Ruling negates first-degree murder conviction
By BRICE BURGE
Jason David Sadowski is now charged and convicted of murder in the second degree after 11th Circuit Court Judge Brian Rahilly ruled on a motion more than a month after the trial ended. In a six-page opinion, Rahilly said the prosecution did not do enough to establish premeditation as a requirement for a first-degree murder charge.
“The Court understands that premeditation can be developed in a matter of seconds. But there must be some proof that the defendant had an opportunity to take a second look. There is nothing based on the limited record to conclude that,” Rahilly wrote in his opinion.
Alger County Prosecutor Rob Steinhoff objected the ruling for the record, citing procedure on looking at evidence most favorably to the prosecution.
“We are frankly shocked and alarmed by the ruling,” Steinhoff said in a press release after the hearing. “With this ruling, the court is saying that no reasonable jury could have found the defendant guilty based on the proofs the prosecution presented at the trial. In fact, Mr. Sadowski was ultimately convicted of first degree murder by a jury of his peers, which was supported by our evidence alone. We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling and believe it is contrary to the law.”
Rahilly gave his judgment on Tuesday, Dec. 13 on a previously unruled motion by defense attorney Mark Dobias for directed verdict that prevents the jury from being able to convict Sadowski on first degree murder. The motion was made as a blanket request for directed verdict after the Alger County Prosecutors O e rested its case on November 2. While Rahilly denied the motions for murder in the second degree and voluntary manslaughter, Rahilly reserved the right to rule on first-degree murder, citing MCR 6.419.
“The court may reserve decision on the motion, proceed with the trial (where the motion is made before the close of all the evidence), submit the case to the jury, and decide the motion either before the jury returns a verdict or after it returns a verdict of guilty or is discharged without having returned a verdict. If the court reserves decision, it must decide the motion on the basis of the evidence at the time the ruling was reserved,” MCR 6.419 (B) states.
In his opinion, Rahilly used the 1992 People v Schollaert precedent to establish a four-pronged test for premeditation: the parties’ prior relationship, the defendant’s actions before the killing, the circumstances surrounding the killing itself and the defendant’s conduct after the killing. Rahilly actively writes that prosecution failed to prove the second and third prong while stating there were no clear attempts to leave the area or hide the body regarding the fourth prong.
“The Court reviews the four factors above but ultimately the prosecution must prove a lapse of time su ient to have permitted the defendant opportunity to take second look at contemplated actions. To restate, this analysis is based only on the evidence submitted during the prosecutor’s case-on-chief,” Rahilly wrote.
Steinhoff said that he is considering appellate options for review of the Court’s decision.
Dobias politely declined comment after the ruling.
Sadowski was awaiting sentencing at a downstate prison, but was brought back to the Alger County Jail for the motion hearing and the sentencing. A sentencing guideline report from the Michigan Department of Corrections has not been completed, pending the result of Tuesday’s hearing.
Sentencing will be Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 9 a.m. at the Alger County Courthouse.