People v. Daniels

Decision Date23 November 1988
Docket NumberDocket No. 101296
Citation172 Mich.App. 374,431 N.W.2d 846
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Daryl DANIELS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Louis J. Caruso, Sol. Gen., John D. O'Hair, Pros. Atty., Timothy A. Baughman, Chief of the Crim. Div., Research, Training and Appeals, and Janet A. Napp, Asst. Pros. Atty., for the People.

George L. Corsetti, Detroit, for defendant-appellant on appeal.

Before GRIBBS, P.J., and SHEPHERD and COOPER, * JJ.


Defendant Daryl Daniels and codefendant Gary Clark were tried separately on charges of second-degree murder, M.C.L. Sec. 750.317; M.S.A. Sec. 28.549, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, M.C.L. Sec. 750.227b; M.S.A. Sec. 28.424(2), stemming from the fatal shooting of Garland Berry by Gary Clark on July 29, 1986. A jury convicted Gary Clark of involuntary manslaughter, M.C.L. Sec. 750.321; M.S.A. Sec. 28.553, and the felony-firearm charge. Following a bench trial, defendant Daniels was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter and the felony-firearm charge. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for the felony-firearm conviction to be followed by one to fifteen years' imprisonment for the involuntary manslaughter conviction. The present appeal concerns only defendant Daniels' appeal as of right. Two issues are raised, one relating to the sufficiency of the evidence identifying defendant as a participant in the shooting incident that resulted in Berry's death and the other relating to whether defendant can be held criminally responsible for Berry's death. While we find error in the law applied by the trial court in finding defendant criminally responsible, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient and that the court's factual findings support the manslaughter conviction. Accordingly, defendant's convictions are affirmed.

The fatal shooting of Garland Berry was the culmination of two encounters between defendant and his cousins, Gary and Steven Clark, on July 29, 1986. The Clarks were brothers, both residing on Lovett Street in Detroit. Garland Berry, who resided two houses down from the Clark house, did not participate in the encounters.

The first encounter occurred in the early evening hours when defendant went to the Clark house to collect $70 from Steven Clark. Defendant and Steven Clark began fighting and were soon joined by Gary Clark. During the fight, Gary Clark left to get a gun, then returned and fired it once into the ground. After Gary Clark hit defendant on the head with the gun and the fight stopped, defendant got into his blue car and drove it into a jeep parked in front of the Clark house which belonged to a friend of Steven Clark. Defendant got out of his car and ran south on Lovett Street. Steven Clark got into defendant's car, drove it south on Lovett Street, and rolled the car into a telephone pole. Steven Clark then walked home while defendant returned to his car and proceeded back up the street towards the Clark house. As defendant neared the house, Gary Clark stepped into the street and fired several shots at defendant's car. Gary Clark jumped out of the way as defendant drove by, then went back into his house.

The second encounter occurred twenty minutes later when the driver of a blue car fired several shots at the Clark house. Gary Clark left his house through the back door, walked to the side of the house, and returned the gunfire. During this shootout, Garland Berry, who was washing his car outside his house, suffered a gunshot wound which caused massive hemorrhaging and resulted in his death later that night.

The trial court found that defendant was the driver of the blue car and that Gary Clark fired the shot that resulted in Berry's death, but that defendant and Gary Clark were equally culpable for holding their shoot-out on the residential street where it was likely that other people could be shot and killed. The trial court also found that the shoot-out was mutually agreed to by defendant and Gary Clark and that defendant, at a minimum, intended to create a very high risk of death or great bodily harm with the knowledge that death or great bodily harm was the probable result of his act. Although the court found this intent sufficient to make the killing murder in the second degree, the court entered a verdict of involuntary manslaughter because the court was not satisfied that the prosecution proved that the mitigating circumstance of provocation did not exist in light of the evidence of the beating defendant underwent and the shots fired during his first encounter with the Clarks.

On appeal, defendant contends that there was insufficient evidence presented to the trial court to sustain a finding that he was the driver of the blue car who opened fire on the Clark house during the second encounter. Since defendant does not cite authority in support of his position, this issue is not properly before this Court. People v. Battle, 161 Mich.App. 99, 101, 409 N.W.2d 739 (1987). In any event, a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence in a bench trial is reviewed by considering the evidence presented in a light most favorable to the prosecution and determining whether a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Petrella, 424 Mich. 221, 268-270, 380 N.W.2d 11 (1985). Here, Gary Clark identified defendant as the driver of the blue car and two other eyewitnesses to both encounters identified the car. Viewed most favorably to the prosecution, this evidence was sufficient to establish defendant's identity beyond a reasonable doubt. The credibility of the identification testimony was a matter for the trial court, as the trier of fact, to decide. We will not resolve it anew. People v. Cummings, 139 Mich.App. 286, 293-294, 362 N.W.2d 252 (1984); People v. Smalls, 61 Mich.App. 53, 57; 232 N.W.2d 298 (1975), lv. den. 395 Mich. 814 (1975).

Defendant's second issue relating to whether he can be held criminally responsible for Berry's death presents a more difficult question. Defendant argues that he did not fire the fatal shot and, thus, his acts were not the proximate cause of Berry's death. The trial court rejected this argument, concluding that it did not matter who fired the fatal shot. The trial court also held that this was not a case that could be analyzed in terms of felony murder, conspiracy, or aiding and abetting. The court ultimately concluded that defendant's role in the shoot-out was sufficient to hold defendant directly responsible for killing Berry and that the crime was involuntary manslaughter.

In reviewing the trial court's factual findings, one of our tasks is to determine whether the trial court correctly applied the law to the facts. People v. Fair, 165 Mich.App. 294, 297-298, 418 N.W.2d 438 (1987). This case presents an unusual situation where the trial court made sufficient factual findings on all the essential elements necessary for the manslaughter conviction, but applied an incorrect legal analysis.

The manslaughter statute, M.C.L. Sec. 750.321; M.S.A. Sec. 28.553, incorporates two common-law categories of manslaughter, involuntary and voluntary. People v. Richardson, 409 Mich. 126, 134, n. 8, 293 N.W.2d 332 (1980). These categories are distinguishable, each defining crimes originating out of circumstances often quite different from the other. Id., p. 136, 293 N.W.2d 332.

On the one hand, involuntary manslaughter has been defined as

" 'the killing of another without malice and unintentionally, but in doing some unlawful act not amounting to a felony nor naturally tending to cause death or great bodily harm, or in negligently doing some act lawful in itself, or by the negligent omission to perform a legal duty.' " People v. Scott, 29 Mich App 549, 551; 185 NW2d 576 (1971), quoting People v. Ryczek, 224 Mich 106, 110; 194 NW 609 (1923).

The usual situations in which involuntary manslaughter arises are either when death results from a direct act not intended to produce serious bodily harm or when death results from criminal negligence. Richardson, supra, 409 Mich. at p. 136, 293 N.W.2d 332. By contrast, voluntary manslaughter shares all the elements of murder except malice. People v. Townes, 391 Mich. 578, 589, 218 N.W.2d 136 (1974). Proof of provocation or other mitigating circumstances is necessary to return a verdict of voluntary manslaughter when there has been an intentional homicide. Townes, supra, p. 589, 218 N.W.2d 136; People v. Parney, 98 Mich.App. 571, 585, 296 N.W.2d 568 (1979).

In the present case, the trial court found all the essential elements of second-degree murder, but reduced the crime to manslaughter based on the proofs of provocation. Since these findings can only give rise to voluntary manslaughter, we find error in the trial court's characterization of defendant's crime as involuntary manslaughter. Although this unobjected-to error could not have prejudiced defendant and does not require reversal, People v. Knott, 59 Mich.App. 105, 116, 228 N.W.2d 838 (1975), we will review defendant's claims that his acts could not have been the proximate cause of Berry's death in light of a proper characterization of his manslaughter conviction.

It is well-settled in Michigan that there must be a more direct causal connection between the defendant's acts and a homicide charge in order to hold a defendant criminally responsible for a death than is required to hold the defendant liable in tort. Scott, supra, 29 Mich.App. at p. 556, 185 N.W.2d 576; People v. Jeglum, 41 Mich.App. 247, 250, 199 N.W.2d 854 (1972). Where the defendant was a participant in the events resulting in the death, but did not, as in this case, do the homicidal act, the question of criminal responsibility has been resolved under different...

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