Traverse Circuit Court LC No. 17-012823-FC
Before: Stephens, P.J., and Servitto and Ronayne Krause, JJ.
Ronayne Krause, J.
who was charged with open murder,  MCL 767.71, appeals as of
right his jury convictions of second-degree murder, MCL
750.317, and concealing or tampering with evidence, MCL
750.483a(5)(a). The trial court sentenced defendant to 25 to
50 years' in prison for the murder conviction and 11
months in jail for the tampering with evidence conviction, to
be served concurrently. We affirm.
was convicted of killing the victim, defendant's
next-door neighbor, in the victim's home and then
concealing or tampering with evidence related to the killing.
There is no dispute that defendant killed the victim; rather,
at issue in this case is the circumstances of the killing.
The prosecution's theory was that defendant assaulted and
killed the victim because defendant was angry that the
victim's friendship and alcohol consumption with
defendant's father had caused significant tension in
defendant's parents' marriage. Defendant's theory
of defense was that, after a night of drinking, the victim
sexually assaulted him, causing defendant to react by
striking the victim in the head in self-defense.
prosecution presented evidence that the victim often
socialized with defendant's father, and that the two
frequently consumed alcohol together. The victim was disabled
from working because of a series of strokes, and witnesses
described him as weak and slow. Defendant testified on his
own behalf that the victim invited defendant over in the
early morning. Defendant accepted the invitation, and after
watching television for some time, the victim physically
attacked defendant, held defendant down, attempted to pull
defendant's pants and underwear off, and threatened to
get a knife. Defendant testified that he punched the victim
once, whereupon the victim fell to the floor, and defendant
"instinctively" punched the victim two or three
more times. Expert medical testimony established that the
victim died from blunt-force injuries, including at least
eight definitive areas of blunt-force trauma to his head.
assaulting the victim, defendant returned to his home,
changed clothes, and took a shower. Later that morning, the
police found a garbage bag near the front door of
defendant's home that contained a pair of shorts that
appeared to have been stained with blood. In another garbage
bag in defendant's bedroom the police found a sock that
appeared to have been stained with blood and a sandal that
matched another sandal that was found inside the victim's
home. The blood on defendant's clothing matched the
victim's DNA. As noted, the trial court's
instructions to the jury included instructions on
first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary
manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter.
SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE
review a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence de
novo. People v. Harverson, 291 Mich.App. 171, 175;
804 N.W.2d 757 (2010). We must review the evidence in a light
most favorable to the prosecution to determine whether the
jury could have found each element of the charged crime
proved beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Reese,
491 Mich. 127, 139; 815 N.W.2d 85 (2012).
"Circumstantial evidence and reasonable inferences
arising therefrom may constitute proof of the elements of [a]
crime," People v. Bennett, 290 Mich.App. 465,
472; 802 N.W.2d 627 (2010), and "it does not matter that
the evidence gives rise to multiple inferences or that an
inference gives rise to further inferences." People
v. Hardiman, 466 Mich. 417, 428, 646 N.W.2d 158 (2002).
"[A] reviewing court is required to draw all reasonable
inferences and make credibility determinations in support of
the jury verdict." People v. Nowack, 462 Mich.
392, 400; 614 N.W.2d 78 (2000).
PREMEDITATED FIRST-DEGREE MURDER
first argues that he is entitled to a new trial because there
was insufficient evidence to submit the charge of
first-degree premeditated murder to the jury. Defendant
further argues that even though the jury convicted him of
only second-degree murder, the erroneous submission of the
greater charge was not harmless because it likely caused the
jury to compromise on a verdict of second-degree murder. We
premeditated murder is defined as "[m]urder perpetrated
by means of poison, lying in wait, or any other willful,
deliberate, and premeditated killing." MCL
750.316(1)(a). Defendant argues that there was insufficient
evidence that he committed a deliberate and premeditated
killing to submit the first-degree murder charge to the jury.
common law, a killing constituted murder if it was done with
malice aforethought. See People v. Mesik (On
Reconsideration), 285 Mich.App. 535, 543-546; 775 N.W.2d
857 (2009). Common law murder evolved into statutory
second-degree murder. See People v. Hansen, 368
Mich. 344, 350-351; 118 N.W.2d 422 (1962). First-degree
premeditated murder is only distinguished from second-degree
murder by the element of premeditation. People v.
Carter, 395 Mich. 434, 437-438; 236 N.W.2d 500 (1975).
Premeditation is not statutorily defined and cannot be
evaluated in "a rigid and mechanical" manner.
People v. Oros, 502 Mich. 229, 240-244; 917 N.W.2d
559 (2018); see also People v. Tilley, 405 Mich. 38,
44-46; 273 N.W.2d 471 (1979). Premeditation cannot be found
where a defendant acts "on a sudden impulse."
Tilley, 405 Mich. at 44 (quotation omitted). The
brutality and violence of a killing does not, by itself, show
premeditation. People v. Hoffmeister, 394 Mich. 155,
159-160; 229 N.W.2d 305 (1975). However, premeditation may be
established by circumstantial evidence tending to show that a
defendant had an opportunity to think about, evaluate, or
take a "second look" at their actions.
Oros, 502 Mich. at 240-244. The opportunity must be
adequate, but it need not be long. Id.
"Premeditation may be established ...