737 N.W.2d 790 (Mich.App. 2007), 265778, People v. Taylor

Docket Nº:265778.
Citation:737 N.W.2d 790, 275 Mich.App. 177
Opinion Judge:SAAD, J.
Party Name:PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Geracer Raphael TAYLOR, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Eric J. Smith, Prosecuting Attorney, Robert Berlin, Chief Appellate Attorney, and Joshua D. Abbott, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people. Lawrence S. Kratz, Sterling Heights, for the defendant.
Judge Panel:Before: O'Connell, P.J., and Saad and Talbot, JJ.
Case Date:April 05, 2007
Court:Court of Appeals of Michigan
 
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737 N.W.2d 790 (Mich.App. 2007)

275 Mich.App. 177

PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Geracer Raphael TAYLOR, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 265778.

Court of Appeals of Michigan

April 5, 2007

Submitted Feb. 13, 2007, at Detroit.

Released for Publication Aug. 29, 2007.

Macomb Circuit Court LC No. 2004-003893-FC

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Eric J. Smith, Prosecuting Attorney, Robert Berlin, Chief Appellate Attorney, and Joshua D. Abbott, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people.

Lawrence S. Kratz, Sterling Heights, for the defendant.

Before: O'Connell, P.J., and Saad and Talbot, JJ.

SAAD, J.

[275 Mich.App. 178] A jury convicted defendant of first-degree premeditated murder, MCL 750.316(1)(a), and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, MCL 750.227b. These convictions stemmed from defendant's killing of Buel Lasater. The court sentenced defendant to life imprisonment for his murder conviction and a consecutive two-year term of imprisonment for his felony-firearm conviction. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I. Insufficiency of Evidence

Defendant says that the prosecution presented insufficient evidence to prove that he was the person who shot Lasater, or, alternatively, that the prosecution [275 Mich.App. 179] presented insufficient evidence to prove that he shot Lasater with premeditation and deliberation. To discern whether a prosecutor presented sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction, we review the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution and determine whether a rational trier of fact could have found that the essential elements of the crime were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Hampton, 407 Mich. 354, 368, 285 N.W.2d 284 (1979). "Circumstantial evidence

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and reasonable inferences that arise from the evidence can constitute sufficient proof of the elements of the crime." People v. Akins, 259 Mich.App. 545, 554, 675 N.W.2d 863 (2003). "The standard of review is deferential: a reviewing court is required to draw all reasonable inferences and make credibility choices in support of the jury verdict." People v. Nowack, 462 Mich. 392, 400, 614 N.W.2d 78 (2000). To establish first-degree premeditated murder, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant intentionally killed the victim with premeditation and deliberation. See People v. Bowman, 254 Mich.App. 142, 151, 656 N.W.2d 835 (2002). "The elements of felony-firearm are that the defendant possessed a firearm during the commission of, or the attempt to commit, a felony." People v. Avant, 235 Mich.App. 499, 505, 597 N.W.2d 864 (1999).

Before he died, Lasater told the police that he was shot by "Booger." Several witnesses testified that defendant's nickname is "Booger." On the night before the shooting, defendant attended a party at the house where Lasater was shot and defendant fought with Lasater. Briefly before the shooting, a neighbor heard a voice that she recognized as the same voice of someone who had been at the party the night before. Evidence showed that Lasater was shot four times with a shotgun, and the police recovered spent shotgun shells outside Lasater's bedroom window. After the shooting, [275 Mich.App. 180] the police searched defendant's residence and found a half-empty box of shotgun shells on his living room couch. Some of the shells used in the shooting had the same bunter mark as the live shells that were found at defendant's residence, and defendant's fingerprint was found on the box of live shells. Viewed in a light most favorable to the prosecution, the evidence was sufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant shot and killed Lasater, and that defendant possessed a firearm during the commission of the crime.

Furthermore, the evidence that defendant and Lasater fought the night before the shooting allowed the jury to infer that defendant had a preconceived motive to shoot Lasater. The jury could reasonably infer from the evidence that defendant left Lasater's residence, obtained a shotgun and shells, placed a lawn chair under Lasater's bedroom window, climbed atop the chair, and shot Lasater four times with a shotgun while Lasater was in bed. This evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, was sufficient to enable the jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant shot Lasater after premeditating and deliberating about the crime. Therefore, we reject defendant's arguments that the prosecutor presented insufficient evidence to convict him. Akins, supra. Because of the strong evidence that linked defendant to Lasater's murder, we also reject defendant's unpreserved and nearly identical claim that the verdict ran contrary to the great weight of the evidence. See People v. Noble, 238 Mich.App. 647, 658, 608 N.W.2d 123 (1999). Because the evidence reasonably supports the verdict, defendant has not shown plain error and a remand for a hearing on this issue is not warranted. Id.

[275 Mich.App. 181] II. Dying Declaration

Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it permitted police officers to testify that Lasater identified defendant as his killer. The record reflects that, within minutes of the shooting of Lasater, police officers responded to a call and entered the house where neighbors said they heard gunshots. Immediately upon forcibly entering the house, police officers found several people in the house and found Lasater in his bedroom, bleeding profusely from gunshot wounds, and the officers asked Lasater to identify the

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shooter. Though Lasater at first hesitated, after the officers advised Lasater that he "might not make it" and asked him to identify his assailant, Lasater identified the defendant, by his nickname, as the shooter. Within minutes, emergency medical personnel arrived and an additional police officer arrived who again advised Lasater that he would not live much longer and asked him to identify his assailant and, once again, Lasater identified defendant as the shooter. After he was kept in an induced coma for a few weeks, Lasater died from his gunshot wounds.

Several months before trial, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing regarding the admissibility of evidence of Lasater's statements to the police officers that identified defendant as the killer. The trial court reasoned that because the police officers took the statements from Lasater in the hectic minutes immediately following what turned out to be the fatal shooting of Lasater, the statements were not testimonial under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 68, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177 (2004). The court further ruled that, were the statements to be treated as testimonial under Crawford, the statements would nonetheless be admissible as dying declarations because the United States [275 Mich.App. 182] Supreme Court in Crawford opined, in dicta, that dying declarations may be afforded special historical status as an exception to the Confrontation Clause. We hold that the trial court ruled and reasoned correctly.

In Davis v. Washington, --- U.S. ----, 126 S.Ct. 2266, 2273, 165 L.Ed.2d 224 (2006), the Court held that "[s]tatements are nontestimonial when made in the course of police interrogation under circumstances objectively indicating that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to enable police...

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