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154779 - People v Carl Rene Bruner, II

The People of the State of Michigan,
Toni Odette
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
(Wayne – Strong, C.)
Carl Rene Bruner, II,
David L. Moffitt


Defendant Carl Bruner and codefendant Michael Lawson were charged for their participation in the shooting of two security guards outside a nightclub in Detroit. One guard, Marcel Jackson, was fatally shot, and the other, Wayne White, Jr., was shot in the back, but he was wearing a bulletproof vest and not injured. Defendant and Lawson were tried together before a single jury. Witnesses testified that after defendant was ejected from the nightclub for fighting, he continued to behave erratically and threatened to return. Witnesses saw defendant in the vicinity of the nightclub for approximately the next two hours. After the nightclub closed, defendant was seen in the passenger seat of a vehicle driven by Lawson, which circled the block. At a certain point, the passenger’s seat was observed to be empty. Lawson was seen getting out of the driver’s seat while talking on a phone. White testified that as he and Jackson looked for defendant, White heard the racking sound of a gun behind them and then gunfire. Lawson did not take the stand, but, over objection by defendant on various grounds, a portion of the preliminary examination testimony of Westley Webb was read to the jury. The trial court instructed the jury to consider that testimony only against Lawson. According to Webb, Lawson had made statements to him that on the day of the shootings he and “blank” (inserted in place of defendant’s name when read to the jury) were riding around together, that “blank” got out of the car, and that Lawson heard gunshots a short time later. The jury convicted defendant of first-degree premeditated murder, assault with intent to commit murder, felon in possession of a firearm, and felony-firearm. Lawson was convicted of second-degree murder and assault with intent to commit murder. The Court of Appeals affirmed defendant’s and Lawson’s convictions; one judge concurred, but provided an additional statement as to the hearsay issue arising from admission of Webb’s preliminary examination testimony. The Supreme Court has directed oral argument on defendant’s application for leave to appeal to address: (1) whether the admission of Webb’s preliminary examination testimony at the joint trial violated defendant’s constitutional right to confrontation, despite the trial court’s redaction of that testimony and limiting instruction to the jury, see Gray v Maryland, 523 US 185 (1998); Bruton v United States, 391 US 123 (1968); and (2) if so, whether the error in admitting the testimony was harmless, see People v Carines, 460 Mich 750, 774 (1999).