People v. Glisson

Decision Date09 September 2021
Docket Number355454
PartiesPEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CHRIS PHILIP GLISSON, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US


Berrien Circuit Court LC No. 2020-000834-FH

Before: Ronayne Krause, P.J., and Beckering and Boonstra, JJ.


In this interlocutory appeal involving a charge of assault by strangulation or suffocation, MCL 750.84, the prosecution appeals by leave granted[1] the trial court's order denying its motion in limine to exclude evidence. On appeal, the prosecution argues that the trial court abused its discretion in deciding to allow defendant, Chris Philip Glisson, to present irrelevant evidence relating to the potential existence of a sex tape involving the complainant, Steven Meridy, Jr., and defendant's daughter, as well as an offensive comment the complainant had allegedly made in the past to defendant's daughter. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we agree and reverse. We note, however, that our ruling is limited in scope to the narrow question presented, being whether the evidence at issue was admissible for the specific purposes intended by defendant. This opinion does not limit the trial court from determining whether the evidence at issue, or any other evidence, is admissible for other proper purposes.


This case arises out of an altercation that occurred between the complainant and defendant at St. Joseph High School. Defendant worked at the school, and the complainant was a student. The complainant, who was 18 years old, had started dating defendant's 16-year-old daughter, SG. SG believed defendant did not like the complainant, so on February 20 2020, she asked the complainant to talk with defendant "to smooth things out." The complainant located defendant at school and the two started talking. Their discussion ultimately led to a physical altercation that was captured (without sound) on one of the school's surveillance videos. The video shows the two had a conversation for a substantial period of time, during which defendant became increasingly animated and periodically advanced into the complainant's personal space, then backed away. Eventually, the two were so close together their faces were almost touching. Defendant then grabbed the complainant's neck, shoved him onto a table, and bent over him. After another staff member came upon the scene, the two broke their physical contact.

The prosecution charged defendant with assault by strangulation or suffocation, MCL 750.84(1)(b). At defendant's preliminary hearing, the complainant testified that after defendant made threatening statements to him, defendant then wrapped both of his hands around the complainant's throat, lodged his thumbs into the complainant's neck, and squeezed, cutting off the complainant's circulation. During cross-examination, defense counsel asked the complainant about the existence of an alleged "sex video" between complainant and SG, and whether the complainant had ever threatened SG, namely, that he hoped she "chokes on a dick and dies."[2]Over the prosecution's objections, the complainant was allowed to answer both questions; he denied having or claiming to have such a video or threatening SG.

Following the preliminary hearing, the prosecution moved in limine to exclude evidence regarding an alleged sex tape between the complainant and defendant's daughter, as well as evidence that the complainant allegedly made an offensive comment to defendant's daughter, contending that the evidence was irrelevant and would only distract the jury and attack the complainant's general character. In response, defense counsel argued that the evidence was relevant for several reasons, including to impeach the complainant, to show that defendant's actions were not intentional, and to show that defendant acted in self-defense. Defense counsel also contended that defendant had a constitutional right to present a defense. The trial court held a motion hearing at which it agreed with defense counsel and denied the prosecution's motion. This Court granted the prosecution's application for leave to appeal, and the trial court granted a stay of proceedings pending our resolution of this evidentiary ruling.


The prosecution contends on appeal that evidence of an alleged sex tape between the complainant and SG, as well as evidence that the complainant made an offensive comment to defendant's daughter, are not relevant to any material fact the jury must decide and would only serve to distract the jury and attack the complainant's character. Although we do not foreclose the trial court from admitting the evidence on proper grounds pursuant to the rules of evidence, we agree that defendant has not set forth any proper purpose for admission of this evidence.

This Court reviews preserved evidentiary issues for an abuse of discretion. People v Mahone, 294 Mich.App. 208, 212; 816 N.W.2d 436 (2011). Additionally, this Court "review[s] for an abuse of discretion a trial court's ruling on a motion in limine." People v Langlois, 325 Mich.App. 236, 240; 924 N.W.2d 904 (2018). "An abuse of discretion occurs when the court chooses an outcome that falls outside the range of reasonable and principled outcomes." Mahone, 294 Mich.App. at 212. "A trial court abuses its direction when it makes an error of law or operates within an incorrect legal framework." Langlois, 325 Mich.App. at 240.

"[I]t is essential that prosecutors and defendants be able to give the jury an intelligible presentation of the full context in which disputed events took place." People v Sholl, 453 Mich. 730, 741; 556 N.W.2d 851 (1996). "The more the jurors [know] about the full transaction, the better equipped they [are] to perform their sworn duty." Id. at 742. The Michigan Supreme Court recognized in People v Delgado, 404 Mich. 76, 83; 273 N.W.2d 395 (1978), that "[i]t is the nature of things that an event often does not occur singly and independently, isolated from all others, but, instead, is connected with some antecedent event from which the fact or event in question follows as an effect from a cause" and that "[w]hen such is the case and the antecedent event incidentally involves the commission of another crime, the principle that the jury is entitled to hear the 'complete story' ordinarily supports the admission of such evidence."

Generally, however, "evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts of an individual is inadmissible to prove a propensity to commit such acts." People v Crawford, 458 Mich. 376, 383; 582 N.W.2d 785 (1998). MRE 404(b)(1) specifically provides that "[e]vidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts" may be admissible for other purposes. For other-acts evidence to be admissible at trial, the following must be established:

First, that the evidence be offered for a proper purpose under Rule 404(b); second, that it be relevant under Rule 402 as enforced through Rule 104(b); third, that the probative value of the evidence is not substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice; fourth, that the trial court may, upon request, provide a limiting instruction to the jury. [People v VanderVliet, 444 Mich. 52, 55; 508 N.W.2d 114 (1993), amended 445 Mich. 1205 (1994).]

MRE 404(b) does not provide a "res gestae exception." People v Jackson, 498 Mich. 246, 274; 869 N.W.2d 253 (2015).

At the outset, we conclude that evidence of any physical threats the complainant made to defendant or SG during or immediately preceding the February 20, 2020 encounter is admissible.[3]The jury will be required to decide whether defendant assaulted the complainant by strangulation or suffocation, which may include determining whether defendant acted in self-defense or the defense of others. As a result, the jury is entitled to hear anything the complainant said in the minutes before the physical altercation indicative of an imminent unlawful use of force by the complainant.

With respect to evidence of a sex tape and a prior insulting remark the complainant allegedly made to SG, the prosecution asserts that not only is this evidence irrelevant under MRE 402, it would essentially amount to "other acts" evidence that would primarily serve to paint the complainant as a bad person. As such, it is inadmissible under MRE 404(b) and unduly prejudicial under MRE 403. On the other hand, defendant contends that the proffered evidence merely relates to the complainant's previous statements that are not subject to MRE 404(b). However, in response to the motion in limine in the trial court, defendant argued that the complainant threatened to release the sex tape in an attempt to convince SG to rekindle their relationship. Defendant also characterizes the complainant's statement directing SG "to choke on a dick and die," as a threat. Testimony concerning such threats could be considered evidence of "other acts" as contemplated by MRE 404(b) and is subject to scrutiny if the sole purpose of its admission is to give rise to an impermissible character-to-conduct inference. Jackson, 498 Mich. at 263. Nonetheless, even if the proffered evidence is not subject to the limitations in MRE 404(b), the evidence must still be relevant to be admissible.

MRE 402 provides that "[a]ll relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Michigan, these rules, or other rules adopted by the Supreme Court." It also provides that "[e]vidence which is not relevant is not admissible." MRE 402. MRE 401 defines "relevant evidence" as "evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence."


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