In People v Allan, the jury convicted the defendant of conspiracy to commit extortion. The trial court failed to swear in the jury before the trial. The defendant did not object. Thus, the Court of Appeals reviewed for plain error affecting substantial rights. The Court of Appeals held that failing to swear in a jury was plain error requiring a new trial. Failing to swear in the jury was a clear structural error that infected the entire proceeding, rendering the trial “fundamentally unfair and an unreliable vehicle for determining guilt or innocence.” Accordingly, the Court remanded the matter for a new trial.
The Court also addressed two evidentiary issues to assist the trial court on remand. The Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding testimony regarding (1) a witness’ scheme of having her boyfriends impersonate the defendant over the telephone to request money for the witness to have brain surgery, because it was not factually similar to the scheme at issue; and (2) the maximum penalty for extortion, because it is not appropriate for the jury to be aware of the maximum sentence for the defendant’s alleged crime.