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State v. Michaud

Supreme Court of Maine

August 1, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
YVONNE MICHAUD

          Argued: June 14, 2017

          Walter F. McKee, Esq. (orally), and Henry E.M. Beck, Esq., McKee Law, PA, Augusta, for appellant Yvonne Michaud

          Stephanie Anderson, District Attorney, and Meghan E. Connelly, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Portland, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

         [¶1] Yvonne Michaud drove her vehicle into the oncoming traffic lane on Route 302 in Westbrook in an attempt to pass several cars ahead of her. When she was unable to return to her own travel lane, her vehicle collided with an oncoming car head on, badly injuring that car's occupants. She now appeals from the judgment of conviction entered by the court (Cumberland County, Warren, J.) after a jury found her guilty of two counts of aggravated assault (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. §208(1)(B) (2016), [1] and two counts of aggravated driving to endanger (Class C), 29-A M.R.S. §2413(1-A) (2016). Michaud argues that the court abused its discretion in admitting evidence of the victims' injuries when she was willing to stipulate that they had sustained serious bodily injuries and in denying her motion for a new trial based on prosecutorial misconduct. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] On August 6, 2015, at about 6:30 p.m., Michaud was driving westbound on Route 302 in Westbrook in a GMC sport utility vehicle when she decided to pass several cars in front of her. She pulled into the eastbound lane and, unable to return to her own lane, collided with a Ford Focus. The driver of the Focus and his passenger suffered serious injuries.

         [¶3] In April 2016, Michaud was charged by indictment with two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of driving to endanger. She pleaded not guilty. Before the trial, she moved in limine to exclude evidence of the victims' injuries as irrelevant or of minimal probative value in comparison to the danger of unfair prejudice because she would stipulate that the victims suffered serious bodily injuries. See 17-AM.R.S. §§ 2(5), (23), 208(1)(B) (2016); 29-A M.R.S. § 2413(1-A); M.R. Evid. 402, 403. The court excluded certain photographs as duplicative or inflammatory but allowed others to be admitted. A jury trial was held in September 2016.

         [¶4] Defense counsel told the jury in his opening statement that Michaud would testify and admit that the victims suffered serious bodily injury. The State initially declined to accept the stipulation that Michaud had offered in her motion in limine, and, during the trial, the State presented evidence of the extent of the victims' injuries through testimony and photographs. The State's evidence also included testimony from a crash reconstructionist of the Westbrook Police Department and a forensic mapper.

         [¶5] Later in the trial, the State agreed to Michaud's stipulation that the victims had suffered serious bodily injury so that it would not need to present two doctors it had planned to call as witnesses. Michaud testified on her own behalf.

         [¶6] The State and Michaud presented closing arguments. In its rebuttal to Michaud's closing argument, the State made the following argument:

And with regards to the crash reconstructionist, there is an old saying that science doesn't lie, doesn't lie and doesn't forget. What you heard with regards to the feet per second to the mileage, there is nothing that can change that from what [the forensic mapper] and [the crash reconstructionist] did scientifically when it came to the crash, the point of impact, the resting place. Defense counsel just tries to bring up a point that [the forensic mapper] said, yeah, it's possible. That's not the standard. That's not the standard. It's beyond a reasonable doubt. And science shows what happened that day. Science shows ...

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