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People v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Michigan

February 22, 2018


         Wayne Circuit Court LC No. 15-009466-01-FH

          Before: Shapiro, P.J., and Hoekstra and M. J. Kelly, JJ.

          Per Curiam.

         Defendant appeals her jury trial convictions of larceny from the person, MCL 750.357, and larceny in a building, MCL 750.360. The trial court sentenced defendant to 2 years' probation for each conviction. We vacate defendant's conviction of larceny in a building, but affirm her conviction of larceny from a person.

         I. FACTS

         On February 27, 2016, the Michigan State Police, using a decoy, conducted a sting operation at the Greektown Casino in Detroit, Michigan. The decoy placed a $100 ticket on the deck of a slot machine, and sat about a foot away from the machine with her back to the ticket while she played on her cell phone. At some point, defendant approached the decoy and the ticket, passed by twice while looking at the decoy and the ticket, walked behind the decoy, reached down, took the ticket with her right hand, and immediately walked away. The police arrested defendant after she walked about 5 feet with the ticket in her hand. She was charged as noted.

          II. ANALYSIS


         Defendant first argues that there was insufficient evidence to convict her of larceny from the person because the prosecution failed to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she took property from the person of another. We disagree.[1]

         In reviewing the sufficiency of evidence, this Court must view the evidence " 'in the light most favorable to the prosecutor and determine whether a rational trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.' " People v Bailey, 310 Mich.App. 703, 713; 873 N.W.2d 855 (2015) (citation omitted). "The standard of review is differential: a reviewing court is required to draw all reasonable inferences and make credibility choices in support of the jury verdict." People v Nowack, 462 Mich. 392, 400; 614 N.W.2d 78 (2000). A prosecutor need not negate every reasonable theory of innocence, but must only prove his own theory beyond a reasonable doubt in the face of whatever contradictory evidence the defendant provides. Id.

         The elements of larceny from the person are " '(1) the taking of someone else's property without consent, (2) movement of the property, (3) with the intent to steal or permanently deprive the owner of the property, and (4) the property was taken from the person's immediate area of control or immediate presence.' " People v Smith-Anthony, 296 Mich.App. 413, 423 n 5; 821 N.W.2d 172 (2012) (citation omitted). Defendant challenges whether taking the ticket off the slot machine while the victim was one foot away constitutes taking from the victim's immediate presence.

         The Michigan Supreme Court defined "from the person of another to include takings from the possession and immediate presence of the victim." People v Smith-Anthony, 494 Mich. 669, 681; 837 N.W.2d 415');">837 N.W.2d 415 (2013). In doing so, the Supreme Court narrowed this Court's definition of "from the person" in Perkins, [2] to exclude "immediate area of control." Id. at 682. The Court acknowledged that there was "scant [Michigan] caselaw explaining the scope of the immediate presence standard, " but reviewed caselaw from other jurisdictions to define a standard that requires "immediate proximity between the object and the victim." Id. at 687. The Court further elaborated that "immediate presence in the larceny-from-the-person context is consistent with the plain meaning of the word immediate, which means having no object or space intervening, nearest or next." Id. at 688 (citation and quotation marks omitted). During its explanation of "immediate presence, " the Court articulated that "[e]ven objects that are relatively close to a person are not considered to be in the person's immediate presence unless they are immediately next to the person." Id. at 687.

          The trial court instructed the jury on the elements of the larceny from the person, which included an instruction that "[i]mmediate presence means that the property was physically connected to [the victim], or was right next to her." The testimony and video showed that the ticket was about one foot from the decoy, and that there was no intervening object in that space. Defendant points out that the decoy had her back to the ticket for some time before the theft, and argues that this negates any claim that the ticket was in her "immediate presence." We agree that the fact that the decoy was not facing the object weighs in favor of a finding that it was not in her "immediate presence, " but it does not negate the other evidence which is sufficient to support the verdict. The jury could properly determine that defendant's encroachment within one foot of the decoy and the lack of any intervening objects meant that the ticket was taken from the decoy's immediate presence.[3]

         Defendant next argues that her conviction should be vacated because the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she intended to permanently deprive the decoy of the ticket. We disagree because evidence was presented that before defendant took the ticket she acted in a manner consistent with a larcenous intent. She surveyed the scene by walking past the decoy twice while looking at the decoy and the ticket, and she moved behind the decoy without disturbing her. After she picked up the ticket, she did not ask the decoy if it belonged to her but immediately walked away with the ticket. Moreover, defendant admitted that she knew that it was not her ticket. These facts satisfy the minimal circumstantial evidence required to prove intent. People v Kanaan, 278 Mich.App. 594, 622; 751 N.W.2d 57 (2008) (stating that "because it can be difficult to prove a defendant's state of mind on issues such as knowledge and intent, minimal circumstantial evidence will suffice to establish the defendant's state of mind, which can ...

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