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157936 - People v Jamal Devonta Bennett

The People of the State of Michigan,


Allison Freed





(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)



(Kent – Trusock, M.)


Jamal Devonta Bennett,


Christine Pagac





Defendant was charged with open murder and felony-firearm for the fatal shooting of Derecko Martin during a fight between defendant and his friends and Martin and his family and friends. Defendant claimed that he acted in self-defense and/or in defense of others. At trial, the prosecutor admitted into evidence two rap videos over defense objection. The prosecutor also elicited testimony from several witnesses regarding defendant and his friends’ gang affiliation without objection from the defense. The jury convicted defendant of second-degree murder and felony-firearm. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court erred in admitting the rap videos and gang-affiliation evidence, but the error was harmless under the standard of review for preserved error. The Supreme Court vacated that part of the Court of Appeals opinion addressing harmless error and remanded for reconsideration of the issue. On remand, the appeals court again concluded that defendant was not entitled to relief. The Supreme Court has ordered oral argument on defendant’s application for leave to appeal to address whether the Court of Appeals erred in concluding: (1) that the preserved error in admitting the rap videos was not outcome-determinative; (2) that the unpreserved error in admitting the gang-affiliation testimony was not plain error; and (3) that the erroneously admitted evidence, in conjunction with the prosecutor’s argument in closing that this evidence showed the “mentality” of defendant and his friends and the “lifestyle” they lived, did not constitute impermissible character evidence under MRE 404(a) and People v Bynum, 496 Mich 610 (2014). ​