People v. Vaughn

Decision Date28 August 1980
Docket NumberNo. 63958,63958
Citation409 Mich. 463,295 N.W.2d 354
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Marcus VAUGHN, Defendant-Appellees. 409 Mich. 463, 295 N.W.2d 354
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Robert A. Derengoski, Sol. Gen., William L. Cahalan, Pros. Atty., Edward Reilly Wilson, Principal Atty., Appeals, and Andrea L. Solak, Asst. Pros. Atty., Detroit, for the People.

Norman R. Robiner, Detroit, for defendant.


In this case we are asked to consider whether inconsistent verdicts, one of which is an acquittal, require reversal of the conviction. We hold that they do not.

As the complainant was standing on the street trying to hail a taxicab, defendant allegedly approached her, grabbed her arm and pointed a gun at her stomach. The complainant professed some knowledge of guns and identified the one in question as a revolver.

Defendant testified that he wanted to buy some joints, walked up to the complainant and asked if she had anything to sell. When she told him to get away, he replied, "Oh, bitch, I will kill your ass." He testified that he never meant this to happen. Defendant denied having a gun, though he did say that he had black gloves on and did point his finger as he spoke.

The complainant was able to locate a policeman immediately and the defendant was taken into custody shortly following this event. No gun was ever discovered.

Defendant was charged in a two-count information with assault with a dangerous weapon (felonious assault), M.C.L. § 750.82; M.S.A. § 28.277, and possession of a firearm while committing or attempting to commit a felony ("felony firearm"), M.C.L. § 750.227b; M.S.A. § 28.424(2). The jury returned a verdict of guilty of felonious assault and not guilty of felony firearm. 1 Following the trial, defendant moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the ground that the verdicts were inconsistent. This motion was denied. The Court of Appeals, in a per curiam opinion, held that the verdicts were inconsistent and vacated defendant's conviction of felonious assault. People v. Vaughn, 92 Mich.App. 742, 744, 285 N.W.2d 444 (1979). We reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals reasoned:

"The jury in returning a verdict of guilty as to count 1 must have decided that a gun did exist and in returning a verdict of not guilty as to count 2 must necessarily have determined the nonexistence of the gun. Thus the verdicts are inconsistent, People v. Goodchild, 68 Mich.App. 226, 242 N.W.2d 465 (1976)."

Federal courts and many state courts follow the principle that jury verdicts rendered on several counts of a multicount indictment need not necessarily be consistent. 2 As the United States Supreme Court said in the benchmark case of Dunn v. United States, 284 U.S. 390, 393, 52 S.Ct. 189, 190, 76 L.Ed. 356 (1932),

"Consistency in the verdict is not necessary. Each count in an indictment is regarded as if it was a separate indictment." (Citations omitted.)

The Court continued,

"As was said in Steckler v. United States, 7 F.2d 59, 60 (CA 2, 1925):

" 'The most that can be said in such cases is that the verdict shows that either in the acquittal or the conviction the jury did not speak their real conclusions, but that does not show that they were not convinced of the defendant's guilt. We interpret the acquittal as no more than their assumption of a power which they had no right to exercise, but to which they were disposed through lenity.' "

Our Court has recognized the role of the jury in a criminal trial. "Because the jury is the sole judge of all the facts, it can choose, without any apparent logical basis, what to believe and what to disbelieve. What may appeal to the judge as 'undisputed' need not be believed by a jury." People v. Chamblis, 395 Mich. 408, 420, 236 N.W.2d 473, 479 (1975).

Juries are not held to any rules of logic nor are they required to explain their decisions. The ability to convict or acquit another individual of a crime is a grave responsibility and an awesome power. An element of this power is the jury's capacity for leniency. Since we are unable to know just how the jury reached their conclusion, whether the result of compassion or compromise, it is unrealistic to believe that a jury would intend that an acquittal on one count and conviction on another would serve as the reason for defendant's release. These considerations...

To continue reading

Request your trial
74 cases
  • People v. Goss
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • January 1, 1994
    ...14 Mich.App. 604, 165 N.W.2d 910 (1968) (Levin, J., concurring).14 The Court built on its earlier decision in People v. Vaughn, 409 Mich. 463, 466, 295 N.W.2d 354 (1980), where the Court held that a jury could return inconsistent verdicts on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and fe......
  • People v. Torres
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1996
    ...consistent in the light of its power of leniency. People v. Lewis, 415 Mich. 443, 450-453, 330 N.W.2d 16 (1982); People v. Vaughn, 409 Mich. 463, 466, 295 N.W.2d 354 (1980). 35 Thus, unlike Ashe and Turner, this Court cannot logically deduce from the first verdict that the jury acquitted de......
  • Shell v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 1, 1985
    ... ... According to Mrs. Wombacher, ... "my husband said to him, 'Why do you act like that, we're Christian people and we don't fight.' He said, 'I don't believe it.' And so my husband--he said, 'If you show me a Bible I would believe it.' So my husband ... United States, 473 A.2d 366, 368 (D.C.1984); People v. Vaughn, 409 Mich. 463, 295 N.W.2d 354 ... (1980); People v. Williams, 99 Mich.App. 463, 297 N.W.2d 702 (1980). 6 ...         Moreover, in ... ...
  • People v. Wilson
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • June 18, 2014
    ...reversal, because “[j]uries are not held to any rules of logic nor are they required to explain their decisions.” People v. Vaughn, 409 Mich. 463, 466, 295 N.W.2d 354 (1980). The Supreme Court reaffirmed this principle in Powell, 469 U.S. 57, 105 S.Ct. 471, rejecting the defendant's argumen......
  • 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