People v. Tanner, Docket No. 231966.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Citation255 Mich. App. 369,660 N.W.2d 746
Docket NumberDocket No. 231966.
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Hattie Mae TANNER, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date06 May 2003

660 N.W.2d 746
255 Mich.
App. 369

PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Hattie Mae TANNER, Defendant-Appellant

Docket No. 231966.

Court of Appeals of Michigan.

Submitted October 1, 2002, at Lansing.

Decided February 18, 2003, at 9:05 a.m.

Released for Publication May 6, 2003.

660 N.W.2d 750
Michael A. Cox, Attorney General, Thomas L. Casey, Solicitor General, John A. Hallacy, Prosecuting Attorney, and Katherine K. Miller and Michelle L. Richardson, Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys, for the people

Arthur James Rubiner, West Bloomfield, for the defendant on appeal.

Before: COOPER, P.J., and JANSEN

660 N.W.2d 751
and R.J. DANHOF1, JJ.
660 N.W.2d 747
660 N.W.2d 748

660 N.W.2d 749

Defendant was convicted by a jury of first-degree felony murder, M.C.L. § 750.316(1)(b); second-degree murder, M.C.L. § 750.317; and armed robbery, M.C.L. § 750.529. She was originally sentenced to concurrent sentences of life imprisonment without parole for the felony-murder conviction, forty to sixty years' imprisonment for the second-degree murder conviction, and twenty-five to fifty years' imprisonment for the armed robbery conviction. Thereafter, the trial court entered sua sponte an amended judgment of sentence, vacating defendant's sentences for the second-degree murder and the armed robbery convictions. She now appeals as of right. We reverse defendant's convictions and her sentence for the felony-murder conviction and remand to the trial court for a new trial.

Defendant's convictions arise from the stabbing death of Sharon Watson, a bartender at Barney's Bar and Grill (Barney's) located in Calhoun County, during the course of a robbery that occurred at the bar after 1:00 a.m. on March 22, 1995. Initially, the Battle Creek Police Department requested warrants for defendant, Dion Paav, and Robert Cady in July 1995 for their alleged involvement in the victim's robbery and murder, but the prosecutor declined to issue the warrants in the fall of 1995 on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to charge these individuals. However, when a new prosecutor took office in 1997, an arrest warrant was eventually issued on May 23, 2000, for defendant only, charging her with open murder, M.C.L. § 750.316; felony murder, M.C.L. § 750.316; and armed robbery, M.C.L. § 750.529.

The case proceeded to trial in November 2000. It was the prosecutor's theory that Cady, a close friend of defendant, used his status as a trusted regular customer of Barney's to gain entrance to the bar while the victim was in the process of closing the bar. The prosecutor further theorized that defendant committed the murder with her own knife, leaving it at the bar next to a drop of her own blood. Alternatively, the prosecutor argued that defendant aided and abetted Cady in the felony murder by providing the murder weapon.

At trial, Cady was the prosecution's first witness. Cady testified that after getting out of work at 10:55 p.m. on March 21, 1995, he had planned to meet Paav at Nottke's Bowling Alley, Paav's place of work.2 When Paav did not appear, Cady went to a bar, where he claimed that he attempted to call Paav at home. Cady testified that he then called defendant to arrange for the purchase of crack cocaine. Shortly after midnight on March 22, Cady drove to defendant's house and went with her to purchase crack cocaine. After returning to defendant's house, Cady and defendant smoked crack cocaine together. Cady testified that about one-half hour later, he left to cash a check and eventually went to Barney's at about 1:00 a.m. Cady further testified that although the bar appeared to be closed when he arrived

660 N.W.2d 752
because the sign was off, he entered through an open side door and saw Watson, a friend whom Cady had known for about two years, and an unidentified white male customer in the bar. Cady testified that because Watson had already closed out her cash register, she could not cash his check. Cady then left Barney's and went to another bar, the Green Tavern, where he cashed the check and drank a beer. Cady testified that he called defendant at about 1:30 a.m. to say that he was returning to her house. However, Cady first went to buy some more crack cocaine before stopping at defendant's house at approximately 2:30 a.m. Shortly thereafter, Cady drove home, passing by Barney's at about 2:45 a.m. According to Cady, while he found it unusual to see the bar's lights on at that hour, he nonetheless continued driving home without stopping.

Cady testified that at about 1:30 p.m. on March 22, 1995, Paav called and informed him that Watson had been found murdered in the basement of Barney's. Although Cady was concerned about talking with the police because of his use of crack cocaine, he and Paav went to talk with the police later that afternoon. According to Cady, defendant had been to Barney's only once during the last five years. Cady further testified that he knew that Barney's would close before the usual 2:00 a.m. closing time if it were a slow night. Cady admitted that he knew that after cashing out, the victim would take the money toward the back of the bar, where there was a storage area next to the bathrooms and basement stairs. Cady acknowledged that the victim also trusted Cady to watch the bar area while she cashed out. Cady also knew from talking to the victim and other bar employees that there was a safe in the basement.

On cross-examination, Cady testified that he was a friend of the victim and was trying to help the police find her killer when he became a suspect in the case. Cady also testified that he helped the police prepare two composite sketches of the man whom he claimed to have seen in the bar on the night of the homicide and robbery. Cady denied that defendant accompanied him to Barney's when he attempted to cash a check on the night in question. Cady also stated that, with the exception of being shown a picture of it, he had never seen the knife that the police recovered at Barney's.

On redirect examination, Cady testified that the victim had already cashed out by the time of his arrival at about 1:00 a.m. on March 22, 1995. Cady also admitted that, when interviewed by Officer Brad Wise of the Bedford Township Police Department on March 27, 1995, he stated that the victim would cash out early only if there were trusted regular customers in the bar. Cady further testified that during a conversation with the victim after his arrival at Barney's at about 1:00 a.m., he learned that the "stranger" who was sitting at the bar had been there since 12:15 a.m. Cady also admitted that he used a knife to cut up or chip rocks of crack cocaine on the night in question after previously denying it. Cady further admitted that if he ordered beer to go, it would have been a six-pack of "Bud light."

Watson's boyfriend, Jerry Dockum, testified that he received a call from the victim on the night in question and was told that she was closing early at about 1:30 a.m. At about 2:00 a.m., Dockum became concerned about her whereabouts and called the bar. When no one answered the phone, Dockum called his sister, Gloria Loring. According to Dockum, Watson never removed the cash drawer from the cash register in the presence of people whom she did not know. Dockum further testified that he had been present

660 N.W.2d 753
on one previous occasion when Watson, in Cady's presence, removed the cash drawer in the bar and took it downstairs. Dockum also testified that he had never seen defendant at the bar.

According to Maria Coller, a former employee of Barney's, she received a call from Loring after Dockum had called his sister. Maria Coller, who had keys to the bar, and her husband, Ron Coller, then picked up Loring, and they went to Barney's, finding it unusual that the lights were on. In addition, Watson's car was in the parking lot behind the bar, although the outside doors were locked. According to Mr. Coller, they arrived at the bar at approximately 5:30 a.m. on March 22. Upon entering through the side door of the bar, Mr. Coller almost tripped on a six-pack of Budweiser beer in a Michelob pack left on the floor with a napkin on top of it. The television was blaring, and Watson's purse was on the back of the bar. After calling the bar owners and 911, the Collers noticed a knife behind the bar where the glasses were washed. On the back of a chair was the victim's coat. The Collers also found a note for a take-out order of beer on the cash register behind the bar. After Mr. Coller opened the door to the basement and observed loose cash at the bottom of the basement stairs, his wife called 911 a second time. Going downstairs, the Collers walked all over the basement, looking for the victim. When they discovered that the door to the basement office was closed, Mrs. Coller called 911 a third time at about 6:00 a.m.

Shortly thereafter, Tom Bliler, one of the bar's owners, arrived at the bar and helped Mr. Coller open the door to the office, where they found the victim's body. According to Bliler, $1,009 had been stolen from the safe. Bliler also testified that he had never seen the knife that was found behind the bar and that the knife did not belong to the bar.

Officer John Hancotte, who, at the time of the offenses, was employed by the Bedford Township Police Department, was the first police officer to arrive on the scene at 6:25 a.m. on March 22, 1995. Upon finding that the victim had been dead for some time, Officer Hancotte called for additional help from the Battle Creek Police Department and the Michigan State Police. Reporting to the crime scene were Detective Michael VanStratton, the crime lab supervisor of the Battle Creek Police Department at the time of the murder, who was employed by the Kansas Bureau of Investigations at the time of trial, and State Trooper Harry O. Zimmerman, a crime-scene technician with the Michigan State Police, who was retired at the time of trial.


To continue reading

Request your trial
7 cases
  • People v. Akins, Docket No. 240359
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • 19 February 2004
    ...wilfully disregarded the likelihood of the natural tendency of this behavior to cause death or great bodily harm.'" [People v. Tanner, 255 Mich.App. 369, 418-419, 660 N.W.2d 746 (2003) (citations Mitchell argues that there was not sufficient evidence to support his convictions as a principa......
  • People v. McNair, 357974
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • 29 December 2022
    ...evidence to prove that defendant was guilty of armed robbery under a theory of aiding and abetting.[7] As stated in People v Tanner, 255 Mich.App. 369, 418-419; 660 N.W.2d 746 (2003), rev'd on other grounds by 469 Mich. 437 (2003), to support a finding that a defendant aided and abetted a c......
  • MacLean v. McKee, Case Number: 2:09-CV-12992
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • 10 July 2012
    ...due process rights, our review is de novo, but the underlying factual findings are reviewed for clear error. People v. Tanner, 255 Mich.App 369, 412; 660 NW2d 746 (2003), rev'd on other grounds 469 Mich. 437 (2003).The trial court found, after an evidentiary hearing, that there was an adequ......
  • Tanner v. Yukins, No. 15-1691
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 15 August 2017
    ...Barney's Bar and Grill, was stabbed to death in the basement of Barney's sometime after 1:00 a.m. on March 22, 1995. People v. Tanner , 255 Mich.App. 369, 660 N.W.2d 746, 751 (2003). Watson's murder appears to have happened during the course of a robbery. Id.Watson's boyfriend, Jerry Dockum......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT