A Michigan trial court erred when it presumed — without evidence — that a victim suffered psychological harm when a gun was held to her head, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
The decision, issued unanimously by the state’s highest court, means a Michigan man who pleaded guilty to armed robbery and breaking and entering in Berrien Circuit Court will be resentenced.
The case centers around Anthony T. White and his conviction in connection with the 2013 robbery of a gas station during which he held a gun to the cashier’s head.
Berrien County Judge Dennis M. Wiley sentenced White to 108 to 480 months in prison for armed robbery and 23 to 120 months in prison for breaking and entering.
The court had assessed White 10 points in his sentencing score to reflect its finding that “serious psychological injury requiring professional treatment occurred to a victim,” the ruling says.
White appealed the sentencing score in 2014 to the state Court of Appeals, which denied the case.
In a unanimous decision by six of the justices — Justice Elizabeth T. Clement took no part in the case — the Michigan Supreme Court wrote, “This finding was based solely on the facts that defendant had held a gun to the cashier’s head and that she heard a trigger being pulled, which the court concluded was sufficient to support its scoring of (offense variable) 4 despite the lack of evidence that the cashier had suffered psychological distress as a result.”
The high court ruled a trial court can’t automatically assign 10 points in sentencing “solely on the basis of a trial court’s conclusion that a serious psychological injury would normally occur as a result of the crime perpetrated against the victim, and evidence of fear while a crime is being committed, by itself, is insufficient to assess points for OV 4.”
To support a score of 10 points, the law requires that serious psychological injury occurred to a victim, “not that a reasonable person in that situation would have suffered a serious psychological injury,” the ruling said.
“The fact that a victim is afraid at the time of the incident, by itself, does not give rise to a serious psychological injury requiring professional treatment,” the court said in its ruling.
Because subtracting 10 points lowered White’s guidelines range for his guilty plea to armed robbery from a minimum of 81 to 135 months in prison to a minimum of 51 to 85 months in prison, the court remanded the case to Berrien County for resentencing.
White’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.