PEOPLE OF MI V DOMINIC PAUL BURDISAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN,
March 19, 1999
Bay Circuit Court
LC No. 95-001053 FC
DOMINIC PAUL BURDIS,
Before: White, P.J., and Markman and Young, Jr., JJ.
Defendant appeals as of right from his jury trial convictions of first-degree premeditated murder,
MCL 750.316(1)(a); MSA 28.548(1)(a), and first-degree felony-murder, MCL 750.316(1)(b); MSA
28.548(1)(b). Defendant was sentenced to two concurrent mandatory life prison sentences without the
possibility of parole. We remand for modification of defendant’s judgment of sentence.
On June 17, 1994, the victim, Leona Patricia Stevenson (“Pat”), was found dead inside her
home. She was naked from the waist down and had been beaten with a wrench and stabbed
approximately thirty-five times. The prosecution’s theory was that defendant, a friend of the victim’s
son, first attacked the victim in the kitchen in an attempt to commit criminal sexual conduct, and that
defendant struck the victim in the head some fifteen to twenty times as she crawled through the kitchen
and dining room toward the living room in an attempt to reach the front door. Then, as the victim lay
nearly motionless, defendant repeatedly stabbed her.
Defendant’s fingerprints were found on one of two kitchen knives used to kill the victim.
Moreover, bloody shoe prints left at the scene were consistent with the pattern on the soles of a pair of
shoes that defendant may have had at the time of the murder, and DNA testing revealed defendant’s
blood mixed with the victim’s in a bloodstain found at the scene. In addition, one of defendant’s friends,
William Price, testified that defendant talked to him about murdering Ms. Stevenson just hours before
the killing, and later showed up at Price’s house in bloody clothes saying, “I did it. I killed her.” Price
also testified that, when defendant arrived at his house, defendant’s hand was bleeding where he
apparently had cut one of his fingers. After his arrest, defendant also made several incriminating
statements to the police.1 Following a twenty-six day jury trial, defendant was convicted of both
premeditated murder and felony-murder and sentenced to two concurrent life prison terms without the
possibility of parole.
Defendant first contends that the trial court erred in precluding defense counsel from arguing in
his closing argument that it was Leon Boyd who killed the victim. During his opening statement, defense
counsel acknowledged that defendant, Bobby Blair, and Boyd went to the victim’s house planning to
rob her. However, defense counsel asserted that Boyd was the one who committed the murder,
although at one point he stated that the defense’s theory was “that there were two men assaulting and
assailing that woman that night, not one, two, Bobby [Blair] and Leon, but not – not Dominic.”2 The
trial court later found that there was no evidence from which the jury could reasonably infer that Boyd
was present at the time of the killing and precluded defense counsel from suggesting in closing arguments
that Boyd was the killer.3 Defendant argues that defense counsel should have been allowed to argue
that Boyd was the murderer primarily due to the presence of type A antigen on a bloody t-shirt and a
pair of the victim’s shorts found at the scene, which antigen was consistent with Boyd’s blood type and
inconsistent with the blood types of both defendant and the victim. Defendant also cites evidence
relating to Boyd’s possible motive for committing the murder and his knowledge of incidents
We find no error requiring reversal because, while defense counsel was precluded from directly
arguing that Boyd was the killer, counsel was permitted to and did argue at length that Bobby Blair and
another person were at the scene along with defendant, and that defendant “was set up by someone and
Bobby.” In addition, despite the trial court’s ruling, defense counsel repeatedly insinuated during his
closing argument that Boyd was the third person.4 These arguments, taken together with defense
counsel’s opening statement, leave us with no doubt that the jury was fully apprised of defendant’s
theory of the case.
Next, defendant claims that the trial court violated defendant’s right of confrontation when it
refused to permit defendant to impeach Bobby Blair with prior inconsistent statements. At trial, Blair
denied being at the victim’s house at the time of the murder. He also denied being with defendant at all
that night. Defense counsel later sought to impeach Blair by showing through the testimony of Tracey
Bernard that Blair made statements to her indicating that Blair was at the victim’s house at the time of
the murder. Bernard would allegedly have testified that Blair told her that the police “don’t really know
what happened and who was there,” that defendant and two other people went to the victim’s house to
rob her, and that defendant tried to stop the killing but was unsuccessful. The trial court disallowed
Bernard’s proposed testimony on the grounds that it was hearsay and because no foundation had been
laid for its admission.
Initially, we question whether the statements at issue directly tended to disprove Blair’s
testimony that he was not at the victim’s house at the time of the murder. “As a general rule, the only
contradictory evidence that is admissible is that which directly tends to disprove the exact testimony of
the witness.” People v Johnson, 113 Mich App 575, 579; 317 NW2d 689 (1982). However, even
assuming that the alleged statements were sufficiently contradictory and that Bernard’s proposed
testimony should have been allowed, any error in refusing admission of this testimony was harmless
because other witnesses testified to essentially the same set of statements that the defense sought to
introduce through Bernard’s testimony. See People v Wofford, 196 Mich App 275, 281; 492 NW2d
747 (1992). Furthermore, there was overwhelming evidence of defendant’s guilt.
Next, defendant claims that the trial court erred in refusing to allow evidence of Blair’s juvenile
adjudication to be introduced for impeachment purposes. We disagree. A trial court’s decision to
allow impeachment by evidence of a prior conviction is within its sound discretion and will not be
reversed on appeal absent an abuse of that discretion. People v Coleman, 210 Mich App 1, 6; 532
NW2d 885 (1995). In the instant case, the trial court found that Blair’s juvenile convictions for
breaking and entering and larceny in a building “basically ha[ve] no probative value” because Blair was
eleven years old at the time he committed those crimes and seventeen years old at the time of trial. The
court reasoned that Blair’s maturity level would significantly have changed in that time. We cannot say
that the trial court abused its discretion in deciding this close evidentiary question.
Defendant also claims that the trial court’s conduct denied him a fair trial. Because no objection
was raised at trial, this issue has not been preserved for review. People v Grant, 445 Mich 535, 547;
520 NW2d 123 (1994). However, review may be granted if failure to consider the issue would result
in manifest injustice. Paquette, supra at 340. We find no manifest injustice in this case because none
of the trial court’s allegedly improper remarks or conduct deprived defendant of a fair trial.
Finally, defendant asserts that his double jeopardy rights were violated by his convictions and
sentences for both first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree felony murder arising out of a
single death. We agree. In People v Bigelow, 229 Mich App 218, 220; 581 NW2d 744 (1998), a
conflict panel of this Court held that the proper remedy “‘is to modify defendant’s judgment of
conviction and sentence to specify that defendant’s conviction is for one count and one sentence of first
degree murder supported by two theories: premeditated murder and felony murder.’” (Citation
omitted). Therefore, in accordance with Bigelow, we remand the matter to the trial court with
instructions to modify defendant’s judgment of sentence to specify that defendant’s conviction is for one
count of first-degree murder supported by two theories: felony-murder and premeditated murder.
Moreover, defendant’s judgment of sentence should reflect that his single sentence for that conviction is
life imprisonment without parole. Id. at 222.
Remanded for modification of the judgment of sentence in accordance with this opinion. We do
not retain jurisdiction.
/s/ Helene N. White
/s/ Stephen J. Markman
/s/ Robert P. Young, Jr.
Defendant told police that he could only remember “bits and pieces” of what happened because he
was high on crack cocaine. He said that he had had dreams about being at the victim’s house and
about his fingerprints being there. There was testimony that when confronted with the fact that police
recovered bloody shoes from Bobby Blair’s house, defendant admitted trading shoes with Blair and
cleaning blood off the shoes with Windex. When asked if he had gone to the victim’s house with the
intention of killing her, defendant responded, “I don’t know why I went over there.” Defendant told
police that he had “flipped out” before but “never that bad.”
In a later interview, defendant told police that he “felt that he had really killed Patty and that he
felt bad about it, and that he was sorry for it.” Defendant remembered seeing blood on his shorts, his
right leg and on the socks and tennis shoes he was wearing.
This was the first time that the prosecution became aware of Leon Boyd’s alleged involvement in the
Boyd testified that he was in Saginaw at the time of the murder.
Indeed, the prosecutor even objected at one point, arguing that defense counsel was attempting to
circumvent the trial court’s decision.