People v. Steanhouse

Decision Date24 July 2017
Docket Number Docket Nos. 152871, 152872, 152873,Docket No. 152671, Docket No. 152849, Docket Nos. 152946, 152947, 152948, (Calendar No. 1).
Citation500 Mich. 453,902 N.W.2d 327
Parties PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Alexander Jeremy STEANHOUSE, Defendant–Appellant. People of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. Alexander Jeremy Steanhouse, Defendant–Appellee. People of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Mohammad Masroor, Defendant–Appellant. People of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. Mohammad Masroor, Defendant–Appellee.
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Bill Schuette, Attorney General, Aaron D. Lindstrom, Solicitor General, Kym L. Worthy, Prosecuting Attorney, Jason W. Williams, Chief of Research, Training and Appeals, David A. McCreedy, Lead Appellate Attorney, and Timothy A. Baughman, Special Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people.

State Appellate Defender (by Jacqueline J. McCann, Adrienne N. Young, and Chari K. Grove ) for Alexander J. Steanhouse.

Michael J. McCarthy, PC (by Michael J. McCarthy ) for Mohammad Masroor.

Amici Curiae: Bill Schuette, Attorney General, Aaron D. Lindstrom, Solicitor General, Matthew Schneider, Chief Legal Counsel, and Linus Banghart-Linn, Assistant Attorney General, for the people.

Bradley R. Hall and Warner Norcross & Judd LLP (by Gaëtan Gerville-Réache) for Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan.



McCormack, J.

Two terms ago, in People v. Lockridge, 498 Mich. 358, 870 N.W.2d 502 (2015), this Court, applying binding United States Supreme Court precedent, held that Michigan's sentencing guidelines scheme violates the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. To remedy the constitutional violation, we held that the guidelines would thereafter be merely advisory rather than mandatory. In these consolidated cases, we address residual issues stemming from our decision in Lockridge. We hold the following:

(1) In Lockridge, we held, and today reaffirm, that the legislative sentencing guidelines are advisory in all applications.

(2) We affirm the Court of Appeals' holding in People v. Steanhouse, 313 Mich.App. 1, 880 N.W.2d 297 (2015), that the proper inquiry when reviewing a sentence for reasonableness is whether the trial court abused its discretion by violating the "principle of proportionality" set forth in People v. Milbourn, 435 Mich. 630, 636, 461 N.W.2d 1 (1990), "which requires sentences imposed by the trial court to be proportionate to the seriousness of the circumstances surrounding the offense and the offender."

(3) We decline to import the approach to reasonableness review used by the federal courts, including the factors listed in 18 USC 3553(a), into our jurisprudence.

(4) We agree with the Court of Appeals that defendant Alexander Steanhouse did not preserve his Sixth Amendment challenge to the scoring of the guidelines and that defendant Mohammad Masroor did preserve his challenge, but we decline to reach the question whether People v. Stokes, 312 Mich.App. 181, 877 N.W.2d 752 (2015), correctly decided that the remedy is exactly the same regardless of whether the error is preserved or unpreserved in light of the fact that both defendants received departure sentences, and that, therefore, neither defendant can show any harm from the application of the mandatory guidelines.1

(5) We reverse, in part, the judgments of the Court of Appeals in both cases to the extent they remanded to the trial court for further sentencing proceedings under United States v. Crosby, 397 F.3d 103 (C.A. 2, 2005).2 Both of the trial courts imposed upward departure sentences on the defendants, and we made clear in Lockridge that defendants who receive upward departure sentences cannot show prejudice from the Sixth Amendment error. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals in People v. Masroor, 313 Mich.App. 358, 396, 880 N.W.2d 812 (2015), correctly concluded that ordering Crosby remands in such cases "unnecessarily complicates and prolongs the sentencing process." Instead, the proper approach is for the Court of Appeals to determine whether the trial court abused its discretion by violating the principle of proportionality.

(6) Because of our ruling in (5), in lieu of granting leave to appeal in the defendants' appeals (Docket Nos. 152671 and 152871 through 152873), pursuant to MCR 7.305(H)(1), we remand those cases to the Court of Appeals for plenary consideration of whether the departure sentences imposed by the trial courts were reasonable under the standard set forth in this opinion. In all other respects, leave to appeal with regard to those applications is denied because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.


In Lockridge, we relied on the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 2151, 186 L.Ed.2d 314 (2013), to conclude that Michigan's mandatory sentencing guidelines violated the Sixth Amendment because they require judicial fact-finding beyond facts admitted by the defendant or found by the jury to score offense variables (OVs) that mandatorily increased the floor of the guidelines' minimum sentence range. As a remedy for the constitutional infirmity, we held that the guidelines were advisory only and that many defendants sentenced under the mandatory guidelines were entitled to Crosby remands for the trial court to determine whether it would have imposed a materially different sentence if it had been aware that the guidelines were not mandatory. We also held that departure sentences post- Lockridge would be reviewed for reasonableness, though we did not elaborate on the proper standard for this reasonableness review. Lockridge, 498 Mich. at 392, 870 N.W.2d 502.

Notably for purposes of these cases, we also held that the defendant in Lockridge was not entitled to a Crosby remand because he had received an upward departure sentence; we concluded that "[b]ecause he received an upward departure sentence that did not rely on the minimum sentence range from the improperly scored guidelines (and indeed, the trial court necessarily had to state on the record its reasons for departingfrom that range), the defendant cannot show prejudice from any error in scoring the OVs in violation of Alleyne." Id. at 394, 870 N.W.2d 502.


The defendant was jury-convicted of assault with intent to murder (AWIM), MCL 750.83, and receiving and concealing stolen property with a value between $1,000 and $20,000, MCL 750.535(3)(a). Defense counsel objected at sentencing to the evidentiary basis for scoring OVs 5, 6, and 7, MCL 777.35, MCL 777.36, and MCL 777.37. The trial court upheld the scoring of OVs 5 and 6 but eliminated points for OV 7 for lack of factual support. The trial court departed from the applicable guidelines range (calling for a minimum prison term of 171 to 285 months) and imposed a 30– to 60–year (360– to 720–month) prison sentence for the AWIM count, concurrent with a 1– to 5–year sentence for the stolen-property count.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant's convictions in a published opinion but ordered a Crosby remand. The panel then proceeded to evaluate two potential approaches it could adopt to frame the "reasonableness" review of sentences post- Lockridge : (1) the standard currently employed by the federal courts, which is guided by the factors in 18 USC 3553(a), or (2) the "principle of proportionality" standard from Milbourn. The panel adopted the latter standard. Steanhouse, 313 Mich.App. at 46–47, 880 N.W.2d 297.

Both the defendant and the prosecution sought leave to appeal in this Court. We granted the prosecution's application for leave to appeal, ordered it to be argued and submitted with the prosecution's application for leave to appeal in Masroor, and kept the defendant's application for leave to appeal pending. People v. Steanhouse, 499 Mich. 934, 879 N.W.2d 252 (2016).3


The defendant, in three cases tried together, was jury-convicted of 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC–I), MCL 750.520b, and five counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC–II), MCL 750.520c. At sentencing, defense counsel made a general objection to scoring the guidelines on the basis of judicial fact-finding, citing Alleyne, 570 U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 2151, and objected to the scoring of several OVs on the basis that the scoring was unsupported by a preponderance of the evidence. After resolving those challenges, the trial court departed from the applicable guidelines range (calling for a minimum prison term of 108 to 180 months) and imposed concurrent prison terms of 35 to 50 years (420 to 600 months) for each of the CSC–I convictions and 10 to 15 years for each of the CSC–II convictions.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant's convictions in a published opinion but ordered a Crosby remand and directed the trial court to apply the "proportionality" standard adopted in Steanhouse. But the panel majority said that but for the Steanhouse decision, it would have affirmed the defendant's sentences by applying the federal "reasonableness" standard from Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 46, 128 S.Ct. 586, 169 LEd.2d 445 (2007), which was specifically rejected in Steanhouse, and it called for a conflict panel to resolve which standard was the proper one and "so that the procedure established by [the Steanhouse ] panel may be more carefully considered by a larger number of the judges of this Court."4 Masroor, 313 Mich.App. at 361, 880 N.W.2d 812.

On December 17, 2015, the Court of Appeals issued an order announcing that a special panel would convene pursuant to MCR 7.215(J) to resolve the conflict between these cases "concerning the standards applicable to review for reasonableness of sentences constituting departures from the recommendations of the sentencing guidelines, and the extent to which remands are...

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