St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Court of Appeals Takes Up Van Buren Rape Case

Van Buren Rape Case
In a published, precedent-setting opinion, a Michigan Court of Appeals took on what was probably one of the more interesting criminal cases to come out of Van Buren County in recent memory. The result could change the sentences handed out for certain crimes all across Michigan.

Despite what you see on TV, it’s not too often that criminal defendants plead insanity at trial. While mental illness affects nearly 2/3 of all inmates in local jails across the country, their illness usually doesn’t have a direct connection to their crime. But the attorney for Jarrud Payne thought his did.

The trial was based on allegations that Payne, who was 17 at the time of the incident, had sexually penetrated the rear of a five year old victim in 2012. It quickly became a battle of experts as each side presented mental health professionals to debate whether the defendant’s bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and other mental health challenges rose to the level of legal insanity. In the end, the jury convicted Payne of Criminal Sexual Conduct, First Degree, a crime with a minimum possible sentence of 25 years and a maximum of life in prison.

Given Payne’s history and the circumstances of the case, the statutory sentencing recommendations were well below the 25 year statutory minimum sentence. But without giving any explanation, the judge ordered the defendant to serve 30 to 50 years in prison.

That is what the Court of Appeals took issue with. According to the opinion, the statute requiring “not less than 25 years” did not eliminate the judge’s obligation to state substantial and compelling reasons to sentence the defendant above that minimum when the guidelines called for less.

At the same time the Court of Appeals rejected the defendant’s argument that a mandatory 25 year sentence was cruel and unusual when imposed on a minor charged as an adult. In the court’s eyes, a set term of years was substantially different than the death penalty and life without parole sentences previously struck down by the Supreme Court. In this case the defendant could be released if, after 25 years, he had shown signs of maturity and rehabilitation.

The court sent the case back to Van Buren for re-sentencing with two options: impose the 25 year minimum or give substantial and compelling reasons for the higher sentence. If you know someone charged with a crime in Van Buren County, contact Attorney Peter J. Johnson at 269-982-1100 for a consultation.

Please note:Every case is different, and there may be some aspect of your particular case which may result in an outcome other than is described above. This post is not intended as legal advice and may not apply to your particular case. It is always best to contact our office for a consultation if you have been or believe you may be charged with a crime.

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