Circuit Court LC No. 15-010037-01-FC
Before: Gleicher, P.J., and Boonstra and Tukel, JJ.
appeals as of right his jury trial convictions of involuntary
manslaughter, MCL 750.321, second-degree child abuse, MCL
750.136b(3), felon in possession of a firearm, MCL 750.224f,
possession of a short-barreled shotgun, MCL 750.224b, and
possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony
(felony-firearm), MCL 750.227b. Defendant was sentenced, as a
fourth-habitual offender, MCL 769.12, to 25 to 50 years'
imprisonment for the involuntary manslaughter conviction, 10
to 50 years' imprisonment for the second-degree child
abuse conviction, 5 to 50 years' imprisonment each for
the felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a
short-barreled shotgun convictions, and two years'
imprisonment for the felony-firearm conviction. We affirm.
case arises out of the fatal shooting of defendant's
nine-year-old son, DH, by defendant's 10-year-old
daughter, TH, on November 9, 2015, in defendant's home.
The involuntary manslaughter charge against defendant was
premised on his gross negligence in storing a loaded,
short-barreled shotgun in a readily accessible location in
his home where he allowed his children to play while
unsupervised by an adult.
SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE
first argues that there was insufficient evidence to support
his convictions of involuntary manslaughter and second-degree
child abuse. We disagree.
determine whether there was sufficient evidence to support a
conviction, this Court reviews the evidence de novo, in the
light most favorable to the prosecutor, to determine whether
a rational trier of fact could have found that the essential
elements of the offense were proven beyond a reasonable
doubt. People v Odom, 276 Mich.App. 407, 418; 740
N.W.2d 557 (2007).
Court will not interfere with the trier of fact's role of
determining the weight of the evidence or the credibility of
witnesses." People v Kanaan, 278 Mich.App. 594,
619; 751 N.W.2d 57 (2008). "All conflicts in the
evidence must be resolved in favor of the prosecution."
Id. "Circumstantial evidence and reasonable
inferences arising therefrom may constitute proof of the
elements of the crime." People v Bennett, 290
Mich.App. 465, 472; 802 N.W.2d 627 (2010).
is murder without malice." People v Mendoza,
468 Mich. 527, 534; 664 N.W.2d 685 (2003). "The common
law recognizes two forms of manslaughter: voluntary and
involuntary." Id. at 535. Involuntary
manslaughter is a catch-all crime that encompasses all
homicides that do not constitute murder, voluntary
manslaughter, or a justified or excused homicide. People
v Holtschlag, 471 Mich. 1, 7; 684 N.W.2d 730 (2004). The
requisite mental state for the type of involuntary
manslaughter charged in this case is gross negligence. See
id. at 16-17. Gross negligence means wantonness and
disregard of the consequences that may ensue. People v
Feezel, 486 Mich. 184, 195; 783 N.W.2d 67 (2010).
Wantonness exists when the defendant is aware of the risks
but indifferent to the results; it constitutes a higher
degree of culpability than recklessness. Id. at 196.
To prove gross negligence, a prosecutor must show:
(1) Knowledge of a situation requiring the exercise of
ordinary care and diligence to avert injury to another.
(2) Ability to avoid the resulting harm by ordinary care and
diligence in the use of the means at hand.
(3) The omission [i.e., failure] to use such care and
diligence to avert the threatened danger when to the ordinary
mind it must be apparent that the result is likely to prove
disastrous to another. [People v McCoy, 223
Mich.App. 500, 503; 566 N.W.2d 667 (1997) (citation
is an element of involuntary manslaughter. People v
Tims, 449 Mich. 83, 94; 534 N.W.2d 675 (1995). Causation
in the criminal context requires proof of factual causation
and proximate causation. Feezel, 486 Mich. at 194.
"Factual causation exists if a finder of fact determines
that 'but for' defendant's conduct the result
would not have occurred." Id. at 194-195.
Proximate causation, on the other hand,
is a legal construct designed to prevent criminal liability
from attaching when the result of the defendant's conduct
is viewed as too remote or unnatural. If the finder of fact
determines that an intervening cause supersedes a
defendant's conduct such that the causal link between the
defendant's conduct and the victim's injury was
broken, proximate cause is lacking and criminal liability
cannot be imposed. Whether an intervening cause supersedes a
defendant's conduct is a question of reasonable
foreseeability. [Id. at 195 (quotation marks and
argues that there was insufficient evidence of gross
negligence in connection with his involuntary manslaughter
conviction. We disagree. The evidence demonstrates that
defendant kept an illegal, loaded, short-barreled shotgun in
an unlocked closet in his bedroom. He allowed his children to
spend time in that bedroom while unsupervised. In particular,
defendant allowed his nine-year-old son DH to play a violent
video game in that bedroom while unsupervised.
Defendant's 10-year-old daughter TH likewise had
unsupervised access to defendant's bedroom and entered
that bedroom while DH was playing the video game. TH then
suggested that she and DH act out the video game. She
retrieved the loaded shotgun from the closet and accidentally
fired the gun, which led to DH's death. A rational trier
of fact could find that defendant acted with gross negligence
in allowing his children to have unsupervised access to a
loaded shotgun. Defendant knew the situation required the
exercise of ordinary care and diligence to avert injury. It
goes without saying that a loaded shotgun poses a danger to
young children who are not being monitored by an adult.
Defendant had the ability to avoid the harm by ordinary care
and diligence. Setting aside the fact that it was illegal for
him to possess the weapon, as he was a convicted felon, and
the fact that the weapon itself was an illegal short-barreled
shotgun, defendant could have taken other actions-short of
giving up his illegal possession of the gun-to avoid the
harm, such as removing the ammunition from the weapon or
placing it in a secure location where his children would not
have had access to it. By allowing his young children to play
unsupervised in a room where he kept a loaded, readily
accessible shotgun, defendant failed to use the requisite
care and diligence; he failed to avert a threatened danger
where the result was likely to prove disastrous to his
children. Therefore, we conclude that there was sufficient
evidence of gross negligence.
challenge to the causation element is equally devoid of
merit. It is beyond question that factual causation exists.
But for defendant keeping a loaded shotgun in an unlocked
closet of the bedroom where the children were playing without
supervision, TH could not have obtained the weapon and
accidentally shot DH. Proximate causation likewise exists.
The result of defendant's conduct was not remote or
unnatural. A child dying from an accidental gunshot is
exactly the type of harm that is to be expected from
defendant's conduct of keeping a loaded weapon readily
accessible in a room where young children were playing. Nor
does TH's action of obtaining the weapon and accidentally
firing it constitute an intervening cause that superseded
defendant's conduct. Rather, TH's actions were
reasonably foreseeable. Given that young children fail to
appreciate the risks posed by loaded firearms in the same way
that adults should, it is foreseeable that a child could
accidentally fire a loaded weapon that was readily accessible
in a room where the child was playing without supervision.
Although some testimony suggested that defendant told the
children not to touch the weapon or to go into the closet and
that TH was ordinarily an obedient ...