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People v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Michigan

May 23, 2019

PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Donald Willie WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Submitted May 8, 2019, at Detroit.

Page 43

          Macomb Circuit Court, LC No. 1993-001791-FC, George E. Montgomery, J.

         Dana Nessel, Attorney General, Fadwa A. Hammoud, Solicitor General, Eric J. Smith, Prosecuting Attorney, Joshua D. Abbott, Chief Appellate Attorney, and Emil Semaan, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people.

         Law Offices of Deborah LaBelle, Ann Arbor (by Anlyn Addis) and Latham & Watkins LLP (by Dean W. Baxtresser and Lauren K. Sharkey) for defendant.

         Jonathan Sacks, Lansing, Michael Mittlestat, Tina N. Olson, and Erin Van Campen for Amicus Curiae the State Appellate Defender Office.

         Before: Redford, P.J., and Markey and K. F. Kelly, JJ.

         OPINION

         Markey, J.

         [328 Mich.App. 410] Defendant, a juvenile lifer, appeals by delayed leave granted[1] the trial court’s order granting in part and denying in part his motion for approval of public funds to hire "mitigation" experts for his resentencing hearing. Defendant had requested expert-witness funding in the amount of $42,650. The trial court awarded him

Page 44

$2,500, but it did not articulate how it had arrived at that figure. We vacate the order and remand for further proceedings.

         The prosecutor sought to have defendant resentenced to life imprisonment without parole (LWOP) for his 1993 jury-trial conviction of first-degree felony murder, MCL 750.316(1)(b), which he committed as an aider and abettor in 1993 at the age of 16. See [328 Mich.App. 411] People v. Williams, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued February 14, 1997 (Docket No. 176570), p. 1, 1997 WL 33354401. Defendant was sentenced as an adult in 1994 to mandatory LWOP for the first-degree murder conviction. Id.

         In People v. Hayes, 323 Mich.App. 470, 473-474, 917 N.W.2d 748 (2018), this Court explained the recent evolution in the law regarding the treatment of juveniles who committed murder and face or received sentences of LWOP:

In Miller v. Alabama,567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), the United States Supreme Court held that mandatory punishment of life in prison absent the possibility of parole for a defendant who was under the age of 18 at the time of the sentencing offense violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. The Miller Court did not indicate whether its decision was to be retroactively applied to closed cases involving juvenile offenders. In light of Miller, the Michigan Legislature enacted MCL 769.25, which provides a procedural framework for sentencing juvenile offenders who have committed offenses punishable by life imprisonment without the possibility of parole; this provision applied to pending and future cases. Anticipating the possibility of Miller’s retroactive application for closed cases, the Legislature also enacted MCL 769.25a, which would be triggered if our Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court were to hold that Miller applied retroactively. And subsequently, in Montgomery v. ...

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