Michigan

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Titlesort descending Summary
People v Beam


Defendant argues on appeal that his conviction under MCL 750.49, which punishes the owner of a dog trained or used for fighting that causes the death of a person, must be reversed because the statute is unconstitutionally vague; specifically, that the terms "trained or used for fighting," "without provocation," and "owner" are vague.  The court disagreed and held that the statute is sufficiently clear and gives the defendant fair notice of the offense.

People v. Johnson This case involves challenges to the courtroom procedure of allowing a witness to be accompanied on the witness stand by a support animal. Defendant Johnson appealed his convictions of criminal sexual assault after he was convicted of assaulting his six-year-old niece. During Defendant's trial, a black Labrador retriever was permitted, to accompany the six-year-old victim to the witness stand. On appeal, the Defendant first argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the use of a support animal because MCL 600.2163a(4) only allows a support person. The Court of Appeals of Michigan stated that the trial court had the inherent authority to utilize support animals. Secondly, the Defendant argued that trial counsel should have objected to the notice of a support person on the basis that allowing the witnesses to testify accompanied by the support animal violated his constitutional right to due process. The Court of Appeals stated that there is no indication that the support dog used was visible to the jury, or that he barked, growled, or otherwise interrupted the proceedings. Therefore, the objection was meritless. Next, the Defendant argued that his counsel was ineffective for failing to request various procedural protections if the support animal was used. The Court of Appeals stated that the use of a support dog did not implicate the Confrontation Clause; the presence of the dog did not affect the witnesses' competency to testify or affect the oath given to the witnesses; the witnesses were still subject to cross-examination; and the trier of fact was still afforded the unfettered opportunity to observe the witnesses' demeanor. Finally, the Defendant argued that a limiting instruction should have been provided to the jury when the support animal was utilized and this rendered his counsel ineffective. The Court of Appeals stated, that there are no Michigan jury instructions addressing the use of a support animal. Counsel was then not ineffective in failing to ask for an instruction that does not yet exist in Michigan. The Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant's convictions and sentence and remanded.
People v. Beam



Defendant was charged with owning a dog, trained or used for fighting, that caused the death of a person and

 filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that M.C.L. § 750.49(10); MSA 28.244(10) was unconstitutionally vague.  The court granted defendant's motion, finding the terms "without provocation" and "owner" to be vague, and dismissed the case.

The prosecutor appealed, and the Court of Appeals held that statute was not unconstitutionally vague. Reversed.



People v. Cumper



Defendants were convicted of being spectators at a fight or baiting between dogs and appealed, charging that the "spectator" portion of the statute was impermissibly vague and unconstitutionally overbroad. The court found that the statute was constitutional because it punished attendance as a spectator at an event legitimately prohibited by law and defendants had fair notice of the conduct proscribed. The defendants also claimed that there was insufficient evidence however, the court found ample evidence upon which the jury rendered their decision.

People v. Cumper


Defendant was convicted under MCL 750.49 for being a spectator at a dog fight.  He argued on appeal that the statute was impermissibly vague and unconstitutionally overbroad, for punishing an individual for mere presence at a dog fight.  The court disagreed, finding that the statute was neither vague nor overbroad because it did not punish the mere witnessing of a dog fight, but attendance as a spectator to a legally prohibited dog fight.  For more, see

Detailed Discussion


People v. Haynes


In this Michigan case, the defendant pleaded no contest to committing an “abominable and detestable crime against nature” with a sheep under MCL 750.158. In addition to sentencing consistent with being habitual offender, the trial court found that defendant's actions evidenced sexual perversion, so the court ordered defendant to register under the Sex Offenders Registration Act (“SORA”). The Court of Appeals reversed the order, holding that while sheep was the “victim” of the crime, registration was only required if the victim was a human being less than 18 years old. SORA defines “listed offense” as including a violation of section 158 if a victim is an individual less than 18 years of age. Relying on the plain and ordinary meaning of "victim," the court concluded that an animal was not intended to be considered a victim  under the statute.

People v. Henderson


The court of appeals held the owner of 69 emaciated and neglected horses liable under its animal cruelty statute, even though the owner did not have day-to-day responsibility for tending to the horses.

People v. Iehl


Defendant appealed his conviction for killing another person's dog.  On appeal, defendant contended that the term "beast" provided by the anti-cruelty statue did not encompass dogs.  The court disagreed, finding the statute at issue covered dogs despite its failure to explicitly list "dogs" as did a similar statute. 

People v. Johnson


Defendant claimed the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of cruelty to animals, arguing that there was not proof that the horses were under his charge or custody.  While the court agreed and reversed his conviction because he could not be convicted under the statute merely as the owner of the horses, absent proof of his care or custody of the horses, it further explained that the "owner or otherwise" statutory language was designed to punish cruelty to animals without regard to ownership.

People v. Leach


Defendant's conviction arises from the killing of a rabbit during the execution of a civil court order at defendant's home on April 15, 2004. Because the court did not find MCL 750.50b unconstitutionally vague and further found sufficient evidence in support of defendant's conviction, defendant's conviction was affirmed. The evidence showed that defendant killed the rabbit in a display of anger arising from the execution of a court; thus, the terms, "[m]alicious", "willful", and "without just cause" are sufficiently specific terms with commonly understood meanings such that enforcement of the statute will not be arbitrary or discriminatory."

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