759 N.W.2d 850 (Mich. 2008), 135989, People v. Miller

Docket Nº:Docket 135989.
Citation:759 N.W.2d 850, 482 Mich. 539
Party Name:PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Michael Allen MILLER, Defendant-Appellee.
Attorney:Michael A. Cox, Attorney General, B. Eric Restuccia, Solicitor General, Ronald J. Frantz, Prosecuting Attorney, and Gregory J. Babbitt, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people. Gary L. Kohut, Troy, for the defendant. Kym L. Worthy, Prosecuting Attorney, and Timothy A. Baughman, Chief of Re...
Case Date:December 30, 2008
Court:Supreme Court of Michigan

Page 850

759 N.W.2d 850 (Mich. 2008)

482 Mich. 539

PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Michael Allen MILLER, Defendant-Appellee.

Docket No. 135989.

Supreme Court of Michigan.

December 30, 2008

Argued Oct. 2, 2008.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Michael A. Cox, Attorney General, B. Eric Restuccia, Solicitor General, Ronald J. Frantz, Prosecuting Attorney, and Gregory J. Babbitt, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people.

Gary L. Kohut, Troy, for the defendant.

Kym L. Worthy, Prosecuting Attorney, and Timothy A. Baughman, Chief of Research, Training, and Appeals, for amici curiae the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

Charles H. Koop, Jeffrey L. Sauter, and William W. Worden, Bellaire, for amici curiae the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.

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We granted leave to appeal to consider whether defendant is entitled to a new trial on the basis that a convicted felon served as a juror in his original trial. The trial court held that defendant is not entitled to a new trial because he failed to establish actual prejudice. The Court of Appeals, on the other hand, held that defendant is entitled to a new trial because the presence of the convicted felon on his jury did prejudice him. We do not believe that the trial court abused its discretion in denying defendant's motion for a new trial under these circumstances because the trial court did not clearly err in concluding that defendant failed to establish that he was actually prejudiced. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand this case to the Court of Appeals for it to address defendant's remaining issues.


Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for forcing his then-girlfriend's seven-year-old daughter to perform fellatio on him. Before sentencing, defendant learned that one of the jurors had concealed the fact that he had been convicted of assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct in 1991 and 1999 for having assaulted his sister and another person to whom he referred as an " adopted child" who was " more like a niece." An evidentiary hearing was held. The juror in question stated that he did not reveal his prior convictions on his juror questionnaire because they were old and he did not believe that they were even on his record anymore.1 He further stated that because he had pleaded guilty in both of his criminal cases, he had never before been through a jury selection process. When asked whether he had been intentionally untruthful so that he could sit as a juror, he answered, " no," and he indicated that he " didn't really want to sit on the panel in the first place...." The juror further testified that he had tried to be fair during the trial and that he never tried to improperly persuade the jury. Following this testimony, the trial court denied defendant's motion for a new trial, ruling that there was no evidence that defendant had suffered actual prejudice.2 The trial court explained that if the parties had known about the juror's past convictions, the prosecutor, not the defendant, would have most likely been the one seeking to excuse

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this juror. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed defendant's conviction and remanded for a new trial on the basis of juror misconduct.3Unpublished opinion per curiam, issued January 17, 2008, 2008 WL 161998 (Docket No. 273488). We granted the prosecutor's application for leave to appeal and limited the issues to:

(1) whether the Court of Appeals erred in reversing the defendant's conviction and remanding this case to the circuit court for a new trial pursuant to People v. DeHaven, 321 Mich. 327, 32 N.W.2d 468 (1948); (2) whether DeHaven was wrongly decided or has been superseded by MCL 600.1354(1); (3) whether a criminal defendant must establish actual prejudice pursuant to MCL 600.1354(1) where the challenged juror was excusable for cause; (4) how the " actual prejudice" standard for purposes of MCL 600.1354(1) should be defined; and (5) whether the juror's failure to disclose his status as a felon, which disqualified him from serving on the jury, constituted structural error pursuant to Neder v. United States, 527 U.S. 1, 119 S.Ct. 1827, 144 L.Ed.2d 35 (1999). [ 481 Mich. 851, 851-852, 747 N.W.2d 874 (2008).]


A trial court's factual findings are reviewed for clear error. People v. Cress, 468 Mich. 678, 691, 664 N.W.2d 174 (2003). " Clear error exists if the reviewing court is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made." People v. Johnson, 466 Mich. 491, 497-498, 647 N.W.2d 480 (2002). A trial court's decision to deny a motion for a new trial is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Cress, 468 Mich. at 691, 664 N.W.2d 174. An abuse of discretion occurs only " when the trial court chooses an outcome falling outside [the] principled range of outcomes." People v. Babcock, 469 Mich. 247, 269, 666 N.W.2d 231 (2003).


There are several statutory qualifications that a person must satisfy in order to be eligible to serve as a juror. MCL 600.1307a(1) provides:

To qualify as a juror a person shall:

a) Be a citizen of the United States, 18 years of age or older, and a resident in the county for which the person is selected, and in the case of a district court in districts of the second and third class, be a resident of the district.

(b) Be able to communicate in the English language.

(c) Be physically and mentally able to carry out the functions of a juror. Temporary inability shall not be considered a disqualification.

(d) Not have served as a petit or grand juror in a court of record during the preceding 12 months.

(e) Not have been convicted of a felony. [Emphasis added.]

If a potential juror does not satisfy one of these statutory qualifications, a party may challenge the potential juror for cause. MCR 2.511(D)(1). There are also several other grounds that would justify a challenge for cause. MCR 2.511(D) provides, in pertinent part:

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It is grounds for a challenge for cause that the person:

(1) is not qualified to be a juror;

(2) is biased for or against a party or attorney;

(3) shows a state of mind that will prevent the person from rendering a just verdict, or has formed a positive opinion on the facts of the case or on what the outcome should be;

(4) has opinions or conscientious scruples that would improperly influence the person's verdict;

(5) has been subpoenaed as a witness in the action;

(6) has already sat on a trial of the same issue;

(7) has served as a grand or petit juror in a criminal case based on the same transaction;

(8) is related within the ninth degree (civil law) of consanguinity or affinity to one of the parties or attorneys;

(9) is the guardian, conservator, ward, landlord, tenant, employer, employee, partner, or client of a party or attorney;

10) is or has been a party adverse to the challenging party or attorney in a civil action, or has complained of or has been accused by that party in a criminal prosecution;

(11) has a financial interest other than that of a taxpayer in the outcome of the action;

(12) is interested in a question like the issue to be tried. [Emphasis added.]

MCR 6.412(D)(2) provides that if " the court finds that a ground for challenging a juror for cause is present, the court on its own initiative should, or on motion of either party must, excuse the juror from the panel." Similarly, MCL 600.1337 states that " [w]hen the court finds that a person in attendance at court as a juror is not qualified to serve as a juror, or is exempt and claims an exemption, the court shall discharge him or her from further attendance and service as a juror." Finally, MCL 600.1354(1) states, in pertinent part:

Failure to comply with the provisions of this chapter shall not ... affect the validity of a jury verdict unless the party ... claiming invalidity has made timely objection and unless the party demonstrates actual prejudice to his cause and unless the noncompliance is substantial. [Emphasis added.]

In the instant case, because the juror in question was a convicted felon, he was not statutorily qualified to serve as a juror under MCL 600.1307a(1)(e). However, as a result of the juror's false answers on his juror questionnaire, neither of the parties nor the trial court had any knowledge of the juror's felony convictions, and, thus, the parties did not challenge the juror pursuant to MCR 2.511(D)(1) and the trial court did not discharge the juror pursuant to MCL 600.1337 and MCR 6.412(D)(2). Accordingly, the issue here is whether defendant is entitled to a new trial as a result of this convicted felon having served on his jury.

Although a criminal defendant has a constitutional right to be tried by an impartial jury, U.S. Const., Am. VI; 4Const. 1963, art. 1, § 20,5 a criminal defendant does not have a constitutional right to be tried by a jury free of convicted felons.6 Instead, the right to a jury free of

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convicted felons is granted by statute. And by statute, a violation of this " right" only requires a new trial if the defendant demonstrates that such a violation " actual[ly] prejudice[d]" him. MCL 600.1354(1).7

A juror's failure to disclose information that the juror should have disclosed is only prejudicial if it denied the defendant an impartial jury.8 " [Defendants] are not entitled to a new trial unless the juror's failure to disclose denied

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[the defendants] their right to an impartial jury." McDonough Power Equip., Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548, 549, 104 S.Ct. 845, 78 L.Ed.2d 663...

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