PEOPLE OF MI V RITA ANN RUHANAAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN,
October 27, 1998
Charlevoix Circuit Court
LC No. 96-009609 FH
RITA ANN RUHANA,
Before: Talbot, P.J., and McDonald and Neff, JJ.
Defendant appeals as of right from her convictions for operating a motor vehicle while under the
influence causing death, MCL 257.625(4); MSA 9.2325(4), and manslaughter with a motor vehicle,
MCL 750.321; MSA 28.553. She was sentenced to three to fifteen years’ imprisonment for each
conviction, to be served concurrently. We affirm.
Defendant first argues that the prosecution presented insufficient evidence of gross negligence to
support her conviction of manslaughter with a motor vehicle.1 Involuntary manslaughter is an unlawful
act, committed with the intent to injure or in a grossly negligent manner, that proximately causes death.
People v Datema, 448 Mich 585, 606; 533 NW2d 272 (1995). Our Supreme Court has described
“gross negligence” as follows:
Criminal negligence, also referred to as gross negligence, lies between the
extremes of intention and negligence. As with intention, the actor realizes the risk of his
behavior and consciously decides to create that risk. As with negligence, however, the
actor does not seek to cause harm, but is simply “recklessly or wantonly indifferent to
the results.” [Id. at 604, citing People v Campbell, 237 Mich 424, 429; 212 NW 97
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, we conclude that sufficient
evidence existed to permit a jury to find defendant guilty of involuntary manslaughter. A witness testified
that the van driven by defendant passed him on the right shoulder of the road at over seventy miles per
hour, and that defendant drove erratically, continuously driving on and off the shoulder of the road and
failing to maintain a constant rate of speed. Another witness testified that defendant was driving
erratically for approximately ten minutes at high speeds. Also, defendant’s blood test results taken
within two hours after the accident indicate that defendant had a blood alcohol level of .20. We find
that in light of the high rate of speed at which defendant drove, the fact that defendant had been
drinking, the fact that defendant was engaged in an argument with the deceased at the time of the
accident, the fact that defendant continuously tried to pass other vehicles on the gravel shoulder of the
road, and the fact that defendant did not stop the van because she thought it was better to try and make
it to her destination, a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that defendant acted with gross negligence.
Therefore, we hold that sufficient evidence existed to sustain defendant’s conviction of involuntary
Defendant also argues that prosecutorial misconduct deprived her of her right to a fair trial.
However, because defendant did not object at trial to the prosecutor’s statements, appellate review is
precluded absent a miscarriage of justice or unless a cautionary instruction could not have cured the
prejudicial effect of the challenged remarks. People v Stanaway, 446 Mich 643, 687; 521 NW2d
557 (1994). After carefully reviewing each of defendant’s allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, we
find that any misconduct that may have occurred was not so egregious that a curative instruction could
not have cured any resultant prejudicial effect. Accordingly, our failure to further review defendant’s
claims of misconduct would not result in manifest injustice.
/s/ Michael J. Talbot
/s/ Gary R. McDonald
/s/ Janet T. Neff
Defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting her conviction of operating a
motor vehicle while under the influence causing death.