
returned to the basement, Evans attacked him, cut his throat,
grabbed some marijuana and pills, and left the residence.
Defendant then rolled Anton over, at which time the knife
came out of his neck, and called Anton's name, waking
Anton up. Defendant testified that Anton accused defendant of
stabbing him, and defendant excitedly repeated that he was
not the one who assaulted Anton. Defendant then ran upstairs
and left the residence because he was " under the
influence and high," and he was shocked and hurt that
Anton would believe that defendant " would do something
like this to him."
leaving Anton's home, defendant went to his own house and
changed his clothes because there was blood on them. He woke
up his girlfriend, Katherine McIntyre, and told her that he
had been at Anton's home and that Anton had been stabbed,
but he did not specify the perpetrator of the assault.
Defendant then left the house and stayed the night at a
friend's residence. Defendant later told McIntyre that
Chips had stabbed Anton.
after the incident, defendant turned himself in and was
arrested. He maintained his innocence and implicated Chips as
the perpetrator of the assault. When the police searched
defendant's vehicle, they discovered some of the items
that were reported as stolen from the Valoppi residence.
Police officers also recovered defendant's clothing from
his home. Forensic testing of the blood on defendant's
clothing and the possible blood stain on the knife blade
recovered from the scene matched Anton's DNA.
Additionally, forensic testing of the knife handle revealed
two DNA types, but only that of the major donor, Anton, could
be [313 Mich.App. 8] identified; the testing could not
confirm whether the minor donor's DNA was defendant's
the incident, Evans provided two statements during separate
interviews with a police detective. In his first statement,
provided after the detective indicated that defendant had
implicated Evans as the perpetrator of the assault, Evans
stated that he was not present at the scene of the assault.
Evans provided his second statement four months later while
he was in custody for a separate offense. After the detective
informed him again that defendant had implicated him in
Anton's assault, and the detective stated that he knew
that Evans was present when the crime was committed, Evans
admitted that he was present in the basement of Anton's
home at the time of the assault. However, Evans claimed that
defendant slit Anton's throat, after which Evans ran up
the stairs and left the residence.
pretrial hearing, the prosecutor informed the trial court of
the possibility that Evans could incriminate himself in light
of his contradictory police statements and defendant's
theory that Evans committed the assault. The prosecutor asked
the trial court to appoint counsel for Evans and to conduct a
hearing before trial regarding whether Evans would exercise
his privilege against self-incrimination. The trial court
granted the prosecutor's request.
first day of the trial, before jury selection and outside the
presence of the prospective jurors, Evans's appointed
counsel informed the trial court that he had discussed the
Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination with Evans.
Evans's attorney believed that Evans could incriminate
himself if he testified, [313 Mich.App. 9] given the
inconsistencies between his two statements and his potential
testimony that he was present at the scene of the crime.
Evans's attorney stated that he had advised Evans to not
testify, and that Evans had decided to invoke his Fifth
Amendment privilege. Because Evans would invoke his Fifth
Amendment privilege, the trial court ruled that Evans was an
unavailable witness and did not compel him to testify.
Subsequently, defendant moved to admit the statements that
Evans made to the police pursuant to MRE 804(b)(3) and MRE
804(b)(7). The trial court ruled that Evans's statements
were not admissible under either hearsay exception, finding
that neither of Evans's statements was against his penal
interest and that the statements lacked sufficient indicia of
trial--after McIntyre testified that when defendant came home
on the night of the incident, defendant stated that he was at
Anton's home and that Anton was stabbed without
specifying who stabbed him--the prosecutor introduced a brief
excerpt of McIntyre's police interview. During the
interview, McIntyre initially told the detective that
defendant did not admit that he stabbed Anton on the night of
the assault, but she later told the detective that defendant
admitted that he had stabbed Anton. After she left the police
station, McIntyre immediately called the detective and stated
that she lied when she said that defendant admitted that he
stabbed Anton. At trial, McIntyre testified that she lied to
the police and asserted that defendant never told her that he
stabbed Anton. She explained that she made the statement
during the interview because she was tired and felt
threatened, pressured, not safe, and uncomfortable when the
detective mentioned her children and indicated [313 Mich.App.
10] that she could get into trouble even though she was not
present during the offense.
his closing argument, the prosecutor argued, without
objection, that defendant's admission to McIntyre that he
stabbed Anton was substantive evidence of defendant's
guilt. The trial court, also without objection, instructed
the jurors that they could consider prior inconsistent
statements both for impeachment purposes and as substantive
evidence. Afterward, defense counsel expressly approved the
instructions provided by the trial court.
during his closing argument, the prosecutor argued that
defendant was the only person to go inside the home and the
only person in the basement except for Anton. The prosecutor
referred to defendant's account of the criminal episode
as a " lie" and a " story" :
What we have here is the defendant basically, following the
old axiom about if you're going to lie, tell a big lie.
Tell one that's so shocking and enormous that people
don't just immediately dismiss [it] as a lie, because
it's so big but they have to just stand back and look at
him; wait a minute, is he really telling me what I think
he's telling me.
And what you heard from the defendant about his explanation
for what happened, is precisely that. It's the big lie.
And we know that from a lot of different perspectives and for
a lot of different reasons.
One of them is the fact that he got caught up in the details
of what he was saying, and it turned out there were some
pretty major inconsistencies in what he was saying.
Because when you tell the big lie, you can't always keep
your little details straight.
* * *
[313 Mich.App. 11] He has not kept his details straight in
the big lie he's told you. And beyond just the details
that he's gotten wrong[,] it just doesn't make any
his rebuttal argument, the prosecutor stated:
[W]hat they're left with is the defendant's big lie;
that [sic] so obviously a big lie that you can't believe
* * *
Now, I think you have to ask yourself how is it, and why is
it, and when is it that the defendant came up with this story
about Chips having done this. . . .
* * *
[H]e's faced with a situation where he's got to tell
you the big lie and he's got to have you believe that big
counsel asserted during his closing argument that the
prosecutor failed to present Anton's medical records, and
therefore, prevented the jury from being able to perform a
" fair and meaningful" evaluation of the extent of
Anton's injuries. During his rebuttal, the prosecutor
stated the following:
Now, you may have noticed I was taking a few notes while
[defense counsel] was talking. So I'm going to address a
few of the issues that he did.
And first on that list of issues is, I think what he
mentioned, one of the first things, and he kept going back to
it, was there's not enough blood here[,] he says.
There's no medical records to show you what actually
happened to Anton Valoppi.
Well it's true; I mean one thing you have to keep in mind
throughout this entire process is that, as I've just
said, I have the burden of proof.
[313 Mich.App. 12] The defense has no burden of proof
whatsoever. They don't have to call any witnesses.
They didn't have to call his own client to the witness
stand, didn't have to call any witnesses whatsoever.
As the Judge told you from the beginning of the trial[,] they
could have just sat here and played tic-tac-toe.
And then just got up an argument [sic] in the end,
doesn't even have to argue again.
But if they got up and argued again and just said prosecutor
didn't prove his case and sat down, you would have to
consider all the same instructions whether we've proven
the case beyond a reasonable doubt; the defense doesn't
have to do anything.
So I mean when you think about that argument about the
medical records though, it's true we've had the
medical records for three months but so has [defense
* * *
[Defense counsel] doesn't have to show you the medical
records he received[; ] he has no burden of proof.
But when he argues to you that I should have shown them to
you, at least you ought to think well, if there's
something important in there[, defense ...