Michigan Supreme Court: Shooter's self-defense claim at issue before state high court

A Detroit man who claims self-defense in a shooting will have his case heard by the Michigan Supreme Court on May 10, when the Court convenes in Dearborn for "Court Community Connections," a Supreme Court program aimed principally at high school students.

The defendant in People v Richardson shot and seriously wounded two people during an altercation with his neighbors, who were standing outside the defendant's home. The defendant said that he feared for his wife and himself when one of the neighbors started hitting his screen door with a baseball bat. He was also fearful because of the neighbors' earlier hostility and because he believed that the two people he shot had been drinking and taking drugs, the defendant asserted. A jury found the defendant - who had no prior criminal record - guilty of assault and felony-firearm; the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed those convictions. On appeal, the defendant argues in part that the trial judge did not properly instruct the jury on the elements of self defense, particularly as to whether the defendant had a duty to retreat from the attack.

The Supreme Court, which normally hears oral arguments at the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing, will hear oral argument in Richardson at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center. Students and educators from Dearborn High, Fordson, Edsel Ford, Divine Child, Riverside Academy, and Henry Ford Academy will attend the 12:15 p.m. court session in the Michael A. Guido Theater Auditorium. Students and teachers will study the case in advance with the help of local judges and attorneys. Following the argument, the students will meet with the attorneys in the case for a debriefing.

This event is also open to the public, with reserved seating in the balcony. Seating is limited; those wishing to attend are encouraged to arrive early.

Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. said that the Court started "Court Community Connections" in 2007 as an educational program. "Courtroom dramas, such as 'Law & Order,' are very popular, but they show little of what goes on at the appellate court level," Young said. "And yet, appellate courts make decisions that can profoundly affect peoples' lives. Through this program, students not only learn about the appellate process; they get to see it in action."

"Court Community Connections" takes the Court to different communities throughout Michigan, Young added. "The communities that have hosted us for these programs have been unfailingly gracious and supportive, and Dearborn is no exception. My fellow justices and I are very grateful to Dearborn's educators and students, 19th District Court judges and staff, the city of Dearborn, and local attorneys for making this event possible."

Dearborn's 19th District Court Chief Judge Mark W. Somers said he sees "Court Community Connections" as a valuable experience in state government. "The judicial branch is probably the least understood of the three branches of government," the judge said. "By participating in this program, students will see one aspect of their government at work. We hope that, through this event, students, teachers, parents, and the community will have a better understanding of their justice system and its role in their lives."

Published: Wed, May 4, 2011

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