People v. Johnson

Decision Date17 July 1987
Docket NumberDocket No. 90436
Citation160 Mich.App. 490,408 N.W.2d 485
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. David Lee JOHNSON, Defendant-Appellant. 160 Mich.App. 490, 408 N.W.2d 485
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

[160 MICHAPP 491] Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Louis J. Caruso, Sol. Gen., Conrad J. Sindt, Pros. Atty., and Jon R. Sahli, Chief Asst. Pros. Atty., for people.

Patricia S. Slomski, Detroit, for defendant-appellant.

Before CYNAR, P.J., and SAWYER and THORBURN *, JJ.


Defendant was convicted, following a jury trial, of larceny from a motor vehicle. M.C.L. Sec. 750.356a; M.S.A. Sec. 28.588(1). Defendant was sentenced upon the conviction to from 2 1/2 to 5 years in prison. On appeal, defendant raises two issues, neither of which merit reversal.

Defendant first argues that he was denied his right to a fair trial by the trial court's refusal to grant his request to remove his leg restraints during trial. Generally, the use of shackles in the presence of a jury is disfavored, though it is recognized that in certain circumstances it is necessary to prevent escape, to protect bystanders, or to secure a quiet and peaceable trial. This Court discussed the shackling of a defendant in People v. [160 MICHAPP 492] Baskin, 145 Mich.App. 526, 545-546, 378 N.W.2d 535 (1985):

In general, "[f]reedom from shackling and manacling of a defendant during the trial of a criminal case has long been recognized as an important component of a fair and impartial trial". People v Duplissey, 380 Mich 100, 103; 155 NW2d 850 (1968). Further, such a procedure should be permitted only to prevent the escape of the defendant or to prevent him from injuring those in the courtroom or to secure a quiet and peaceable trial. Id., 103-104 .

In the case at bar, we note that the trial court ordered the defendant to be shackled out of concern for the safety of those present in the courtroom. Yet we find no compelling reason that justifies this concern.

Unlike the situation in People v Jankowski, 130 Mich App 143, 146-147; 342 NW2d 911 (1983), there was no evidence that the defendant had ever indicated he would not cooperate with the proceedings, no indication that defendant would attempt to escape, and no indication that the courtroom where the trial was conducted presented any more of a security risk than other courtrooms. In fact, the trial court admitted that in all the proceedings where defendant had appeared before him, defendant "certainly conducted himself in the appropriate way." Therefore, we find that in ordering the defendant to be shackled during the jury trial the trial court abused its discretion.

Following voir dire, defendant moved for a mistrial due to the shackling and moved that like restraints not be used thereafter. The trial court denied the motion:

THE COURT : Well, I will not grant a mistrial. I was aware, from the way Mr. Johnson was walking, that he had the restraints on; but I do not believe they were visible.

[160 MICHAPP 493] The Record should reflect the fact that the well of the court here is separated from the jury by a wooden barrier that is approximately three feet, three-and-a-half feet high, and I do not believe that the existence of the leg-irons would have been apparent to the jury.

Now, I understand that Mr. Johnson is under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. And so it is the ruling of the Court that he need not have the leg restraints removed until such time as he takes the stand, if he is to take the stand. But the jury will be totally out of the courtroom. We will take a recess; and, during that recess, out of their sight, the leg-irons can be removed so Mr. Johnson would be able to walk to the stand to testify in an unfettered manner.

While we do not believe that the trial court justified the use of leg restraints during trial since there was no indication on the record before us that defendant was an escape risk or a safety risk, we also believe that the trial court's finding that the jury was unable to see those restraints rendered any error by the trial court harmless. As noted in the quote above, the trial court explained on the record that the design of the courtroom prevented the jury from seeing defendant in shackles. Furthermore, the trial court provided that, if defendant were to take the stand, appropriate measures would be taken to have the shackles removed outside the presence of the jury and to allow defendant to walk to the stand unfettered. Since there is nothing on the record to suggest that the trial court is incorrect in its conclusion that the jury could not see the shackles, we conclude that defendant was not prejudiced by the trial court's ruling. We caution, however, that it is the unique circumstances of this case which permit affirmance rather than our approval of shackling of defendants during jury trials.

[160 MICHAPP 494] Defendant's next argument is that the trial court erred by denying defendant's motion to suppress evidence of his prior felony convictions and by failing to articulate on the record the reason for the trial court's ruling. Defendant had two prior felony convictions, a 1978 conviction for manslaughter and a 1985 conviction for assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. The trial court permitted the use of the manslaughter conviction for impeachment purposes, but denied the use of the assault conviction. The factors to be considered in permitting the use of prior convictions for impeachment were stated by this Court in People v. Crawford, 83 Mich.App. 35, 39, 268 N.W.2d 275 (1978):

(1) the nature of the prior offense (did it involve an offense which directly bears on credibility, such as perjury?), (2) whether it is for substantially the same conduct for which the defendant is on trial (are the offenses so closely related that the danger that the...

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1 cases
  • People v. Horn
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • May 15, 2008
    ...caselaw holds that a defendant is not prejudiced if the jury was unable to see the shackles on the defendant. People v. Johnson, 160 Mich.App. 490, 493, 408 N.W.2d 485 (1987). A cloth was placed around the defense table, and the restraints were removed outside the presence of the jury befor......

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