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141739 - People v Bailey (Sammie)

The People of the State of Michigan,
Timothy K. McMorrow
Kimberly M. Manns
(Appeal from Ct of Appeal)
(Kent – Kolenda, D.)
Sammie Ray Bailey, Jr.,
Michael L. Mittlestat


​The police were called to a street corner in Grand Rapids, where they found Keith Hoffman lying dead in a pool of blood. Police officers discovered several small baggies of crack cocaine and marijuana, plus spent nine millimeter casings and an unfired .40 caliber cartridge, lying near Hoffman’s body. Witnesses told the police that two gun-toting men had walked up to Hoffman, exchanged words, and begun firing; one witness identified Sammie Bailey, Jr., as the shooter. With the aid of a tracking dog, police officers trailed Bailey to a house a couple of blocks from the scene of the shooting. Bailey and his half-brother, Terrill Lambeth, were arrested. Testing of the spent cartridges and a bullet in Hoffman’s body established that two different weapons were involved, but the weapons were never found. Lambeth told police that Hoffman had robbed him at gunpoint several times in the past. Lambeth never called the police because, he said, Hoffman threatened to retaliate against Lambeth’s family if he reported the robbery.

Bailey and Lambeth were both charged with open murder and felony-firearm, and tried jointly, with each defendant having a jury. The prosecution maintained that Bailey and Lambeth killed Hoffman in revenge for his robbing Lambeth. At trial, Bailey’s jury heard a tape recording of a conversation that Bailey had with his mother shortly after his arrest, in which he admitted that he was the one who fired the shots. But Bailey’s defense counsel argued that Bailey was merely present when Lambeth shot Hoffman. According to Lambeth, he approached Hoffman to talk about the robberies when Hoffman pulled a gun on him; fearing for his life, Lambeth said, he shot Hoffman.

Bailey’s jury convicted him of second-degree murder and felony-firearm; Lambeth’s jury convicted him of first-degree murder and felony-firearm. Bailey appealed, arguing that the trial court erred when it instructed the jury as to his self-defense claim. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed Bailey’s convictions, sending the case back to the trial court. The trial court should have instructed Bailey’s jury that the prosecutor had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bailey did not act in self-defense, the Court of Appeals said. The trial court committed a second error, the appellate panel concluded, in telling the jury that a person cannot claim self-defense “if what they do is confront someone, intending, by their mere presence, to provoke that person into doing something, and then take advantage of it.” These errors were not harmless, the Court of Appeals concluded, reasoning that the flawed instructions went to the core of Bailey’s defense and likely misled the jury into rejecting his self-defense theory. The prosecutor appeals.