Michigan Court Discusses Jury Instructions on Lesser Included Offenses

In Michigan, many crimes are similar in nature and contain similar elements but vary in degrees. As such, if the prosecution cannot establish a defendant’s guilt for the charged offense, it may be able to obtain a conviction for a lesser included offense, which is a less serious crime that necessarily happens during the commission of the more serious offense. Further, in some instances, the defendant will ask the court to instruct the jury on lesser included offenses to prevent them from being convicted for more severe crimes. There is no constitutional right to such instructions, however, as discussed in a recent opinion issued in a Michigan robbery case. If you are charged with robbery or any other theft crime, it is in your best interest to speak to a Michigan criminal defense attorney to determine what measures you can take to protect your interests.

The Alleged Robbery

It is reported that the defendant and two other men entered a gas station convenience store, and began to take things without paying. When the store clerk confronted them, the defendant approached him and began threatening him and waiving a gun at him. The clerk called the police, but the defendant and the other men left before they arrived. They were apprehended shortly thereafter and taken into custody. The defendant was charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and armed robbery and was convicted by a jury. He then filed a pro se petition for habeas corpus, challenging his convictions.

Jury Instructions on Lesser Included Offenses

The defendant asserted, among other things, that the trial court violated his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial by denying his request for a jury instruction on felonious assault and brandishing a firearm in public, which he asserted were lesser included offenses of armed robbery. He further contended that the evidence offered at trial supported his position that it was a lesser included offense.

The court found the defendant’s claims unavailing, however. The court explained that the Constitution does not demand that state courts instruct juries on crimes that are not lesser included offenses of the charged offense. It further elaborated that a court’s failure to instruct a jury on a lesser included offense in a noncapital case was not such a fundamental error that it automatically resulted in a miscarriage of justice. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s petition.

Meet with a Skilled Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

If the prosecution lacks the evidence to establish a defendant’s guilt in a theft case, it may attempt to convict them of a lesser included offense. If you are accused of robbery or another crime, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to discuss your potential defenses. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a skilled Michigan criminal defense lawyer who can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a meeting.

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