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152934 - People v Eric Lemontee Beck

The People of the State of Michigan,

 

Nathan Collison

 

Plaintiff-Appellee,

 

v

(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)

 

 

(Saginaw – Borchard, J.)

 

Eric Lamontee Beck,

 

Philip Ellison

Matthew Gronda

 

Defendant-Appellant.

 

Summary

One evening in June 2013, defendant Eric Beck and Hoshea Pruitt got into a fight. A short while later, Pruitt was fatally shot. Defendant was at the scene, but witness testimony was equivocal whether he was the shooter. A jury acquitted him of murder and other charges, but convicted him of being a felon in possession of a firearm as a habitual offender and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, second offense. The trial court sentenced defendant to serve consecutive prison terms of 5 years for felony-firearm, second-offense and 20 to 33 years for felon-in-possession, a nearly 14-year departure from the sentencing guidelines range of 22 to 76 months. The trial judge stated that the departure was warranted because of his finding by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant was the shooter, and, therefore, responsible for Pruitt’s murder. The Court of Appeals affirmed defendant’s convictions in an unpublished opinion, but remanded for a hearing pursuant to People v Lockridge, 498 Mich 358 (2015), and United States v Crosby, 397 F3d 103 (CA 2, 2005). The Supreme Court held the case in abeyance for People v Steanhouse (152849) and People v Masroor (152946-8). After those cases were decided, the Supreme Court ordered oral argument on defendant’s application for leave to appeal to address: (1) the appropriate basis for distinguishing between permissible trial court consideration of acquitted conduct, see People v Ewing (After Remand), 435 Mich 443, 451-452 (opinion by Brickley, J.), 473 (opinion by Boyle, J.) (1990); see also United States v Watts, 519 US 148 (1997), and an impermissible “independent finding of defendant’s guilt” by a trial court on an acquitted charge, see People v Grimmett, 388 Mich 590, 608 (1972), overruled on other grounds by People v White, 390 Mich 245, 258 (1973); see also People v Fortson, 202 Mich App 13, 21 (1993); and (2) where the jury acquitted defendant of murder, whether the trial court abused its discretion by departing from the sentencing guidelines range based on its finding by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant committed the killing. This case will be considered together with People v Dixon-Bey (156746). ​