PEOPLE OF MI V STEVEN THADDEUS EDWARDSAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN,
July 28, 1998
Oakland Circuit Court
LC No. 95-141975-FC
STEVEN THADDEUS EDWARDS,
Before: Saad, P.J., and Wahls and Gage, JJ.
The jury convicted defendant of assault with intent to commit murder, MCL 750.83; MSA
28.278, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, MCL 750.227b(1), MSA
28.242(2)(1). Defendant appeals as of right, and we affirm.
First, defendant argues that the trial court erroneously admitted evidence that he tried to hire a
hit man to kill the victim (the principal witness against him). Finding no abuse of discretion, we disagree.
People v VanderVliet, 444 Mich 52, 74-75; 508 NW2d 114 (1993), amended 445 Mich 1205
(1994), sets forth the test for admission of “other act” evidence pursuant to MRE 404(b). First, the
evidence must be offered for a proper purpose. Second, the evidence of the subsequent act must be
relevant. Third, the trial court must determine whether the probative value of the similar acts evidence is
substantially outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice. Fourth, the trial court shall, upon request,
issue a limiting instruction. Id.
Here, clearly the evidence was admitted for a proper purpose. The elements of assault with
intent to commit murder are: (1) an assault, (2) with an actual intent to kill, (3) which, if successful,
would make the killing a murder. People v Barclay, 208 Mich App 670, 674; 528 NW2d 842
(1995). Here, evidence of defendant’s attempt while in jail to hire a hit man to kill his former girlfriend
before his preliminary hearing was offered to establish that defendant intended to kill his former girlfriend
when he shot her in the head at close range. In addition, because defendant maintained an alibi defense,
the question of the identity of the shooter became more difficult to prove. Because circumstantial
evidence and reasonable inferences arising from such
evidence may constitute satisfactory proof of the elements of the offense, see People v Safiedine, 163
Mich App 25, 29; 414 NW2d 143 (1987), the testimony regarding defendant’s subsequent bad act
was admitted for a proper purpose.
We find the next VanderVliet factor also met here: the evidence was relevant because it
increased the probability that defendant was the individual who shot the victim and supported the
contention that he intended to kill her. Similarly, the third VanderVliet factor was also met here: the
evidence was highly probative and not substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice because the
subsequent act was evidence of a scheme or plan to do the very act that defendant was charged with
Finally, the trial court gave a limiting instruction to the jury telling them that the evidence could
only be considered for the purpose of determining the identity of the individual who shot defendant’s
former girlfriend and the intent of the individual responsible for the shooting. Thus, the trial court’s
admission of evidence of defendant’s attempt to hire a hit man was not an abuse of discretion.
Next, defendant complains about remarks the prosecutor made in opening and closing
statements which defendant contends were not supported by the facts. Because defendant failed to
object during the prosecutor’s opening statement, we inquire only whether manifest injustice occurred.
People v Etheridge, 196 Mich App 43, 56; 492 NW2d 490 (1992). Because there was factual
support for the prosecutor’s remarks and because the trial court instructed the jury that the lawyer’s
statements and arguments were not evidence, there was no miscarriage of justice.
Defendant points to three comments made by the prosecutor during her closing statement.
Upon defense counsel’s objection to one comment, the trial court instructed the jury to disregard it.
The remaining two comments had evidentiary support. Because the prosecutor did not argue facts not
in evidence and because the prosecution is entitled to argue all reasonable inferences arising out of the
evidence, People v Bahoda, 448 Mich 261, 282; 531 NW2d 659 (1995), the prosecutor’s remarks
did not result in manifest injustice.
Finally, defendant alleges that the trial court abused its discretion by sentencing defendant to
seventeen to thirty years, in an upward departure from the sentencing guidelines. Again, we disagree.
A sentence must be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime and the defendant’s criminal record.
People v Phillips, 203 Mich App 287, 290; 512 NW2d 62 (1994). Whenever the recommended
ranges are considered an inadequate reflection of the seriousness of the matter at hand, a sentencing
court is entitled to depart from the guidelines’ range. Id. at 290-291. Departures are appropriate
where the guidelines do not adequately account for important factors that legitimately can be considered
at sentencing. Id. at 291.
The trial court correctly found that the proposed range of the sentencing guidelines was
inadequate here. Given defendant’s continued reprehensible conduct after the initial crime, the trial
court was fully justified in increasing defendant’s sentence beyond the guidelines. Defendant put a
pillow over her face and shot his former girlfriend in the head.. After shooting her, defendant left her
alone in her apartment to die, and made no effort to contact emergency personnel. The assault was
calculated without concern that the victim was the mother of his child. Her injuries were and remain
extensive. Moreover, defendant attempted to have her killed after he was arrested and in jail. In
addition to these facts, the trial court articulated the following factors: (1) the need for discipline and
punishment of defendant; (2) the protection of society; (3) the potential for rehabilitation, and (4) the
need to deter others from committing similar offenses. We agree with the trial court’s conclusion -- the
recommended range was inadequate given defendant’s despicable conduct.
/s/ Henry W. Saad
/s/ Myron H. Wahls
/s/ Hilda R. Gage