People v. Maffett

Citation633 N.W.2d 339,464 Mich. 878
Decision Date18 July 2001
Docket NumberDocket No. 115185, COA No. 219840.
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Todd Lamar MAFFETT, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtSupreme Court of Michigan

On order of the Court, leave to appeal having been granted and this case having been briefed and argued by the parties, we VACATE the order of July 20, 2000 which granted leave to appeal and leave to appeal is DENIED because we are no longer persuaded the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court. CORRIGAN, C.J. (dissenting).

Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to deliver cocaine in an amount of 50 grams or more, but less than 225 grams, M.C.L. § 333.7401(2)(a)(iii). Before entering his plea, defendant moved to dismiss the charges on the ground that he had been entrapped into committing the alleged offenses. After an entrapment hearing, the trial court denied defendant's motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals thereafter denied defendant's application for leave to appeal. We then granted defendant's application for leave to appeal. 462 Mich. 919. Today, after the case has been argued and submitted for decision, we vacate the order granting leave and deny defendant's application. Because I would resolve the case on its merits, I respectfully dissent.

The current state of Michigan law regarding the entrapment defense is unclear. See People v. Juillet, 439 Mich. 34, 475 N.W.2d 786 (1991) (setting forth alternative views in separate opinions by Justices BRICKLEY, CAVANAGH, AND BOYLE); People v. Fabiano, 192 Mich.App. 523, 482 N.W.2d 467 (1992) (attempting to ascertain the majority rule of Juillet). This case presents an opportunity to set forth a clear statement of the law. Having examined the legal foundations of the entrapment defense, I would hold that the judicial branch lacks authority to implement the defense. The proper role of the courts in our tripartite system of government is to ascertain and apply the law to resolve disputes; it is not to promulgate rules of substantive criminal law such as the entrapment defense. Our continued recognition of the entrapment defense thus amounts to an unconstitutional usurpation of legislative and executive power. If there is to be a legally valid entrapment defense in Michigan, it must be enacted by the Legislature. For the reasons set forth in this dissent, I would abrogate the entrapment defense and affirm the judgment of the Eaton Circuit Court.

I. THE ORIGINS OF THE ENTRAPMENT DEFENSE

The entrapment defense developed in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.1 The prevailing view in the nineteenth century was that government inducement provided no defense to a criminal charge.2 A number of state courts condemned the practice of entrapment (i.e., government-manufactured crime), but "few actually held that the entrapment entitled the defendant to an acquittal." Marcus, The development of entrapment law, 33 Wayne L. R. 5, 11 (1986). The criticism of government inducement generally occurred in obiter dictum. See Woo Wai v. United States, 223 F. 412, 415-416 (C.A.9, 1915) (citing six state cases from 1878-1910); Barlow, Entrapment and the common law: Is there a place for the American doctrine of entrapment?, 41 Mod. L. R. 266, 269 (1978).

In 1879, the Texas Court of Appeals held, for the first time ever, that an entrapped defendant could not be convicted of the charged crime. See O'Brien v. State, 6 Tex.App. 665 (1879). In O'Brien, the defendant had been convicted of bribery for attempting to pay a sheriff's deputy for a prisoner's release from the jailhouse. The parties disputed whether the defendant or the deputy first suggested the idea for the bribe. The trial court instructed the jury that this fact was irrelevant, as long as the defendant eventually agreed to pay a bribe. The Texas Court of Appeals reversed, explaining that it would be "not within the spirit" of the bribery statute to convict the defendant of bribery if the deputy originated the criminal intent and joined the defendant in the commission of the crime "merely to entrap the defendant." Id. at 668. The court also observed that it was unable to find "any adjudicated case" in support of its holding. Id.

Thirty-six years later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals became the first federal court to bar a criminal conviction on grounds of entrapment in Woo Wai, supra.3 Relying on O'Brien, and on dicta from five other state cases, the court explained that "a sound public policy can be upheld only by denying the criminality of those who are thus induced to commit acts which infringe the letter of the criminal statutes." Woo Wai, supra at 415. Most remaining federal circuits soon after recognized some form of the entrapment defense. See Sorrells v. United States, 287 U.S. 435, 443, 53 S.Ct. 210, 77 L.Ed. 413 (1932) (citing cases). One representative case of the era, Butts v. United States, 273 F. 35, 38 (C.A.8, 1921), provided the following rationale for the doctrine:

The first duties of the officers of the law are to prevent, not to punish crime. It is not their duty to incite to and create crime for the sole purpose of prosecuting and punishing it. Here the evidence strongly tends to prove, if it does not conclusively do so, that their first and chief endeavor was to cause, to create, crime in order to punish it, and it is unconscionable, contrary to public policy, and to the established law of the land to punish a man for the commission of an offense of the like of which he had never been guilty, either in thought or in deed, and evidently never would have been guilty of if the officers of the law had not inspired, incited, persuaded, and lured him to attempt to commit it.

The early entrapment cases demonstrate that entrapment was not a traditional common-law justification or excuse defense based on the defendant's culpability. Rather, it arose from the burgeoning idea that punishing defendants for criminal violations "manufactured" by the government was offensive to public policy (or, in the case of O'Brien, supra, offensive to the "spirit" of the criminal law).

II. SEEKING A LEGAL FOUNDATION-THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ENTRAPMENT DEFENSE IN THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT

Two rival theories dominate the law of entrapment today. The federal courts and a majority of states have adopted the "subjective" view of entrapment. The subjective view focuses primarily on the defendant's "disposition" before the offense. The Model Penal Code, most legal commentators, and a minority of states favor the "objective" view of entrapment. The objective view focuses primarily on the nature of the police conduct before the crime.4 Each theory has its genesis in Sorrells, supra, the first United States Supreme Court decision to adopt the entrapment defense. The majority opinion in Sorrells, authored by Chief Justice Hughes, set forth the theoretical basis for the subjective view. A separate opinion of Justice Roberts did the same for the rival objective view. The merits of their respective positions were again considered in Sherman v. United States, 356 U.S. 369, 78 S.Ct. 819, 2 L.Ed.2d 848 (1958), and United States v. Russell, 411 U.S. 423, 93 S.Ct. 1637, 36 L.Ed.2d 366 (1973).

A. SORRELLS V. UNITED STATES

The defendant in Sorrells sold contraband liquor to an undercover prohibition agent posing as a tourist. The agent visited the defendant at the defendant's home while "accompanied by three residents of the county who knew the defendant well." Id. at 439, 53 S.Ct. 210. The agent and the defendant were both veterans of the First World War and former members of the same military division. Although the defendant rebuffed the agent's initial requests for liquor, he eventually agreed to procure some after the conversation turned to reminiscences of the war.

The trial court refused to allow the jury to consider the defense of entrapment. The defendant was convicted for possessing and selling whisky in violation of the National Prohibition Act. Conceding that the "weight of authority in the lower federal courts" suggested that the defense of entrapment should have been available to the defendant under the circumstances, the Solicitor General argued that entrapment was an invalid defense because its application required the judicial branch to disregard violations of the criminal statutes enacted by the legislative branch. Id. at 443-446, 53 S.Ct. 210.

The Sorrells Court answered this contention by explaining that, although the defendant's conduct brought him within the "letter" of the criminal statute, sustaining his conviction would "do violence to the spirit and purpose" of the provision. Id. at 446-448, 53 S.Ct. 210. Relying on the "absurd results" method of statutory construction,5 the Court opined that Congress, in enacting the statute at issue, could not have intended for its literal provisions to apply to "otherwise innocent" persons lured into committing statutorily proscribed acts by government officials. Id. at 451, 53 S.Ct. 210. The Court also explained that "[t]he predisposition and criminal design of the defendant are relevant" considerations in entrapment cases, because the "controlling question" is "whether the defendant is a person otherwise innocent whom the government is seeking to punish for an alleged offense which is the product of the creative activity of its own officials." Id. On the basis of this test, the majority concluded that the trial court erred in refusing to submit the issue of entrapment to the jury.

Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Brandeis and Stone, agreed that the defendant's conviction should have been reversed, but disagreed with the majority's "implied congressional intent" rationale. Justice Roberts found the "true foundation of the [entrapment] doctrine in the public policy which protects the purity of government and its processes." Id. at 455, 53 S.Ct. 210. The doctrine of entrapment, he reasoned,...

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