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People v. Grant

Court of Appeals of Michigan

September 19, 2019

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ADAM DOUGLAS GRANT, Defendant-Appellant.

          Eaton Circuit Court LC No. 93-000075-FC

          Before: Gadola, P.J., and Markey and Ronayne Krause, JJ.

          Markey, J.

         Defendant appeals as on leave granted the circuit court's order denying his motion for written approval to make defendant eligible for early parole under MCL 769.12(4). The Parole Board had also previously received a rejection from the court in response to its request to grant defendant early parole. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         To give context to our discussion of the factual and procedural history of the case, we begin with a brief overview of the law implicated in this matter. MCL 769.12 addresses fourth-offense habitual offenders such as defendant, and this appeal concerns the construction of Subsection (4) of the statute, which provides:

An offender sentenced under this section or section 10 or 11 of this chapter for an offense other than a major controlled substance offense is not eligible for parole until expiration of the following:
(a) For a prisoner other than a prisoner subject to disciplinary time, the minimum term fixed by the sentencing judge at the time of sentence unless the sentencing judge or a successor gives written approval for parole at an earlier date authorized by law.
(b) For a prisoner subject to disciplinary time, the minimum term fixed by the sentencing judge.

          Because the crimes committed by defendant were perpetrated before December 15, 1998, he is not a "prisoner subject to disciplinary time." MCL 791.233c ("As used in this act, 'prisoner subject to disciplinary time' means that term as defined in . . . [MCL] 800.34[.]"); MCL 800.34(5)(a) (A "prisoner subject to disciplinary time" encompasses prisoners sentenced to indeterminate terms of imprisonment for enumerated crimes committed "on or after December 15, 1998[.]"); Hayes v Parole Bd, 312 Mich.App. 774, 779 n 1; 886 N.W.2d 725 (2015). Accordingly, Subsection (4)(a) of MCL 769.12 governs, as opposed to Subsection (4)(b).[1]

         We now turn to the facts of the case. In 1993, defendant was convicted by a jury of bank robbery, MCL 750.531, conspiracy to commit bank robbery, MCL 750.157a; MCL 750.531, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (felony-firearm), MCL 750.227b. He was sentenced as a fourth-offense habitual offender, MCL 769.12, to concurrent prison terms of 27 to 50 years for the bank robbery and conspiracy convictions, preceded by a consecutive two-year sentence for the felony-firearm conviction. And those three sentences were to be served consecutively to a sentence that defendant was already serving. Defendant's convictions and sentences were affirmed by this Court on appeal. People v Grant, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued February 14, 1997 (Docket No. 167327). Our Supreme Court then denied defendant's application for leave to appeal. People v Grant, 456 Mich. 954; 577 N.W.2d 687 (1998).

         The "calendar minimum date" for defendant's release from prison is June 30, 2022; however, his "net minimum date" for release-defendant's calendar minimum date less disciplinary credits-was December 31, 2017.[2] Accordingly, in December 2017, subject to the "written approval" prerequisite, defendant became eligible for parole under MCL 791.233(1)(b) and MCL 791.233b(m) and (x).[3] And the Parole Board acquired jurisdiction pursuant to MCL 791.234(3).[4] In August 2017, the Parole Board sent a letter to the circuit court indicating that as a result of an interview with defendant, it had an interest in paroling defendant.[5] The Parole Board, citing MCL 769.12(4)(a), requested written approval from the circuit court to parole defendant before his calendar minimum date.

         The circuit court judge, who was the successor of the sentencing judge, denied the Parole Board's request. In a letter to the Parole Board, the circuit court emphasized that it was not the sentencing court, and therefore, it was unfamiliar with the facts and did not know the reasoning for its predecessor's decision to impose the particular sentence. The circuit court further explained that the Parole Board's letter contained "no basis for the request to ignore the habitual status for sentencing nor what the victim['s] request was at the time of sentencing." Additionally, the court complained that it had not been provided the presentence investigation report to review for purposes of contemplating the Parole Board's request. Finally, the circuit court stated that it was "not comfortable" altering the sentence.

         In March 2018, defendant filed a motion seeking written approval of the Parole Board's jurisdiction to grant defendant parole; he asked the circuit court to declare him eligible for early parole. Defendant submitted numerous exhibits to the circuit court in support, including a transcript of the sentencing hearing, various internal documents of the Department of Corrections concerning defendant, parole guidelines, and letters of support. The prosecution filed a response opposing defendant's motion, arguing that defendant was not remorseful and minimized his involvement in the bank robbery. At the hearing on defendant's motion, the circuit court, ruling from the bench, denied the request for written approval of early parole eligibility. The gist of the court's ruling was that it did not believe that it should exercise its discretion to alter the sentence imposed in the case by the sentencing court. The circuit court judge lamented that her predecessor was very experienced, had a criminal law background, had been a mentor, and was probably more liberal when it came to sentencing. The court further indicated:

[I] still have to come back to the fact that I was not the sentencing judge, okay. I know when I give a sentence, I have thought about it, given it all the consideration I can give it, and then I make the best decision based on ...

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