People v. Aldrich, Docket No. 216402

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Citation246 Mich. App. 101,631 N.W.2d 67
Docket NumberDocket No. 216402,Docket No. 216403.
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Kris Michael ALDRICH, Defendant-Appellant. People of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Kyall William Aldrich, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date31 July 2001

Jennifer M. Granholm, Attorney General, Thomas L. Casey, Solicitor General, Michael D. Thomas, Prosecuting Attorney, and Janet M. Boes, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people.

State Appellate Defender by C. Joseph Booker, for Kris M. Aldrich.

William A. Brisbois, Saginaw, for Kyall W. Aldrich.


Defendants Kris M. Aldrich and Kyall W. Aldrich were originally charged with second-degree murder, M.C.L. § 750.317, and, alternatively, with involuntary manslaughter or manslaughter committed with a motor vehicle, M.C.L. § 750.321. Following a jury trial, both defendants were convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Kris Aldrich was sentenced as an habitual offender, fourth offense,1 to fifteen to thirty years' imprisonment. Kyall Aldrich was sentenced as an habitual offender, third offense,2 to fifteen to thirty years' imprisonment. Defendants now appeal as of right. Their appeals have been consolidated for review. We affirm.

I. Facts

Defendants' involuntary manslaughter convictions stem from a two-car collision that occurred during a drag race between defendants, who are brothers,3 on the evening of May 6, 1998. The victim was a fifteen-year-old girl, Jennifer Fear, who was a passenger in Kris Aldrich's vehicle at the time of the collision. The prosecutor's theory of the case was that defendants picked up Jennifer, bought and consumed some whiskey, then went drag racing at speeds up to one hundred miles an hour, when defendant Kris Aldrich, with Jennifer in his vehicle, ran a stop sign and collided with another vehicle, causing Jennifer's death. Counsel for defendant Kris Aldrich conceded that defendants were drinking and engaging in "horseplay," including exceeding the speed limit, but argued that any reckless driving had ended at the time of the accident and that the accident was the result of brake failure. Defendant Kyall Aldrich also claimed that any reckless driving had ceased before the accident.

At trial, many witnesses testified that they observed defendants drag racing down a two-lane stretch of Roosevelt Road on May 6, 1998, at approximately 8:30 p.m. Defendants' vehicles4 were racing side by side along Roosevelt Road, thereby occupying the whole roadway including the lane reserved for oncoming traffic. Kris Aldrich's vehicle was occupying the lane reserved for oncoming traffic. Witnesses indicated that the vehicles were traveling "extremely" fast, at speeds approaching ninety miles an hour. Kris Aldrich's vehicle was observed ducking in and out of the oncoming traffic lane to avoid colliding with vehicles traveling in the opposite direction.

The vehicles approached the intersection of Roosevelt and Hemlock.5 There is a stop sign at this intersection for vehicles traveling on Roosevelt Road; Hemlock has the right of way. Witnesses testified that the drag race was ongoing as the vehicles approached the intersection. Melissa Musick and her mother, Sherry Musick, were traveling along Hemlock Road approaching the intersection at Roosevelt Road. As they passed through the intersection, Kris Aldrich's Beretta failed to stop at the stop sign and collided with the Musicks' vehicle. The Musicks' vehicle spun out of control "and ended up upside down in the ditch, on fire."6 Kris Aldrich's vehicle ended up in the field alongside the roadway. Jennifer Fear, the passenger in Kris Aldrich's vehicle, was killed in the accident and her body was found lying outside the Beretta.

Although Kyall Aldrich denied drag racing and told police that he had been driving 1½ miles behind his brother at the time of the accident, witnesses testified that defendants' vehicles were still engaged in the drag race just before the accident. In fact, witness Nicholas Scoles observed defendants' vehicles racing seconds before the accident occurred, just as the vehicles approached the intersection of Hemlock and Roosevelt Roads. Melissa Musick, the driver of the vehicle that collided with Kris Aldrich's vehicle, confirmed that in the seconds before the accident, defendants' vehicles were speeding along the roadway, side by side, although she admitted that Kyall Aldrich's vehicle did not stop at the stop sign.

Kris Aldrich told police at the scene that Jennifer had been driving his vehicle at the time of the accident and that he was sitting in the back seat. He also told police that he could not remember if he had been drag racing. Neither defendant could remember where they were going when the accident occurred.

At trial, Kris Aldrich admitted that beginning around 7:00 p.m. on the night of the incident in question, he, Kyall, and Jennifer had been drinking whiskey mixed with Pepsi. At around 8:30 p.m., the three decided to go to Kyall's house. Kris and Jennifer took the Beretta, with Kris driving, and Kyall drove the red pickup truck. According to Kris, he was driving on Roosevelt at approximately fifty-five or sixty miles an hour. Kris testified that he attempted to pass Kyall's red pickup truck, but pulled back in behind Kyall when another vehicle appeared. Subsequently, Kyall slowed down to approximately twenty miles an hour and signaled for Kris to pull alongside him, and that the two conversed about stopping at a convenience store. Kris stated that he then "took off first and got in front of Kyall's car." Kris testified that as he approached the intersection, at approximately fifty miles an hour, he started to slow down for a stop sign, but that "the brake pedal went right to the floor and wasn't stopping no more." He then entered the intersection and collided with the vehicle being driven by Melissa Musick.7

After hearing the above evidence, the jury convicted both defendants of involuntary manslaughter. Defendants received fifteen- to thirty-year sentences. They appeal as of right.

II. Prosecutorial Misconduct
A. Preservation of the Issue and Standard of Review

This Court reviews claims of prosecutorial misconduct case by case, examining the remarks in context, to determine whether the defendant received a fair and impartial trial. People v. Bahoda, 448 Mich. 261, 266-267, 531 N.W.2d 659 (1995). Concerning preserved issues of prosecutorial misconduct, this Court evaluates the challenged conduct in context to determine if the defendant was denied a fair and impartial trial. People v. Truong (After Remand), 218 Mich.App. 325, 336, 553 N.W.2d 692 (1996). Where a defendant fails to object to an alleged prosecutorial impropriety, the issue is reviewed for plain error. People v. Carines, 460 Mich. 750, 752-753, 764, 597 N.W.2d 130 (1999); People v. Schutte, 240 Mich.App. 713, 720, 613 N.W.2d 370 (2000). Thus, to avoid forfeiture of the issue, defendant must demonstrate plain error that affected his substantial rights, i.e., that affected the outcome of the proceedings. Carines, supra at 763-764, 597 N.W.2d 130; Schutte, supra at 720, 613 N.W.2d 370.

B. Presentation of Deputy Kevin Campbell's Testimony

Defendant Kyall Aldrich argues that it was improper for the prosecutor to present the testimony of Deputy Kevin Campbell because the prosecutor should have known that Deputy Campbell would present invalid information.8 Specifically, Kyall points to Deputy Campbell's concession on cross-examination that certain ambiguities attended his speed calculations. Kyall also points to the prosecutor's presentation of Sergeant William Brandt of the Michigan State Police, whose opinions concerning speed contradicted those of Campbell. However, Kyall withdrew his objection to the presentation of Deputy Campbell's testimony because he wanted to refer to Deputy Campbell's speed calculations during closing argument.9 He has, therefore, waived this claim of error on appeal. A defendant may not waive objection to an issue before the trial court and then raise the issue as an error on appeal. People v. Fetterley, 229 Mich.App. 511, 583 N.W.2d 199 (1998).

C. Prosecutor's Duty to Disclose Evidence

After trial had commenced in this matter, Sgt. Brandt generated a statistical report by using the Win Crash computer program. The last page of the report contained an error message, indicating that the results contained in the report were not valid. Sgt. Brandt never provided the prosecutor with a copy of the invalid report.

A prosecutor has a duty to "make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the degree of the offense[.]" MRPC 3.8(d). There is no dispute in this case that any reports or test results prepared for the case by law enforcement officers were subject to discovery. However, Sgt. Brandt's attempt to generate an accurate report in this case was unsuccessful. There is no dispute that the computer printout contained invalid test results and was therefore disregarded by Sgt. Brandt. Hence, it seems the prosecutor's witness did not suppress material evidence. Instead, he disregarded invalid evidence. In any event, we cannot see how defendants were denied a fair trial by the prosecutor's failure to provide them with a report containing invalid information.

D. Closing Argument

Defendants challenge the prosecutor's implication during closing argument that they had sexual designs on the victim on the evening of the incident in question. Defendants did not object to the prosecutor's remarks below. A review of the prosecutor's remarks, in context, reveals that the prosecutor was merely summarizing the facts in evidence and encouraging the...

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