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158259 - People v Anthony Ray McFarlane, Jr.

The People of the State of Michigan,


Meredith Beidler





(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)



(Allegan – Cronin, K.)


Anthony Ray McFarlane, Jr.,


C. Michael Villar





Before her birth, the victim suffered a stroke in utero that was not immediately detected. When she was 9-weeks-old, she began to cry in a pained, high-pitched tone and eventually convulsed into seizures. Doctors did not find any external injuries, but they did observe retinal hemorrhaging and bilateral subdural hematomas—classic signs of head trauma. The victim will likely suffer lifelong effects. Defendant, the victim’s father, was charged with one count each of first-degree child abuse and second-degree child abuse (failure to seek medical treatment). At trial, the victim’s sister testified that defendant had hurt her and that she had seen him shake the victim. Neighbors also testified that they often heard defendant yelling and that he made some implicitly incriminating statements after the victim’s hospitalization. The prosecution’s medical expert examined the victim and diagnosed her as having suffered “abusive head trauma” and “definite pediatric physical abuse.” Defense counsel did not object to the expert’s terminology in describing the victim’s diagnosis, but counsel presented three medical experts who identified the victim’s prenatal stroke as the cause of her symptoms. The jury convicted defendant of first-degree child abuse, but found him not guilty of second-degree child abuse. In a published opinion, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court plainly erred by allowing the prosecution’s medical expert to use terminology suggesting that whoever inflicted the injuries on the victim did so with a culpable state of mind, but it affirmed after determining that this error did not affect the outcome of defendant’s trial. The Supreme Court has ordered oral argument on defendant’s application for leave to appeal to address: (1) whether the prosecution’s medical expert invaded the province of the jury by using phrases like “abusive head trauma” and “definite pediatric physical abuse” to label her diagnosis; and (2) if so, whether defendant has satisfied the plain error standard set forth in People v Carines, 460 Mich 750, 763 (1999).​