PEOPLE OF MI V DERRICK DEJUAN JAMESAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN,
August 18, 2005
Wayne Circuit Court
LC No. 03-013914
DERRICK DEJUAN JAMES,
Official Reported Version
Before: Cooper, P.J., and Bandstra and Kelly, JJ.
Defendant appeals as of right his jury trial conviction of assault with intent to do great
bodily harm less than murder, MCL 750.84. Defendant was sentenced as a second-offense
habitual offender, MCL 769.10, to 47 months to 15 years in prison. We affirm in part, reverse in
part, and remand for resentencing.
Defendant first argues that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to sustain
his conviction. Specifically, defendant contends that the prosecution failed to refute his claim of
self-defense. We disagree. We review de novo challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence in a
criminal trial to determine whether, when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
prosecutor, a rational trier of fact could have found all of the elements of the charged crime to
have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. People v Bowman, 254 Mich App 142, 151; 656
NW2d 835 (2002).
Defendant argues that he honestly and reasonably believed that his life was in danger. It
is well-settled that "'[t]he killing of another in self-defense is justifiable homicide if the
defendant honestly and reasonably believes that his life is in imminent danger or that there is a
threat of serious bodily harm.'" People v Fortson, 202 Mich App 13, 19-20; 507 NW2d 763
(1993), quoting People v Heflin, 434 Mich 482, 502; 456 NW2d 10 (1990). "Once evidence of
self-defense is introduced, the prosecutor bears the burden of disproving it beyond a reasonable
doubt." Fortson, supra at 20.
Here, there was evidence presented that when defendant opened the door to a storage
closet in the basement, the victim lunged at defendant and hit him on top of the head. However,
there was also evidence presented that defendant secured the victim in a headlock, dragged him
upstairs, and was able to call 911 twice while still restraining the victim. Although there was
evidence presented that the victim was able to break away from defendant at one point (i.e., there
was arguably a perceived threat), defendant punched the victim twice, causing the victim to fall
to the floor. Indeed, there was evidence presented that the victim remained immobilized in the
fetal position when defendant began to stomp his face and chest; therefore, any perceived threat
was no longer imminent. Two witnesses testified that defendant stomped the victim several
times and that the victim did not attempt to fight defendant. One of the witnesses also testified
that the victim did not possess a weapon at the time of the incident. Additionally, defendant
weighed nearly 100 pounds more than the victim. The evidence, when viewed in a light most
favorable to the prosecution, was sufficient for the jury to find that defendant did not have an
honest and reasonable belief that he was in imminent danger or that the victim posed a threat of
serious bodily harm. Therefore, defendant is not entitled to relief on this issue.
Defendant next argues that the trial court erroneously scored prior record variable (PRV)
5 and offense variable (OV) 7. "A sentencing court has discretion in determining the number of
points to be scored, provided that evidence of record adequately supports a particular score."
People v Hornsby, 251 Mich App 462, 468; 650 NW2d 700 (2002). Further, "'scoring decisions
for which there is any evidence in support will be upheld.'" Id. (citation omitted). "This Court
shall affirm sentences within the guidelines range absent an error in scoring the sentencing
guidelines or inaccurate information relied on in determining the defendant's sentence." People v
Leversee, 243 Mich App 337, 348; 622 NW2d 325 (2000); MCL 769.34(10).
We find that the trial court abused its discretion in assessing two points for PRV 5, where
defendant did not have a prior misdemeanor conviction. MCL 777.55(1)(e). The record
indicates that defendant was previously charged with possession of marijuana and sought
deferred sentencing under MCL 333.7411(1), which provides that "[w]hen an individual who has
not previously been convicted of [a controlled substance offense] pleads guilty to . . . [certain
controlled substance offenses], the court, without entering a judgment of guilt with the consent of
the accused, may defer further proceedings and place the individual on probation . . . . Upon
fulfillment of the terms and conditions [of probation], the court shall discharge the individual and
dismiss the proceedings. Discharge and dismissal under this section shall be without
adjudication of guilt and . . . is not a conviction for purposes of this section or for purposes of
disqualifications or disabilities imposed by law upon conviction of a crime . . . ."
Defendant pleaded guilty of possession of marijuana under MCL 333.7411(1), had to
serve two years of probation, and subsequently fulfilled the terms and conditions of his
probation. Defendant argues that because he was discharged and the proceedings were dismissed
upon fulfillment of the terms and conditions of his probation, he did not have a conviction for
which the trial court could assess points under PRV 5. We agree. We review de novo questions
of statutory construction. People v Morey, 461 Mich 325, 329; 603 NW2d 250 (1999). In doing
so, our purpose is to discern and give effect to the intent of the Legislature. Id. at 329-330. "We
begin by examining the plain language of the statute; where that language is unambiguous, we
presume that the Legislature intended the meaning clearly expressed—no further judicial
construction is required or permitted, and the statute must be enforced as written. . . . We must
give the words of a statute their plain and ordinary meaning, and only where the statutory
language is ambiguous may we look outside the statute to ascertain the Legislature's intent." Id.
The Michigan Sentencing Guidelines Manual (2003), p 7, defines "conviction" as "an
adjudication of guilt in a criminal matter." MCL 333.7411(1) specifically states that the
discharge and dismissal procedure that it authorizes is "without adjudication of guilt" and "is not
a conviction for purposes of . . . disabilities imposed by law upon conviction of a crime . . . ."
Thus, defendant's misdemeanor guilty plea cannot be used to enhance his sentence in this case.
To do so would be to impose a "disabilit[y]" against him upon his conviction of this offense.1
Under the plain language of the statute, defendant did not have a prior misdemeanor conviction,
and the trial court abused its discretion in assessing two points for PRV 5 under MCL
777.55(1)(e). Because the evidence did not support a score of two points for PRV 5, the trial
court's scoring decision was error, and defendant is entitled to resentencing on this basis.
We find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in assessing 50 points for OV 7,
concerning aggravated physical abuse, where the victim was "treated with sadism, torture, or
excessive brutality or conduct designed to substantially increase the fear and anxiety . . . suffered
during the offense." MCL 777.37(1)(a). "Sadism" is defined as "conduct that subjects a victim
to extreme or prolonged pain or humiliation and is inflicted to produce suffering or for the
offender's gratification." MCL 777.37(3).
Here, the record indicates that defendant repeatedly stomped the victim's face and chest
after the victim was lying unconscious on the ground. Additionally, the victim was deprived of
oxygen for a period of four to six minutes, causing him to have anoxic encephalopathy, i.e.,
significant brain damage from lack of oxygen, and currently remains comatose with little or no
chance of ever regaining consciousness. Defendant treated the victim with sadism, torture,
excessive brutality, and conduct designed to substantially increase the fear and anxiety the victim
suffered during the offense. Because the evidence supports a score of 50 points for OV 7, we
find no error in the trial court's scoring decision, and defendant is not entitled to relief on this
Finally, defendant argues that his sentence was imposed in violation of the United States
Supreme Court decision in Blakely v Washington, 542 US 296; 124 S Ct 2531; 159 L Ed 2d 403
(2004). However, our Supreme Court and this Court have concluded that Blakely does not apply
to sentences imposed in Michigan. People v Claypool, 470 Mich 715, 730 n 14; 684 NW2d 278
(2004); People v Wilson, 265 Mich App 386, 399; 695 NW2d 351 (2005).
We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for resentencing. We do not retain
/s/ Richard A. Bandstra
/s/ Jessica R. Cooper
/s/ Kirsten Frank Kelly
We acknowledge the contrary holding of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth
Circuit in United States v Hawkins, 969 F2d 169, 173 (CA 6, 1992). However, we are not bound
to follow decisions of federal courts of appeals, Abela v Gen Motors Corp, 469 Mich 603, 607;
677 NW2d 325 (2004), and we find the Sixth Circuit's analysis unconvincing.