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People v. Crawford

Court of Appeals of Michigan

June 26, 2018

ANTONIO WANYA CRAWFORD, Defendant-Appellant.

          Muskegon Circuit Court LC No. 14-065291-FC

          Before: Markey, P.J., and Murphy and Meter, JJ.

         ON REMAND

          MURPHY, J.

         Defendant was convicted by a jury of two counts of armed robbery, MCL 750.529, and sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 9½ to 32 years. Defendant appealed as of right, and this panel affirmed his convictions and sentences. People v Crawford, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued May 16, 2017 (Docket No. 330215). In lieu of granting leave to appeal, our Supreme Court vacated solely that part of our judgment which held that other-acts evidence of a prior robbery was properly admitted to show intent. People v Crawford, 906 N.W.2d 789 (2018). The Supreme Court directed us to reconsider, under People v Denson, 500 Mich. 385; 902 N.W.2d 306 (2017), "whether the other-acts evidence was relevant to show the necessary intent for armed robbery and not merely propensity for wrongdoing." Crawford, 906 N.W.2d 789. Leave to appeal was denied in all other respects. Id. We hold that evidence of the 2011 robbery served the proper purpose of showing "intent," MRE 404(b)(1), that it was logically relevant, MRE 401 and MRE 402, and that the probative value of the evidence was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, MRE 403. See Denson, 500 Mich. at 398, quoting People v VanderVliet, 444 Mich. 52, 55; 508 N.W.2d 114 (1993). Moreover, assuming error, it was harmless. MCL 769.26; People v Lukity, 460 Mich. 484, 495-496; 596 N.W.2d 607 (1999). Accordingly, we once again affirm.

         We begin our discussion with the pertinent testimony elicited by the prosecution at trial. Jaeden Kammers posted on his Facebook page that he had a video game for sale. Kammers and a friend, Daniel Ribon, later rode their bikes to Hackley Hospital because it had wireless Internet service and they wished to send a message about the game to a friend, Jainautica Watkins, who was attending a graduation party. From the hospital, a message was sent by Kammers, and Watkins responded using his cell phone, indicating that he was interested in purchasing the video game. Watkins allowed defendant, who was also present at the graduation party, to use his cell phone to check Facebook. Defendant, using Watkins's cell phone, began communicating with Kammers. Defendant learned about the video game and the presence of Kammers at Hackley Hospital. He then left the graduation party, telling Watkins, "I'm gonna go get that game." Defendant went to the hospital, meeting Kammers and Ribon at that location. Defendant, who was unknown to both Kammers and Ribon, falsely identified himself, giving the name of a personal rival. Defendant indicated a desire to purchase the game but claimed that he first needed to break a couple of twenty dollar bills. He supposedly was unsuccessful in doing so at the hospital. Defendant next informed Kammers and Ribon that he could get change at his house, and the three of them biked to a house. Defendant did not go inside the home, and he engaged Kammers and Ribon in friendly conversation outside the house. Kammers and Ribon allowed defendant to examine the video game and their cell phones after defendant suggested the possibility of trading phones. With the game and phones in hand, defendant began walking toward the house, leading Kammers and Ribon to believe that he was going to get money inside. Defendant instead started to run away, and upon an attempt by Kammers and Ribon to stop him, defendant pointed a gun at the pair, asking whether they were "tryin' to do something."

         On the day before the trial began, defendant, who had earlier told the police that he had an alibi, provided a new statement to the police, indicating that defendant had been at the graduation party on the day of the offense, that he left the party after about 30 minutes, that he walked to nearby Hackley Hospital to use a bathroom, that he inadvertently bumped into Kammers and Ribon at the hospital, with the two making a request to purchase drugs from defendant, and that defendant refused to sell them any drugs. Defendant further asserted that Kammers and Ribon then pulled out a video game and asked him whether he was interested in buying it, and that defendant looked at the game, but then returned it to them, declining to purchase the game because he did not have the required gaming system. Defendant additionally claimed that, upon request, he allowed Kammers and Ribon to look at defendant's cell phone, that they returned his phone to defendant, and that defendant then left. Defendant's statement effectively constituted a claim that he went to the hospital with innocent intent, lacking any plan or intent to rob Kammers and Ribon, and that he indeed did not rob them.

         With respect to the other-acts evidence, the 2011 robbery committed by defendant entailed defendant walking behind the 15-year-old victim, suddenly attacking the teenager from the rear, physically assaulting him, and then stealing the victim's MP3 player and headphones. The prosecutor successfully argued in favor of the introduction of the other-acts evidence, maintaining, in part, that it was admissible to show intent and motive, especially in light of defendant's most recent statement that he had an innocent interaction with Kammers and Ribon at Hackley Hospital.

         We review for an abuse of discretion a trial court's decision to admit evidence. Denson, 500 Mich. at 396. "However, whether a rule or statute precludes admission of evidence is a preliminary question of law that this Court reviews de novo." Id. When a trial court admits evidence that is inadmissible as a matter of law, the court necessarily abuses its discretion. Id.

         MCL 750.529, Michigan's armed robbery statute, sets forth the nature of the crime, providing, in pertinent part, as follows:

A person who engages in conduct proscribed under section 530 and who in the course of engaging in that conduct, possesses a dangerous weapon or an article used or fashioned in a manner to lead any person present to reasonably believe the article is a dangerous weapon, or who represents orally or otherwise that he or she is in possession of a dangerous weapon, is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for life or for any term of years.

         As indicated in this statutory language, MCL 750.529 incorporates by reference MCL 750.530, which is the general robbery statute, and which provides:

(1)A person who, in the course of committing a larceny of any money or other property that may be the subject of larceny, uses force or violence against any person who is present, or who assaults or puts the person in fear, is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years.
(2) As used in this section, "in the course of committing a larceny" includes acts that occur in an attempt to commit the larceny, or during commission of the larceny, or in flight or attempted flight after the commission of the larceny, or in an attempt to retain possession of the property.

         Armed robbery is a specific intent crime, requiring proof that the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of his or her property. People v Harverson, 291 Mich.App. 171, 177-178, 178 n 2; 804 N.W.2d 757 (2010); People v Williams, 288 Mich.App. 67, 72 n 3, 76; 792 N.W.2d 384 (2010), aff'd 491 Mich. 164 (2011); People v Lee, 243 Mich.App. 163, 168; 622 N.W.2d 71 (2000); People v Parker, 230 Mich.App. 337, 344; 584 N.W.2d 336 (1998); People v King, 210 Mich.App. 425, 428; 534 N.W.2d 534 (1995); M Crim JI 18.1 (setting forth the elements of armed robbery and defining the "larceny" component as the "taking and movement of someone else's property or money with the intent to take it away from that person permanently"). ...

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