Michigan v. Lewis (Opinion on Application)Annotate this Case
Gary Lewis was convicted after a jury trial on four counts of third-degree arson, and one count of second-degree arson. The trial court sentenced defendant as a fourth-offense habitual offender to 17 to 30 years of imprisonment for each of his convictions. Lewis appealed his convictions as of right to the Court of Appeals, claiming that he was deprived of counsel at his preliminary examination and that this deprivation of counsel at a critical stage of the criminal proceedings against him amounted to a structural error requiring automatic reversal. Believing itself bound by precedent, the Court of Appeals resolved the conflict by holding, in effect, that United States v Cronic, 466 US 648, (1984) controlled and granted defendant an automatic new trial. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded Cronic’s discussion of the general remedy for complete denials of counsel was dictum; Coleman v. Alabama, 399 US1 (1970) held that the denial of counsel at a preliminary hearing was subject to harmless-error review. When the Supreme Court’s holdings and its dicta conflict, the Court was bound to follow its holdings. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals, vacated Part II of its opinion, and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings.