Michigan Court Discusses Inconsistent Verdicts in Criminal Matters

It is well established under Michigan law that people can be charged with more than one offense following a single criminal incident. They cannot be found guilty twice for the same crime, however, as such rulings violate double jeopardy. Further, they cannot be found guilty of multiple crimes if such convictions are contradictory. In other words, there are protected from inconsistent verdicts or those that cannot be rationally reconciled with the court’s factual findings. This was illustrated in a recent Michigan criminal matter, in which a court overturned a defendant’s felonious assault conviction on the grounds that it was inconsistent with his conviction for assault with murderous intent. If you are accused of assault, it is advisable to confer with a Michigan assault defense attorney regarding your potential defenses.

The Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant stabbed a woman he had previously dated in July 2018. Prior to the incident, the woman left the apartment she lived in with the defendant, and the defendant moved to Florida. At some point, she emailed the defendant and asked him to return to Michigan. According to the woman, the defendant appeared on her balcony one evening and stabbed her numerous times.

It is reported that she was taken to the hospital, where she underwent surgery. The defendant was charged with felonious assault, assault with murderous intent, and other crimes. He was convicted via a bench trial, after which he appealed, arguing in part that his convictions for assault with murderous intent and felonious assault were inconsistent verdicts.

Inconsistent Verdicts

On appeal, the court stated that while juries are permitted to render verdicts that are inconsistent or mutually exclusive, trial judges acting as finders of fact do not have the same allowances. The appellate court explained that a verdict is inconsistent if it cannot be rationally reconciled with the factual findings of the trial court.

In the subject case, the defendant argued that the means rea elements of felonious assault and assault with murderous intent were mutually exclusive, which made his convictions for both crimes for the same behavior inherently inconsistent. In other words, felonious assault is an assault with a dangerous instrument with the intent to injure the victim or place them in fear of immediate harm, while assault with murderous intent is an assault committed with the actual intent of killing the victim.

Further, the statute for felonious assault noted that it was an assault without the intent to commit murder. The court explained that where one conviction involves a specific intent and the other involves a lack of the same intent, the two are mutually exclusive. Thus, the court vacated the defendant’s felonious assault conviction.

Speak to an Experienced Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Assault convictions can carry significant penalties, and it is smart for anyone charged with an assault crime to speak to an attorney about their rights. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer, and if you are accused of an assault crime, he can set forth persuasive arguments on your behalf to provide you with a strong chance of obtaining a favorable outcome. You can reach  Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a meeting.




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