In what promises to be an important decision for post-conviction relief petitions, our Supreme Court has granted an application to address the applicable standard for an innocence claim under MCR 6.508(D). This particular armed robbery case — with an apparently long procedural history – originates from a 1995 Wayne County Circuit Court criminal file, People v William Craig Garrett. Two currently sitting justices, Markman and Cavanagh, have previously voted to grant leave for this case on a prior trip up to our high court. It appears that ineffective assistance of counsel at trial will also be an issue in this appeal.
Besides the threshold legal standard, the parties are asked to address: (1) whether this case meets the applicable standard; (2) whether any other rule under the 6.500 series offers relief for a “significant possibility” of actual innocence; and (3) whether, if MCR 6.508(D) does bar relief, if there’s any recourse for a person with “a significant possibility of actual innocence” under the Michigan or U.S. Constitutions.
Justice McCormack, who recently joined the bench after a long career bringing 6.500 petitions and similar actual innocence cases, concurred to suggest additional analysis of these issues: (1) whether MCR 6.508(D)(2) bars relief premised on issues previously decided on direct appeal; (2) whether that subsection bars relief for a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel premised on an issue decided against the defendant on direct appeal; (3) the scope of relief available under MCR 7.316(A)(7) (which allows the MSC to “enter any judgment or order that ought to have been entered, and enter other and further orders and grant relief as the case may require”) in light of MCR 6.508(D); and (4) when MCR 6.508(D) bars relief, if a court may then consider evidence and arguments presented at an earlier stage of review. Justice Markman joined Justice McCormack’s concurrence. In addition, the bench invited amici briefs from Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.
The Supreme Court denied Mr. Garrett’s original application for leave to appeal in 1997. 456 Mich. 876 (Sept. 29, 1997). The trial court later held an evidentiary hearing on Mr. Garrett’s motion for a new trial based on newly discovered alibi evidence (as well as new polygraph and other evidence), and granted a new trial in April 1999. The Court of Appeals peremptorily reversed that order, but only addressed the alibi evidence issue, on July 28, 1999 (Docket No. 219803). On leave granted, the Court of Appeals later took up the issue of the complainant’s mental condition, and its effect on her testimony, and whether the verdict was against the great weight of the evidence, but again denied relief. No. 222304, 2001 WL 1388398 (Nov. 6, 2001). In 2003, the Supreme Court denied Mr. Garrett’s application for leave again, although Justices Markman, Cavanagh and Kelly would have granted leave. 467 Mich. 936 (Jan. 3, 2003).