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149259 - People v Cain (Brandon)

The People of the State of Michigan,
Thomas M. Chambers
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
(Wayne – Evans, V.)
Brandon Lewis Cain,
Kristina Larson Dunne


Defendant Brandon Cain was charged in the Wayne County Circuit Court with multiple crimes arising out of the murders of Ashley Conaway and Abreeya Brown. After the jury was selected, but before the trial began, the judge directed the court clerk to administer an oath to the jury. At this point in the proceedings, the jurors must affirm that they will decide the case justly, and render a true verdict on the evidence introduced at trial and in accord with the court’s jury instructions. Instead of reciting the proper oath, however, the court clerk recited the oath that is read to the potential jurors before jury selection begins. As a result, the jurors in this case were asked to “solemnly swear or affirm that you will true answers make to such questions as may be put to you touching upon your qualifications to serve as jurors in the cause now pending before the Court . . . .”  Neither defense counsel nor the prosecutor objected. The trial proceeded, and the jury returned a guilty verdict against Cain.
Cain argued on appeal that the jury was not properly sworn. In an order, the Court of Appeals granted Cain’s motion for peremptory reversal. The Court of Appeals panel held that the failure to properly swear the jury was a structural error requiring a new trial, and it remanded the case for a new trial before a properly sworn jury.
The prosecution filed an application for leave to appeal. In an order dated September 17, 2014, the Supreme Court granted leave to appeal and directed the parties to address whether the Court of Appeals erred in determining that the failure to properly swear the jury, even in the absence of a timely objection, was a structural error requiring a new trial.