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People v. Carll

Court of Appeals of Michigan

January 23, 2018

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DALTON DUANE CARLL, Defendant-Appellant.

         Delta Circuit Court LC No. 15-009201-FH

          Before: Markey, P.J., and Shapiro and Gadola, JJ.

          SHAPIRO, J.

         Defendant appeals his convictions, following a jury trial, of one count of reckless driving causing death, MCL 257.626(4), and three counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment of a bodily function, MCL 257.626(3). The trial court sentenced defendant to serve concurrent terms of 4 to 15 years' imprisonment for his reckless driving causing death conviction and 23 months to 5 years' imprisonment for each of his reckless driving causing serious impairment convictions. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm defendant's convictions, but remand for resentencing.

         The crash giving rise to this case occurred on June 17, 2015. Defendant, then 17 years old, and a licensed driver for only one month, was driving a pickup truck with six other young people in the vehicle. They were travelling on a gravel surface road trail. Alyson Anderson was seated in the front passenger seat of the truck, Daniel Garza, Danielle Baxter, and Edward Kwarciany were seated in the interior rear of the truck, and Brad Hemes and Gage Caswell, were riding in the bed of the truck. Testimony at trial established that defendant drove the truck through a stop sign at 30-40 mph and struck a car that was entering the intersection with the right of way. The driver of that car was killed and his passenger sustained serious injuries. Hemes and Caswell, the two young men riding in the bed of the pickup, were also seriously injured. Defendant testified at trial and admitted that he failed to stop at the stop sign. He asserted, however, that he had not been traveling at an excessive speed and that he had tried to stop, but that the truck's brakes did not respond.

         I. SUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE

         On appeal, defendant first argues that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was operating a motor vehicle with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. We disagree.[1]

         MCL 257.626 provides that a person who drives recklessly and causes death or serious injury is guilty of a felony:

(1) A person who violates this section is guilty of reckless driving punishable as provided in this section.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who operates a vehicle upon a highway or a frozen public lake, stream, or pond or other place open to the general public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of a misdemeanor . . . .
(3) Beginning October 31, 2010, a person who operates a vehicle in violation of subsection (2) and by the operation of that vehicle causes serious impairment of a body function to another person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not less than $1, 000.00 or more than $5, 000.00, or both. . . .
(4) Beginning October 31, 2010, a person who operates a vehicle in violation of subsection (2) and by the operation of that vehicle causes the death of another person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not less than $2, 500.00 or more than $10, 000.00, or both. . . .

         The conduct proscribed by subsection (2) of this statute is the operation of a vehicle in "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property." It is well settled that "to show that a defendant acted in willful and wanton disregard of safety, something more than ordinary negligence must be proved." People v Crawford, 187 Mich.App. 344, 350; 467 N.W.2d 818, 821 (1991). When willful and wanton behavior is an element of a criminal offense it is not enough to show carelessness. Rather, "a defendant must have a culpable state of mind." Id.

         The trial court instructed the jury that in order to convict, it must find that the defendant drove the motor vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. "Willful or wanton disregard" means more than simple carelessness but does not require proof of an intent to cause harm. It means knowingly disregarding the possible risks to the safety of people or property. [2]

         This Court evaluates a defendant's sufficiency of the evidence claim by asking whether "the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the [prosecution], would warrant a reasonable juror in finding guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." People v Nowack, 462 Mich. 392, 399; 614 N.W.2d 78 (2000). "The standard of review is deferential: a reviewing court is required to draw all reasonable inferences and make credibility choices in support of the jury verdict." Id. at 400. "Circumstantial evidence and reasonable inferences arising from that evidence can constitute satisfactory proof of the elements of a crime." Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted). Questions regarding the weight of the evidence and credibility of witnesses are for the jury, and this Court must not interfere with that role even when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence. People v Wolfe, 440 Mich. 508, 514-515; 489 N.W.2d 748');">489 N.W.2d 748 (1992), amended 441 Mich. 1201 (1992). Finally, on appellate review, conflicts in the evidence are "resolved in favor of the prosecution." People v Kanaan, 278 Mich.App. 594, 619; 751 N.W.2d 57 (2008).

         Extensive evidence was presented to show that defendant drove in a manner that willfully or wantonly disregarded a high risk of serious injury to the people in his vehicle and other vehicles.[3] There was testimony and forensic evidence that defendant was driving too fast for the conditions. Anderson testified that defendant was going 30 or 40 miles an hour on the gravel road and that she told defendant to slow down because he was travelling faster than he normally did. Kwarciany testified that defendant was traveling 30 or 40 miles an hour when approaching the stop sign. Garza testified that he believed defendant was going 40-45 miles per hour and that he did not slow down before the stop sign. He described defendant's driving as "getting kind of reckless." Hemes testified that defendant was driving very fast, as fast as 50-60 mph and that he was "going way too fast . . . for people in the back [of the truck], " on high speed, which got worse as the ride continued. Caswell described defendant's driving as "weird" and "kind of terrifying" and testified that he estimated defendant's speed at 50 mph at the time of the crash.

         The prosecution also presented testimony from a Michigan State Police officer who is an accident reconstructionist. He testified that there was no indication of braking on the gravel road, which would normally be evidenced by some of the gravel being dug out or dragged along the road surface. He also testified that the speed of the defendant's truck, at the moment of impact with the other vehicle, was in the range of 30 to 43 miles per hour. He and other witnesses described the stop sign as visible and noted that there was a "stop ahead" sign 180 feet before the stop sign itself. Kwarciany testified that he felt that defendant was trying to "gun through" the stop sign and believed that defendant accelerated as he approached the sign.

         In sum, there was evidence that defendant purposefully drove through a stop sign at high speed without any attempt to brake and that he may even have accelerated into the intersection. A jury could fairly conclude that defendant's actions were willful or that they were done ...


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