Daily Briefs

High court reverses murder conviction, cites rap videos


DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court unanimously threw out a murder conviction Friday, saying YouTube rap videos spoiled the verdict by portraying the defendant as a “ruthless and menacing threat to the community.”

Jamal Bennett is serving a 32-year prison sentence for the fatal shooting of another man during a fight at a Grand Rapids party in 2013.

A Kent County jury saw two videos at trial, titled “Shooters” and “Cherry Bandana,” with Bennett and others rapping about drinking, smoking, guns, shootings and sex. Prosecutors said the videos were intended to show that Bennett knew people at the party.

Prosecutors told the Supreme Court that the videos shouldn’t spoil the second-degree murder conviction, even if the trial judge was wrong to allow them as evidence. The justices, however, disagreed.

The Supreme Court noted that Bennett, now 25, had offered self-defense and a defense-of-others theme at his trial.

Bennett’s “state-of-mind, not his identity, was the principal question before the jury,” the court said.

“Defendant has sustained his burden of showing that, viewing the trial as a whole, admission of the rap videos undermined the reliability of the verdict,” the court said. “These videos portrayed defendant as a ruthless and menacing threat to the community who would shoot upon the least provocation.”

The court reversed a decision by the Michigan appeals court, which said the videos were a harmless error when measured against strong evidence against Bennett.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said a second trial is likely.

 

Clergyman sentenced to jail after restraining teen in plastic wrap
 

The second priest to be convicted through Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s clergy abuse investigation was sentenced Monday to jail time after he pleaded guilty to holding a teenage boy against his will in the janitor’s room of St. Margaret’s Church in 2013.

The Rev. Brian Stanley was sentenced to 60 days in Allegan County Jail, with credit for two days served, five years’ probation and must register as a sex offender for 15 years. He appeared before Allegan County Circuit Court Chief Judge Margaret Bakker.

Stanley, 57, of Coloma, pleaded guilty to one felony count of attempted false imprisonment on Nov. 20, 2019. He was charged in August after reportedly immobilizing the teenage boy by wrapping him tightly in plastic wrap and using masking tape as additional binding to cover the victim’s eyes and mouth. Stanley left the victim, bound and alone, in the janitor’s room for an extended period of time before returning and eventually letting him go.

“Mr. Stanley took advantage of a vulnerable victim and today he is being held accountable,” Nessel said. “We continue to review information seized from all seven Michigan dioceses in 2018, and we will thoroughly evaluate accusations and complaints brought forth by victims. For too long, criminal behavior by members of the clergy has gone unnoticed, and that must stop.”




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