People v. Maynor, Docket No. 244435.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Citation662 N.W.2d 468,256 Mich. App. 238
Docket NumberDocket No. 244435.
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Tarajee Shaheer MAYNOR, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date29 May 2003

662 N.W.2d 468
256 Mich.
App. 238

PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Tarajee Shaheer MAYNOR, Defendant-Appellant

Docket No. 244435.

Court of Appeals of Michigan.

Submitted February 12, 2003, at Detroit.

Decided April 8, 2003, at 9:15 a.m.

Released for Publication May 29, 2003.


662 N.W.2d 469
Michael A. Cox, Attorney General, Thomas L. Casey, Solicitor General, David G. Gorcyca, Prosecuting Attorney, Joyce F. Todd, Chief, Appellate Division, and Anica Letica, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people

Hatchett, Dewalt & Hatchett (by Elbert L. Hatchett), Pontiac, for the defendant.

Before: WHITBECK, C.J., and GRIFFIN and OWENS, JJ.

662 N.W.2d 470
OWENS, J

Defendant Tarajee S. Maynor appeals by leave granted the circuit court's order granting the prosecution's motion to reinstate the charges, consisting of two counts of first-degree felony murder, M.C.L. § 750.316(1)(b), with the underlying felony being first-degree child abuse, M.C.L. § 750.136b(2). We affirm.

On June 28, 2002, defendant left her ten-month-old daughter and three-year-old son alone in a hot car for approximately 3-1/2 hours. When defendant returned to the car, she found both children dead in the back seat. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was hyperthermia, or heat exposure, from being left in the hot car. The prosecution sought to bind defendant over on two counts of first-degree felony murder, with first-degree child abuse as the underlying felony. The district court ruled that first-degree child abuse was a specific-intent crime, and found that there was not probable cause to believe that defendant acted with the requisite intent. The district court further concluded that there was only probable cause for involuntary manslaughter. Accordingly, the district court bound defendant over on two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The prosecution moved in the circuit court for reinstatement of the felony-murder charges. The circuit court granted the prosecutor's motion, holding that first-degree child abuse is a general-intent crime. The circuit court also found that there was probable cause to believe defendant had committed this offense, as well as second-degree murder. Thus, the court reinstated the felony-murder charges.

On appeal, defendant contends that the circuit court erred in ruling that first-degree child abuse is a general-intent crime. Ordinarily, the decision of the district court on a motion to bind over is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. People v. Stone, 463 Mich. 558, 561, 621 N.W.2d 702 (2001). However, we review this issue de novo because it involves a question of statutory interpretation. Id.

The first-degree child abuse statute, M.C.L. § 750.136b(2), provides as follows: "A person is guilty of child abuse in the first degree if the person knowingly or intentionally causes serious physical or serious mental harm to a child." Generally, a specific-intent crime requires a criminal intent beyond the act done, whereas a general-intent crime requires only the intent to perform the proscribed physical act. People v. Whitney, 228 Mich.App. 230, 254, 578 N.W.2d 329 (1998).

In People v. Gould, 225 Mich.App. 79, 86, 570 N.W.2d 140 (1997), we opined that first-degree child abuse was a specific-intent crime. However, in denying leave, our Supreme Court observed that our ruling "that first-degree child abuse is a specific-intent crime is dictum, in light of the panel's conclusion that, even under that standard, the circuit court did not err in denying the defendant's motion for directed verdict." People v. Gould, 459 Mich. 955 (1999). Accordingly, the Gould construction of the statute governing first-degree child abuse is not binding precedent. People v. Borchard-Ruhland, 460 Mich. 278, 286, 597 N.W.2d 1 (1999).

Nevertheless, we believe that our analysis in Gould was sound. In fact, we adopt the following portion of the Gould analysis as our own:

The word "knowingly" is not defined in the statute. Unless defined in the statute, every word of the statute should be accorded its plain and ordinary meaning. MCL 8.3a; MSA 2.212(1); People v. Gregg, 206 Mich.App. 208, 211, 520 N.W.2d 690 (1994). If a statute does not

662 N.W.2d 471
expressly define its terms, a court may consult dictionary definitions. Id., pp. 211-212, 520 N.W.2d 690
Black's Law Dictionary (6th ed) defines "knowingly" as: "With knowledge; consciously; intelligently; willfully; intentionally "(emphasis supplied). Given the dictionary definition of the word "knowingly" and applying the plain and ordinary meaning of the word to the language of the statute, we conclude that "knowingly" as contained in the statute means the same thing as the word "intentionally." According to the dictionary definition, the words "knowingly" and "intentionally" are synonymous. [Gould, supra, 225 Mich.App at 84, 570 N.W.2d 140.]

We further note that, although Black's Law Dictionary (7th ed) does not define "knowingly," it does define "knowing" as "[h]aving or showing awareness or understanding; well-informed ... deliberate; conscious." Similarly, Random House Webster's College Dictionary (2001) defines "knowing" in pertinent part as "conscious," "intentional," and "deliberate."

In support of its conclusion, the Gould panel also opined "that this Court has repeatedly concluded that a crime that is required to be committed `knowingly' is a specific intent crime." Gould, supra at 85, 590 N.W.2d 572. We recently recognized that "`[w]ords typically found in specific intent statutes include "knowingly," "willfully," "purposely," and "intentionally."'" People v. Disimone, 251 Mich.App. 605, 611, 650 N.W.2d 436 (2002), quoting People v. Davenport, 230 Mich.App. 577, 579-580, 583 N.W.2d 919 (1998).

Moreover, we note that second-degree child abuse occurs if a person "knowingly or intentionally commits an act likely to cause serious physical or mental harm to a child regardless of whether harm results." MCL 750.136b(3)(b). Comparing first-degree child abuse with second-degree child abuse, it appears that our Legislature contemplated the situation where a person intended an act, but perhaps not the consequences of the act. Thus, second-degree child abuse is an example of a general-intent crime. Whitney, supra at 254, 578 N.W.2d 329. We must presume that our Legislature's decision not to include the "commits an act" language in the first-degree child abuse provision was intentional. People v. Rahilly, 247 Mich.App. 108, 112, 635 N.W.2d 227 (2001), quoting Farrington v. Total Petroleum, Inc., 442 Mich. 201, 210, 501 N.W.2d 76 (1993). Given the dictionary definitions described above, as well as our Legislature's deliberate use of different phrases when defining first- and second-degree child abuse, we conclude that first-degree child abuse is a specific-intent crime. Therefore, the circuit court erred in ruling, as a matter of law, that first-degree child abuse is a general-intent crime.

However, we need not reverse the circuit court's reinstatement of the original charges if the circuit court correctly ruled that defendant could be charged with felony murder. Indeed, we may affirm where the court reaches the right result, albeit for the wrong reason. People v. Jory, 443 Mich. 403, 425, 505 N.W.2d 228 (1993).

Generally, a magistrate must bind a defendant over for trial if, at the conclusion of the preliminary examination, "there is probable cause to believe that a felony has been committed and that defendant committed it." People v. Carter, 250 Mich.App. 510, 521, 655 N.W.2d 236 (2002). MCL 766.13. "Probable cause exists when there is a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to warrant a cautious person to believe that the accused is guilty of the

662 N.W.2d 472
offense charged." Carter, supra at 521, 655 N.W.2d 236.

As noted above, defendant was charged with felony murder, M.C.L. § 75.316. We have defined felony murder as follows:

(1) the killing of a human being; (2) with the intent to kill, to do great bodily harm, or to create a high risk of death or great bodily harm with knowledge that death or great bodily harm was the probable result; (3) while committing, attempting to commit, or assisting in the commission of any of the felonies specifically enumerated in M.C.L. § 750.316.... [People v. Hutner, 209 Mich.App. 280, 282-283, 530 N.W.2d 174 (1995).]

In other words, felony murder is essentially second-degree murder, elevated by one of the felonies enumerated in M.C.L. § 750.316. See People v. Magyar, 250 Mich.App. 408, 412, 648 N.W.2d 215 (2002). First-degree child abuse is one of the felonies enumerated in M.C.L. § 750.316(1)(b).

The elements of second-degree murder are: "(1) a death, (2) caused by an act of the defendant, (3) with malice, and (4) without justification or excuse." People v. Goecke, 457 Mich. 442, 463-464, 579 N.W.2d 868 (1998). "Malice is defined as the intent to kill, the intent to cause great bodily harm, or the intent to do an act in wanton and wilful disregard of the likelihood that the natural tendency of such behavior is to cause death or great bodily harm." Id. at 464, 579 N.W.2d 868. Here, there is no dispute that defendant caused the tragic death of her children. Goecke, supra at 463, 579 N.W.2d 868. In addition, there was no evidence indicating a justification or excuse for the killing. Id. As noted, malice includes "the intent to do an act in wanton and wilful disregard of the likelihood that the natural tendency of such behavior is to cause death or great bodily harm." Id. at 464, 579 N.W.2d 868. Among the evidence introduced during the preliminary examination was defendant's admission that she left her children unattended in a hot car for approximately 3-1/2 hours. Her act of leaving the children unattended was intentional, rather than accidental.1 Accordingly, there was sufficient evidence that defendant's conduct fell within the definition of malice. Id....

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