People v. Dandron

Decision Date03 August 1976
Docket NumberDocket No. 23737
Citation245 N.W.2d 782,70 Mich.App. 439
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. David L. DANDRON, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Mark Weiss, Detroit, for defendant-appellant.

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Robert A. Derengoski, Sol. Gen., Peter E. Deegan, Prosecuting Atty., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before MAHER, P.J., and RILEY and RYAN, * JJ.

RILEY, Judge.

From a jury verdict of guilty of the charge of attempted breaking and entering with intent to commit larceny, M.C.L.A. § 750.110; M.S.A. § 28.305; M.C.L.A. § 750.92; M.S.A. § 28.287, defendant appeals, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the charged offense.

No one could contend that the evidence of guilt is overwhelming. However, our acknowledging that the prosecutor must rely heavily on circumstantial evidence is not a recognition that the case is weak. It is not. A patrolling policeman testified that he sighted two men--appellant and his brother--outside a doctor's office at approximately midnight on a snowy evening. Appellant was crouched, within one foot of a window. His brother, standing next to the window, ran when the officer called out. The brother returned shortly thereafter on his own initiative. The officer stepped forward and discovered that the window was broken and partially raised. An ashtray, later identified as an office ashtray, was found outside resting in the snow.

After receiving Miranda 1 warnings, appellant and his brother told the officer that they had taken a short cut that brought them near the doctor's office. They heard a window break and saw two men running away from the rear of the office. Appellant's brother set out after the men, failed to catch them, and returned to the window only to find an officer waiting to question him.

Other officers arrived and testified that they explored the premises and found one set of fresh prints in the snow indicating a person running away from the window and one set of prints indicating a person walking back towards the window. Other footprints were found in the snow, but were characterized as 'old,' with 'no direction of travel because of the age of them', and 'snow covered'. No other fresh prints were seen. The conclusion drawn by the prosecutor was that the brother had chased no one, but had instead fled when the patrolling officer shouted and then walked back when he realized his brother was in custody.

To summarize, the evidence offered to prove that defendants committed the crime consisted of a broken and raised window, the removed ashtray, defendants' presence and positioning at the window, and the proof indicating the falsity of their explanation of the events. We find this evidence sufficient to support a conviction, for we believe that a reasonable man could conclude that all elements of the crime were established beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Royal, 62 Mich.App. 756, 757--758, 233 N.W.2d 860 (1975).

Appellant points to People v. Johnson, 4 Mich.App. 205, 144 N.W.2d 646 (1966), as establishing insufficiency as a matter of law. That opinion sets out facts similar to those in the present case. Johnson could support a reversal in the present case were we to accept that opinion without analysis. However, one statement in Johnson must be carefully scrutinized. The defendant in that case explained that he was present on the scene because of a need to regurgitate and to urinate. No evidence of either action was found. Judge, now Chief Justice, Kavanagh stated that 'His exculpatory statements, even if regarded as false, while they might show a consciousness of guilt are no substantive evidence of it'. 4 Mich.App. at 207, 144 N.W.2d at 646, citing United States v. McConney, 329 F.2d 467 (CA 2, 1964).

We must qualify that statement. A prosecutor may, in certain instances, offer as circumstantial evidence of guilt evidence that exculpatory statements are false. The McConney case, cited in Johnson, supports this proposition:

'It is true that Exculpatory statements made to law enforcement officials, when shown to be false, are circumstantial evidence of guilty consciousness and Have independent probative force.' 329 F.2d at 470. (Emphasis supplied.)

The court continued:

'The trouble is that appellant's statement * * * was not shown to be false by other evidence. * * * It would place too much weight on defendant's extra-judicial exculpatory statement to authorize a conviction based almost solely on the fact that part of the statement, not involving the corpus delicti of the crime, was shown to be false. The other evidence of guilt was extremely weak, and we do not think the statement was sufficient independent proof to justify denial of the motion for acquittal.' 329 F.2d at 470.

Unlike McConney, in the present case evidence was offered to establish that the exculpatory statement was false. Unlike Johnson, where the actuality of defendant's regurgitation and urination did not relate to an element of the charge, present appellant's statement is closely interwoven with the elements of the charge that the prosecutor must prove. The statement is relevant to the only unanswered question of the case--who broke the window?

After careful study of McConney and Johnson, we believe that Johnson did not establish an inflexible rule that proved-to-be false exculpatory statements are not probative evidence of guilt. 2 In certain cases, including the present, the statements are admissible and may be used as probative evidence of guilt.

We add that substantive use of proved-to-be false exculpatory statements is not a novel idea in this state. As early as People v. Arnold, 43 Mich. 303, 5 N.W. 385 (1880), we find the roots of this doctrine:

'Defendant has no claim to be protected against the exposure of this falsehood where he indulges in it for his own exculpation. He runs the risk of this exposure when he invents a false defense.

'It was never doubted that the conduct of a suspected party when charged with a crime may be put in evidence against him when it is such as an innocent man would not be likely to resort to. Thus, it may be shown that he made false statements for the purpose of misleading or warding off suspicion; though these are by no means conclusive of guilt, they may strengthen the inferences arising from other facts.

'All these attempts to avoid a trial, to evade conviction by frauds upon the law, or to lead suspicion and investigation in some other direction by false or covert suggestions or insinuations, are so unlike the conduct of innocent men that they are justly regarded as giving some evidence of a consciousness of guilt. They do not prove it, but the jury are entitled to consider and weigh then in connection with the more direct evidence.

'In this case the prosecution were allowed to show that the defendant had deliberately fabricated a false statement which, if true, would have been sufficient for his full exculpation. What conduct could possibly be more suggestive of guilt?' 43 Mich. at 304--306, 5 N.W. at 386.

In People v. Hoffmann, 142 Mich. 531, 105 N.W. 838 (1905), one finds further support for the admissibility and significance of false exculpatory statements:

'It is common practice, in the trial of criminal cases, to show that the accused has made self-serving explanatory statements concerning the circumstances of the offense with which he is charged and his connection therewith, and that such statements were untrue. Such statements are not, in the ordinary sense in which the word is used, though perhaps strictly so, admissions, nor are they confessions. They are sometimes classed as conduct of the accused.

'Statements made by an accused person tending to divert suspicion from himself may be proved, and shown to be false....

To continue reading

Request your trial
7 cases
  • People v. Seals
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • July 14, 2009 certain instances, offer evidence that an exculpatory statement is false as circumstantial evidence of guilt. People v. Dandron, 70 Mich.App. 439, 442, 245 N.W.2d 782 (1976). Substantive use of "proved-to-be false exculpatory statements" is not a novel idea in this Defendant has no claim......
  • People v. Miller
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • January 17, 1979
    ...and exculpated Miller. Neither defendant cites any authority for his position. False statements may be admissible, People v. Dandron, 70 Mich.App. 439, 245 N.W.2d 782 (1976), so the question becomes whether the admission of the statement violated Bruton. For the same reasons that the admiss......
  • People v. Conner-Washington
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • December 21, 2021
    ... ... where he told her "they stabbed me." See People ... v Wolford , 189 Mich.App. 478, 482; 473 N.W.2d 767 (1991) ... ("the jury could consider defendant's false ... statement to the police as evidence of guilt"); ... People v Dandron , 70 Mich.App. 439, 443-445; 245 ... N.W.2d 782 (1976). Defendant subsequently admitted that she ... lied during her initial statement. Notably, the detective did ... not see any injuries to defendant's mouth consistent with ... her claim of being punched, and the SANE ... ...
  • People v. Wolford
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • May 21, 1991
    ...evidence of guilt. The statement, if believed, tends to lead suspicion and investigation in another direction. People v. Dandron, 70 Mich.App. 439, 443-444, 245 N.W.2d 782 (1976), quoting People v. Arnold, 43 Mich. 303, 304-306, 5 N.W. (1880). We also reject defendant's assertion that the i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT