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141659 - People v Rose (Ronald)

The People of the State of Michigan,
Judy Hughes Astle
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
(Allegan – Corsiglia, G.)
Ronald Carl Rose,
Scott A. Grabel


​Ronald Rose was charged with repeatedly sexually abusing his wife’s young sister, and with showing pornographic movies and magazines to the girl and her brother. On the first day of trial, the prosecutor, noting that the eight-year-old complainant was fearful about seeing Rose, asked for the court’s permission to let the girl testify behind a screen. The trial judge decided to allow this after considering testimony from the girl’s psychologist, who stated that seeing Rose in the courtroom might cause the girl to freeze up during her testimony or suffer a relapse in her therapy. While the screen prevented the girl from seeing Rose, others in the courtroom, including Rose, could see the girl while she testified. The jurors deliberated for about two hours before finding Rose guilty of four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of distributing obscene material to minors. Rose was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison on each count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct; he received concurrent sentences of one year, four months to two years for the pornography counts.

Rose appealed by right to the Court of Appeals, arguing that the court erred in permitting the prosecutor to place a screen between him and the complainant. Rose asserted, among other matters, that the screen violated his constitutional right to confront those who were testifying against him. But the Court of Appeals affirmed Rose’s convictions. The trial court complied with the requirements of MCL 600.2163a, which sets forth protections that may be implemented in certain instances involving a young or disabled witness, the appellate court observed. While that statute does not expressly address using screens, the Court of Appeals determined that the use of a screen fell within the judge’s authority to control the mode and order by which witnesses are interrogated under Michigan Rule of Evidence 611(a). The Court of Appeals rejected Rose’s claim that his rights under the Confrontation Clause were violated, ruling that the right to confrontation may give way to case-specific findings of necessity aimed at furthering an important public policy, such as protecting child witnesses. Finally, the Court of Appeals ruled that the use of a screen did not deprive Rose of his due process rights. Rose appeals.