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146480 - People v Wilson (Dwayne)

The People of the State of Michigan,
 
Joshua D. Abbott
 
Plaintiff-Appellee,
 
v
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
 
 
(Macomb – Switalski, M.)
 
Dwayne E. Wilson,
 
Peter John Van Hoek
 
Defendant-Appellant.
 


Summary

Dwayne Wilson was convicted by a jury of felony-murder (MCL 750.316(1)(b)), second-degree murder (MCL 750.317), possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (felony-firearm, MCL 750.227b), assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder (MCL 750.84), and two counts of unlawful imprisonment (MCL 750.349b). In the same trial, the jury acquitted Wilson of first-degree murder and first-degree home invasion.
                                            
But Wilson appealed to the Court of Appeals, which vacated his convictions and sentences, concluding that the trial court erred in summarily denying Wilson’s request to represent himself. The appellate court remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial.
 
On remand, the prosecution filed an amended information, again charging Wilson with various crimes, including felony-murder. Felony-murder is a killing that takes place during or in connection with the commission of a serious felony, referred to as the “predicate felony.” In Wilson’s case, the prosecutor identified first-degree home invasion as the predicate felony.
 
Wilson moved for the trial court to dismiss the felony-murder charge. Because the jury in his first trial had acquitted him of first-degree home invasion – the predicate felony for the second felony-murder charge – constitutional double jeopardy protected Wilson from being charged with felony-murder on the basis of home invasion, Wilson argued. The trial court agreed and dismissed the felony-murder charge.
 
But in an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated the felony-murder charge.
 
“Both the United States and Michigan Constitutions protect an individual from being placed in jeopardy twice for the same offense,” the Court of Appeals explained. The double jeopardy clause protects defendants against repeated prosecutions on the same charge, and also preserves “the finality of judgments,” the appellate panel said.
 
“The double jeopardy interest of preserving the finality of judgments includes the principle of collateral estoppel,” which bars relitigating “an issue of ultimate fact,” the Court of Appeals observed. In a criminal case, parties may not relitigate an issue of ultimate fact “that was necessarily decided by a jury’s acquittal in a prior trial.” To determine whether a jury’s acquittal “necessarily decided” a factual issue, courts should examine the record of that earlier proceeding, including the evidence, and decide “whether a rational jury could have grounded its verdict upon an issue other than that which the defendant seeks to foreclose from consideration.”
 
In Wilson’s first trial, the jury convicted him of felony-murder, but acquitted him of first-degree home invasion – the predicate felony for the felony-murder charge, the Court of Appeals noted. Because of this inconsistency, the jury could not be deemed to have “necessarily decided” that Wilson did not commit home invasion: “Although the jury had the prerogative of returning inconsistent verdicts, those inconsistencies preclude this Court from identifying which facts, if any, the jury necessarily found with regard to the first-degree home invasion. Absent an indication in the record of a necessarily decided ultimate fact, the double jeopardy collateral estoppel principle does not apply.”
 
Wilson appealed. In an order dated May 24, 2013, the Supreme Court granted leave to appeal.