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Appellate Division

Many criminal offenders, despite having been convicted by jury or having pled guilty, appeal their convictions or sentences. In many of these cases, courts are required to appoint attorneys for these criminal offenders. Notwithstanding these advantages for criminal offenders, the Appellate Division of the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office is prepared to oppose these appeals assuring that convictions and sentences are not overturned. The Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office has a well-qualified and experienced staff of appellate attorneys who represent the People in the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court. Through the efforts of these appellate attorneys, the vast majority of cases that are appealed by criminal offenders are rejected.

In 2011, the Appellate Division executed 62 filings in the Court of Appeals.  There were, because of Appeals filed in late 2010, 84 decisions issued by the Court of Appeals. The Appellate Division successfully upheld 83 of 84 criminal convictions in the Court of Appeals in 2011.  The Appellate Division also successfully upheld the length of all appealed sentences with the exception of one appeal, which resulted in the defendant's minimum sentence being decreased from 14 years to 13 years imprisonment.  In one case, the Court of Appeals reversed a plea based criminal sexual conduct conviction because the Circuit Court failed to inform the defendant that upon release from imprisonment he must wear an electronic monitoring device for life.  The Michigan Supreme Court has already granted the Appellate Division's request to review this Appeals Court reversal and oral arguments are scheduled for March 6, 2012. 

The Appellate Division also had substantial success in the Michigan Supreme Court in 2011. Of the 42 criminal convictions brought before the Michigan Supreme Court in 2011, the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office successfully upheld all 42 convictions. 

In addition, the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office has been a leader in obtaining legal decisions or precedents favorable to victims and law enforcement on a variety of issues which assist prosecutors throughout the State of Michigan. On the important issue of felons possessing firearms, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of an appeal filed by the Appellate Division and overturning a Circuit Court decision throwing out a Felon in Possession of a Firearm charge against a defendant. People v. Pierce, 272 Mich App 394 (2006). In a decision changing state law, the Court of Appeals agreed with the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office that a breaking and entering of a building is a “specified felony” under the felon-in-possession statute and individuals convicted of that offense cannot legally possess firearms in the State of Michigan.

Due to the efforts of our Appellate Division, favorable precedent now exists on other important evidentiary and sentencing issues. In People v Lee, 243 Mich App 163; 622 NW2d 71 (2000), a Muskegon County case, the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with our position that a prosecutor should be able to introduce statements of a deceased witness under the residual exception to the hearsay rule contained in Mich R Evid 803(24). The Court of Appeals went on to establish favorable guidelines for the use of this rule, aiding both prosecutors and victims. On an important sentencing issue, in People v McGuffey, 251 Mich App 155; 649 NW2d 801 (2002), the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Appellate Division obtained a favorable ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals, which held that a defendant may not raise on appeal challenges to the accuracy of presentence reports or the scoring of sentencing guidelines unless first raising the issue at or before sentencing. This ruling has helped limit the appeals of defendants statewide at a great savings to taxpayers. Seeking to protect children the Appellate Division, in People v Harmon, 248 Mich App 522; 640 NW2d 314 (2001), obtained a decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals providing that a defendant may be convicted of multiple felony convictions when in possession of child pornography, including one felony conviction for each pornographic photograph of a child the defendant possessed.

At times, there are court decisions that impact the rights of victims, the methods and techniques used by law enforcement to obtain evidence and even control when a prosecutor may proceed to trial with a case. The Appellate Division is active in securing the People's right to prosecute criminal offenders, protect law enforcement and win justice for victims. The Appellate Division accomplishes this by appealing unfavorable court decisions and securing reversals so that these cases may be prosecuted. These decisions often have statewide application protecting victims and aiding law enforcement across Michigan. In People v Dunbar, 463 Mich 606; 625 NW2d 1 (2001), the Michigan Supreme Court agreed with the Muskegon County Prosecutor's efforts to avoid divulging the identity of a confidential informant, a citizen who told the police about illegal drug activity, lest the informant come to harm. In Dunbar, the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office had to actually dismiss a case to protect the confidential informant from harm. Thereafter, the Appellate Division re-filed the charges against this drug dealer and appealed the new case all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court, seeking to protect the identity of this citizen, while continuing with the prosecution of this drug dealer. Although it took four years to finally convict the drug dealer, the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office protected the confidential informant and continued the fight until this drug dealer was behind bars.

The Prosecutor's Appellate Division has established a strong tradition of ensuring that lawbreakers do not use the appellate process to nullify their criminal convictions on technicalities. The Appellate Division of the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office will continue its quest for permanent justice by ensuring that criminals convicted in Muskegon County stay behind bars.


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