People v. Fair

Decision Date05 February 1988
Docket NumberDocket No. 94860
Citation165 Mich.App. 294,418 N.W.2d 438
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Angelia FAIR, Defendant-Appellant. 165 Mich.App. 294, 418 N.W.2d 438
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

[165 MICHAPP 295] Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Louis J. Caruso, Sol. Gen., John D. O'Hair, Pros. Atty., Timothy A. Baughman, Chief of the Criminal Division, Research, Training and Appeals, and Mary Sue Czarnecki, Asst. Pros. Atty., for the people.

Michael J. Rex, Detroit, for defendant-appellant on appeal.

Before MacKENZIE, P.J., and DOCTOROFF and CLULO, * JJ.

DOCTOROFF, Judge.

Defendant appeals as of right from her convictions 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). Following the bench trial, she was sentenced to consecutive prison terms of from ten to twenty-five years and two years respectively. We affirm.

At trial, the prosecution's theory was that defendant and the victim had had a long-standing relationship that had changed for the worse and that, when defendant tried to reconcile with the victim, he refused to have her back, whereupon she shot him. The defense theory was that defendant and the victim had been arguing about the relationship when defendant drew a gun out of her purse and that the gun accidentally discharged due to a defective condition.

I

Defendant's first claim of error is that the trial court's findings of fact do not satisfy MCR [165 MICHAPP 296] 2.517(A)(1) because they fail to address the defense of accidental discharge and do not state exactly what actions demonstrated criminal intent. She asserts that remand for supplemental findings is necessary because the findings did not illustrate the path the trial court followed in reaching its verdict. 1 We disagree.

MCR 2.517(A)(1) provides:

[165 MICHAPP 297] "In actions tried on the facts without a jury or with an advisory jury, the court shall find the facts specially, state separately its conclusions of law, and direct entry of the appropriate judgment."

This court rule applies to criminal as well as civil cases. People v. Jackson, 390 Mich. 621, 212 N.W.2d 918 (1973). A finding of fact cannot be judged sufficient or insufficient on its face alone; on review, the court's findings are examined in the context of the specific legal and factual issues raised by the parties and the evidence. People v. Melvin Davis, 146 Mich.App. 537, 549-550, 381 N.W.2d 759 (1985).

Defendant raises the fact that there is a split among panels of this Court concerning the degree of specificity required in order to satisfy the court rule and urges this panel to follow People v. Davis, 126 Mich.App. 66, 337 N.W.2d 315 (1983). In Davis, this Court held that specific findings of fact on each element of a crime are necessary to satisfy the court rule. We note, however, that defendant does not argue that the trial court did not make findings on each element of the crime, but rather asserts that the trial court did not address her defense.

In People v. Taylor, 133 Mich.App. 762, 350 N.W.2d 318 (1984), rev'd and remanded on other grounds 422 Mich. 554, 568, 375 N.W.2d 1 (1985), another panel held that the Court in Davis misinterpreted the holding in Jackson, supra. The Taylor panel interpreted the holding in Jackson to mean only that a trial court's findings are insufficient if they create doubt as to whether the trial court correctly applied the law to the facts. The Taylor panel stated that so long as it appears from the court's findings of fact that the trial court was aware of the issues in the case and correctly [165 MICHAPP 298] applied the law, the requirements of GCR 1963, 517.1, now MCR 2.517(A)(1) have been met. 133 Mich.App. at 765-766, 350 N.W.2d 318. See also People v. Eggleston, 149 Mich.App. 665, 386 N.W.2d 637 (1986), lv. den. 425 Mich. 862 (1986).

We are of the opinion that the holding in Taylor, supra, is the better view. 2 Our review of the record indicates that the trial court was aware of the issues and correctly applied the law, for it is evident that it rejected defendant's defense of accident by finding that there was "no legal justification or excuse." Although there had been testimony that the gun could go off without pulling the trigger, a characteristic which defendant asserts is a defective condition, there were certain steps that one had to take before it could accidentally discharge. By finding that defendant presented no legal justification or excuse, the trial court resolved the question of credibility against the defendant, an assessment that it was in a superior position to make than is this Court. See Eggleston, supra. Additionally, the court's findings demonstrate that it did consider certain of defendant's actions in finding the requisite intent for this crime. For these reasons, we find that the trial court's findings were sufficient to satisfy MCR 2.517(A)(1). Where it is manifest that the trial court was aware of the factual issues and resolved them and it would not facilitate appellate review to require further explication of the path it followed in reaching the result, remand is not required. See Jackson, supra, 390 Mich. p. 627, n. 3, 212 N.W.2d 918; Melvin Davis, supra, 146 Mich.App. p. 549, 381 N.W.2d 759.

[165 MICHAPP 299]

II

Defendant next argues that the trial court erred by admitting testimony, over defense counsel's relevancy objection, that defendant had threatened to kill the victim approximately three months before the actual shooting occurred. 3 At trial, defendant defended on the theory of accident which placed her motive in issue. In a prosecution for murder, proof of motive, while not essential, is always relevant. People v. Mihalko, 306 Mich. 356, 361, 10 N.W.2d 914 (1943). The evidence of defendant's prior threat against the victim was highly probative evidence of her motive, and its probative value outweighed any prejudicial effect of admitting the evidence. See People v. Armentero, 148 Mich.App. 120, 133, 384 N.W.2d 98 (1986), lv. den. 425 Mich. 883 (1986). Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the evidence.

[165 MICHAPP 300] Accordingly, defendant's convictions are affirmed.

Affirmed.

* Paul J. Clulo, 42nd Judicial Circuit Judge, sitting on Court of Appeals by assignment pursuant to Const.1963, Art. 6, Sec. 23, as amended 1968.

1 The trial court found, in relevant part:

"For Second Degree Murder, the Trier of Fact must find beyond a reasonable doubt, that the Defendant acted with a certain state of mind in causing the death. They must find that the Defendant had the state of mind at the time of the killing, that the Defendant intended to kill the Deceased or that the Defendant intended to do great bodily harm to the Deceased or that the Defendant intended to create a very high risk of death or great bodily harm with knowledge that death or great bodily harm was the probable result of those acts.

"And, the Court finds as a matter of fact that in this case, the Defendant testified that she took the gun out of her purse--this gun, not knowing whether it was loaded or not.

"If the Trier of Fact were to believe her testimony, the Trier of Fact does not know that several acts have to take place when you use an automatic rather than a revolver--got a chamber with a magazine, got to pull it back to get the bullet into the chamber.

"And, in this case, the Court finds, as a matter of fact, that either the Defendant...

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5 cases
  • People v. Rice
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • August 9, 1999
    ...killing the victim. Proof of motive in a prosecution for murder, although not essential, is always relevant, People v. Fair, 165 Mich.App. 294, 299, 418 N.W.2d 438 (1987), and evidence of other acts to prove motive is admissible under MRE 404(b)(1). People v. Hoffman, 225 Mich.App. 103, 105......
  • People v. Daniels
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • November 23, 1988
    ...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 e......
  • People v. Jackson
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • October 12, 1988
    ...146 Mich.App. 537, 551, 381 N.W.2d 759 (1985); People v. Robinson, 145 Mich.App. 562, 378 N.W.2d 551 (1985); People v. Fair, 165 Mich.App. 294, 298, 418 N.W.2d 438 (1987); People v. Daniels, 163 Mich.App. 703, 415 N.W.2d 282 (1987). Here, the circuit court's findings of fact and conclusions......
  • People v. Armstrong
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • April 10, 1989
    ...Oliver, supra, 170 Mich.App. at p. 46, 427 N.W.2d 898; Porter, supra, 169 Mich.App. at p. 194, 425 N.W.2d 514; People v. Fair, 165 Mich.App. 294, 297-298, 418 N.W.2d 438 (1987); Eggleston, supra, 149 Mich.App. at p. 672, 386 N.W.2d 637; People v. Melvin Davis, 146 Mich.App. 537, 550-551, 38......
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