650 N.W.2d 659 (Mich. 2002), 120484, People v. Hine

Docket Nº:120484.
Citation:650 N.W.2d 659, 467 Mich. 242
Opinion Judge:OPINION PER CURIAM.
Party Name:PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Robert Edward HINE, Defendant-Appellee.
Attorney:[467 Mich. 243] Jennifer M. Granholm, Attorney General, Thomas L. Casey, Solicitor General, John A. Hallacy, Prosecuting Attorney, and Jennifer Kay Clark, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Battle Creek, MI, for the people. State Appellate Defender by Peter Jon Van Hoek, Detroit, MI, for the defenda...
Case Date:September 17, 2002
Court:Supreme Court of Michigan
 
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Page 659

650 N.W.2d 659 (Mich. 2002)

467 Mich. 242

PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Robert Edward HINE, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 120484.

Supreme Court of Michigan

September 17, 2002.

Page 660

[467 Mich. 243] Jennifer M. Granholm, Attorney General, Thomas L. Casey, Solicitor General, John A. Hallacy, Prosecuting Attorney, and Jennifer Kay Clark, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Battle Creek, MI, for the people.

State Appellate Defender by Peter Jon Van Hoek, Detroit, MI, for the defendant-appellee.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

I

The defendant was convicted by a jury of first-degree felony murder, M.C.L. § 750.316(b), and first-degree child abuse, M.C.L. § 750.136b. The defendant was sentenced to terms, respectively, of life without the possibility of parole and ten to fifteen years. The defendant appealed as of right. The Court of Appeals reversed the defendant's convictions because of the perceived error in admission of other acts evidence against the defendant and remanded the case to the trial court. 1 This Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to that Court for reconsideration in light of People v. Sabin (After Remand), 463 Mich. 43, 614 N.W.2d 888 (2000).463 Mich. 926, 620 N.W.2d 308 (2000).

Page 661

On remand, the Court of Appeals again reversed the defendant's convictions [467 Mich. 244] and remanded the case to the trial court. 2 application for leave to appeal by the prosecutor, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand to that Court for consideration of the remaining issues of the defendant that have not yet been addressed. The Court of Appeals erred in its determination that evidence of defendant's assaultive behavior toward three women was inadmissible under Sabin. We hold that the evidence was admissible to establish the common scheme, plan, or system of the defendant in perpetrating a particular type of physical assault. From that evidence the jury could properly have inferred that the charged acts were committed, and were committed by the defendant. Sabin, supra at 66-67, 614 N.W.2d 888.

II

On November 7, 1996, paramedics were called to a home in Battle Creek, Michigan, because of a report that a child was choking. The paramedics found Caitlan McLaughlin, a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who was not breathing, had no pulse, and appeared to be dead. After communication with physicians at the nearby hospital emergency room, Caitlan was officially pronounced dead. An autopsy determined that the child had several internal injuries including a subdural hematoma, a healing tear of the liver, hemorrhage in the region of the pancreas, another area of bleeding in the colon (near the appendix), and a large amount of fluid in the abdomen. Caitlan had numerous [467 Mich. 245] circular bruises on her abdomen and a bruise across the bridge of her nose. The injuries were of varying ages, from less than half a dozen hours up to five to seven days old. The cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries. The pathologist opined that the aggregate of the injuries caused Caitlan's death, and that the death was not accidental.

The week before Caitlan died, defendant had been her sole care provider while her mother was at work. Defendant denied any wrongdoing in connection with Caitlan's death.

The defendant was charged with open murder, M.C.L. § 750.316, felony murder on the basis of perpetration or attempted perpetration of child abuse, M.C.L. § 750.316(1)(b), and first-degree child abuse, M.C.L. § 750.136b. The prosecutor notified the defendant of her intent to introduce other acts evidence pursuant to MRE 404(b). The trial court held an evidentiary hearing at which the proposed other acts witnesses testified. 3 Three of the witnesses were former girlfriends of the defendant and included the child's mother. Although the prosecutor referred to alternate theories of admissibility under MRE 404(b), 4 the theory before us is proof of a [467 Mich. 246] common scheme, plan, or system.

Page 662

One witness testified that she dated defendant in 1996, the year before Caitlan's death. She described incidents in which the defendant grabbed her arms, put his hands in her mouth, and stretched her lips. This resulted in bruises on her gums. The witness attributed the violence to the defendant's irritation with her. She also described other incidents involving being threatened with a metal folding chair and with having her eyes blackened.

[467 Mich. 247] Another witness testified that during the time she was involved with the defendant, she was assaulted by him at least once a week. Defendant " head-butted" her, a movement described as defendant hitting his forehead on the witness' nose. One incident caused bleeding from both her nostrils. The witness described being picked up and thrown down by the defendant. Although...

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