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Court Makes Harmless Error on Evidentiary Issue

Court Gavel

Case: People v. Jorgensen

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )


Other acts evidence; MRE 404(b); People v. VanderVliet; People v. McGhee; People v. Orr; People v. Sabin (After Second Remand); Harmless error; People v. Denson; People v. Douglas; People v. Lukity


Holding that the trial court’s error in admitting a prior home invasion conviction into evidence was harmless, the court affirmed defendant’s conviction of first-degree home invasion. The trial court concluded that “the evidence tended to prove a method of home invasion that was relevant — placing an object under a window to more easily facilitate an intrusion.” The court concluded that “a generous application of MRE 404(b)(1) may allow evidence of this sort to be admitted.” Thus, the decision could pass muster under step one of the VanderVliet test. However, the court concluded that the second prong of VanderVlietwas not satisfied. The trial court “found evidence of the prior home invasion material and probative as it showed a common scheme or plan. Defendant’s previous conviction involved moving a planter beneath an open window to more easily gain access inside the home, opening the window, reaching into a stranger’s home, and taking a laptop computer from a bag.” These details did not parallel those of the offense charged here. The only similarity was “the use of a lawn object to get closer to a window of the home.” In the first case he allegedly was “with another person and simply reached through an open window to take an easily reachable object.” .... Defendant then stole a phone and purse (later recovered from her yard) located inside the home (not directly inside the window) and fled when startled by a car in the neighbor’s driveway. These crimes are not ‘strikingly’ similar.” Thus, the second prong of the VanderVliet test was not satisfied and the other acts evidence should not have been admitted. However, assessing the error in light of the properly admitted evidence, it was “not more probable than not that a different outcome would have resulted without the error.” Without the other acts evidence, “the jury could have easily convicted defendant of the home invasion.” Also, the trial court gave a limiting instruction as to his previous home invasion conviction.

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