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154565 - People v Lavere Douglas-Le Bryant

The People of the State of Michigan,
 
Deborah K. Blair
 
Plaintiff-Appellant,
 
v
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
 
 
(Wayne – Lillard, Q.)
 
Lavere Douglas-Le Bryant,
 
Jonathan B.D. Simon
 
Defendant-Appellee.
 

Summary

A jury convicted defendant of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder and other offenses. The convictions arose from the robbery of a Family Dollar store and the shooting deaths of two store employees, Brenna Machus and Joseph Orlando. Defendant had been fired from his employment with Family Dollar approximately two months before the murders. At trial, pursuant to MRE 404(b), the prosecution presented the testimony of twelve current and former employees of Family Dollar regarding acts of sexual harassment committed by defendant. The prosecution also presented evidence that defendant was a convicted sex offender and that he had failed to register as a sex offender. In addition, three police officers testified that they identified defendant in a surveillance video. Defendant testified, denying that he was fired because of sexual harassment, and denying that he committed the murders. The Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion, vacated defendant’s convictions and remanded for a new trial, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the “other acts” evidence because its probative value was substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice, MRE 403. The Court of Appeals further held that the trial court erred in allowing the lay opinion testimony of three police officers, but it did not grant a new trial on that basis. The Supreme Court has directed oral argument on the prosecutor’s application for leave to appeal to address: (1) whether the trial court abused its discretion in admitting “other acts” evidence; (2) if so, whether the error was harmless; and (3) whether the testimony of three police officers invaded the province of the jury when they testified about their observations in viewing the video evidence.