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BlogsPublications | November 13, 2017
2 minute read

MSC to decide whether recanting witness’s testimony pointing to a different killer requires new trial for convicted co-defendants

The Michigan Supreme Court has found interest in a decades-old murder case where the man who witnessed his mother's murder when he was 8 years old has come forward to testify that the killer was someone other than the convicted defendants.  The two co-defendants in People v. Johnson, No. 154128, and People v. Scott, No. 154130, seek relief from judgment on the basis that the testimony of the son—who previously would not or could not (due to mental trauma) identify the killer—constitutes newly discovered evidence that warrants a retrial. Interestingly, Justice McCormack has recused herself because of her involvement as counsel for a codefendant, and Justice Wilder has recused himself as a member of a panel involved in deciding a peremptory reversal motion filed in the underlying appeal.  

The Court has granted leave in Scott to consider:

(1) whether the trial court abused its discretion by declining to grant a new trial on grounds of newly discovered evidence, and

(2) whether trial counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance by failing to interview Charmous Skinner, Jr., or call him as a witness at trial.

The Court ordered the same issues to be argued in Johnson, along with the additional question of whether, “even if the defendant’s previous claims of new evidence are barred under MCR 6.508(D)(2), the evidence on which those claims were based must still be considered in determining if the new evidence from Charmous Skinner, Jr., makes a different result probable on retrial, see People v Cress, 468 Mich 678, 692 (2003).”