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Blogs | February 8, 2015
1 minute read

MSC grants mini-oral argument on whether trial court’s failure to give jury instruction on effect of character evidence is reversible error

In People v. Lyles, No. 150040, the Michigan Supreme Court granted mini-oral argument to consider an application for leave to appeal where the issue is whether a trial court’s failure to a give a portion of a jury instruction on the importance and effect of character evidence was outcome determinative. Here, the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. At trial, the court did not read the following portion of Michigan Criminal Jury Instruction 5.8a(1): “[e]vidence of good character alone may sometimes create a reasonable doubt in your mind and lead you to find the defendant not guilty.” On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the defendant was entitled to the entire instruction and that the error required reversal because failure to read the entire instruction deprived the defendant of the full benefit of his character evidence. The Michigan Supreme Court ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs on whether it was more likely than not that the failure to give the character evidence instruction properly was outcome determinative.