In exchange for testimony before a grand jury, the defendant was granted immunity in 1983 from prosecution for a then-unsolved 1982 homicide. When the prosecuting attorney later concluded that the defendant was the killer, he charged that the defendant was guilty of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. The prosecutor argued that the immunity order was void because the defendant's testimony before the grand jury was untruthful, but the circuit court disagreed and dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals reversed, and directed that the murder prosecution go forward. We reverse the judgment of the
On December 21, 1982, the body of Nolan Fritz was discovered at his home in Atlanta, Michigan, by his daughter. He had been shot to death.
The early investigation led the police to suspect that Charles R. McIntire (the defendant in the present case) and Thomas Fleck were involved in the homicide. A sheriff's deputy interviewed Mr. McIntire within a week after Mr. Fritz' body was found, and he vaguely admitted that he had been involved in an unspecified way. On the basis of the information gathered to that point, the police believed that Mr. Fleck had been the shooter, but they did not have enough evidence to prove his guilt.
The Montmorency Circuit Court ordered the formation of a one-man grand jury.
Mr. McIntire provided an account of his own activities and his contact with Mr. Fleck on the night of the homicide, but his testimony did not clearly implicate either of them in the homicide. The investigation thus appeared blocked, and the case remained unsolved for more than ten years. Mr. McIntire moved with his family to South Carolina in 1984.
In January 1993, the investigation of Nolan Fritz' death was turned over to the Michigan State Police. In 1994, a State Police trooper obtained a statement from Mr. Fleck, who implicated himself and Mr. McIntire in the shooting. Mr. Fleck essentially stated that, on the night of the homicide, he and Mr. McIntire drank until they ran out of money. Mr. McIntire suggested they visit an acquaintance named Nolan Fritz and ask for a loan. Soon after they entered Mr. Fritz' house, Mr. Fleck went into the bathroom. While in the bathroom, he heard two gunshots. Opening the door, he saw Mr. McIntire standing near Mr. Fritz with a pistol. Mr. McIntire directed Mr. Fleck to shoot Mr. Fritz, presumably as insurance that Mr. Fleck would tell no one about the killing. Mr. Fleck complied, believing that Mr. Fritz was already dead. Mr. McIntire stole Mr. Fritz' wallet, which contained approximately sixty dollars, and the men left. They later burned the wallet and threw the gun into a river from a bridge.
Mr. McIntire was arrested and charged with open murder and felony-firearm and, in a separate file, perjury. MCL 750.316, 750.227b, 750.422; MSA 28.548, 28.424(2), 28.664. He brought a motion to dismiss the murder and felony-firearm charges, on the basis of the 1983 order of immunity, but the circuit court deferred its decision, pending the outcome of the perjury trial.
On the basis of testimony from Mr. Fleck, a jury found Mr. McIntire guilty of four counts of perjury. The court sentenced him to serve concurrent terms of ten to fifteen years in prison. The defendant's appeal resulted in an affirmance of those convictions.
Mr. McIntire then renewed his motion to dismiss the charges of open murder and
The prosecuting attorney appealed. In October 1998, the Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal order, and remanded the case for reinstatement of the murder and felony-firearm charges.
A majority of the Court of Appeals panel agreed that an obligation to provide truthful answers is an implicit condition of an immunity agreement under M.C.L. § 767.6; MSA 28.946.
The defendant has applied to this Court for leave to appeal.
In the opening paragraph of his dissenting opinion, Justice YOUNG summarized his view of this matter:
Our review of this matter persuades us of the correctness of Justice YOUNG'S dissenting opinion. We reproduce that opinion here, and adopt it as our own.
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I. Application of Traditional Principles of Statutory Construction
Because our judicial role precludes imposing different policy choices than those selected by the Legislature, our obligation is, by examining the statutory language, to discern the legislative intent that may reasonably be inferred from the words expressed in the statute. White v. Ann Arbor, 406 Mich. 554, 562, 281 N.W.2d 283 (1979). A fundamental principle of statutory construction is that "a clear and unambiguous statute leaves no room for judicial construction or interpretation." Coleman v. Gurwin, 443 Mich. 59, 65, 503 N.W.2d 435 (1993). When a legislature has unambiguously conveyed its intent in a statute, the statute speaks for itself and there is no need for judicial construction; the proper role of a court is simply to apply the terms of the statute to the circumstances in a particular case. Turner v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n, 448 Mich. 22, 27, 528 N.W.2d 681 (1995); Lake Angelus v. Oakland Co. Rd. Comm., 194 Mich.App. 220, 224, 486 N.W.2d 64 (1992). Finally, in construing a statute, we must give the words used by the Legislature their common, ordinary meaning. MCL 8.3a; MSA 2.212(1).
These traditional principles of statutory construction thus force courts to respect the constitutional role of the Legislature as a policy-making branch of government and constrain the judiciary from encroaching on this dedicated sphere of constitutional responsibility. Any other nontextual approach to statutory construction will necessarily invite judicial speculation regarding the probable, but unstated, intent of the Legislature with the likely consequence that a court will impermissibly substitute its own policy preferences. See Cady v. Detroit, 289 Mich. 499, 509, 286 N.W. 805 (1939) ("Courts cannot substitute their opinions for that of the legislative body on questions of policy"). Unfortunately, the [Court of Appeals] majority has abandoned these traditional rules of construction, ignored the plain text of the statute before us, and substituted its own policy preferences for those of our Legislature by finding an unexpressed legislative intent that a witness who lies in a one-man grand jury proceeding forfeits statutory immunity granted under M.C.L. § 767.6; MSA 28.946. While [we] do not question the sincerity of [the Court of Appeals majority's] effort, [we] view the [Court of Appeals] opinion as a herculean, yet ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to create an ambiguity where none exists in order to reach a desired result, albeit one with which [we] might wholeheartedly agree [if we were legislators] authorized to enact policy.
The immunity statute, M.C.L. § 767.6; MSA 28.946, provides, in relevant part:
The text of the statute is clear and unambiguous. It simply does not condition transactional immunity on truthful testimony.
The [Court of Appeals] majority, having concluded or conceded that "at least some portion of defendant's testimony `may have tended to incriminate' him," [232 Mich.App. at 82, 591 N.W.2d 231] n. 6, should have, under the plain language of the statute and application of traditional rules of statutory construction, affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the murder and felony-firearm charges. Instead, the [Court of Appeals] majority ... enacts by judicial ukase a new statute requiring truthful testimony as a condition precedent to a grant of transactional immunity. The [Court of Appeals] acknowledges that "there is no express requirement that the immunized individual `answer' questions truthfully." [232 Mich.App. at 86, 591 N.W.2d 231.]
II. Sins of an Un
Holy Trinity: The So-Called "Absurd Result" Rule of Construction 8
Significantly, the [Court of Appeals] majority never, with respect to the text of the
The [Court of Appeals] majority asserts that the "Legislature could not intelligently or rationally deal with immunity and compelled testimony without considering the consequences of a suspect's failing to truthfully provide such compelled testimony." [232 Mich.App. at 86, 591 N.W.2d 231.] On the basis of that premise, the [Court of Appeals] purports to scrutinize "the purpose, the text, and the context of the immunity statute" in search of "a more logical and reasonable result...."
From the explicit terms of these statutes, two indisputable things are established: (1) that the Legislature did not overlook the "problem" posed by the [Court of Appeals] majority, but was fully aware of the fact that some immunized individuals might give false testimony in grand jury proceedings, hence its enactment of the grand jury perjury statute, and (2) that the Legislature did not fail to indicate its intentions concerning how it wished to deal with false testimony in this context, but instead selected a specific remedy to deal with this problem. From these two facts [we are] forced to conclude that [we] need "infer" nothing about the intent that the Legislature made so plain in enacting these two statutes. The Legislature made an express choice to punish otherwise-immunized false swearers by authorizing their prosecution for perjury. This is the policy choice that [we] believe [the judiciary] is obligated to respect and enforce. By contrast, [the Court of Appeals has] turned traditional statutory construction principles inside out in order to achieve a different desired result. The [Court of Appeals] majority is able to invoke its "implied remedy" of withdrawing defendant's immunity in this case only by ignoring both the language of the immunity statute itself and the separate statute prohibiting perjury in grand jury proceedings. The [Court of Appeals] has the power to do so; it does not have the authority.
It is clear that the [Court of Appeals] majority believes that a perjury prosecution should not be the only consequence when a witness who is given statutory immunity testifies falsely before a one-man grand jury. However, under the clear and unambiguous language of the immunity statute, especially when considered in light of the separate prohibition against perjury in all grand jury proceedings, our Legislature has concluded otherwise and expressly said so. Whether the Legislature's choice to limit the range of penalties for lying in grand jury proceedings to prosecutions for perjury serves as a sufficient deterrent to perjury in this context is simply not [the Court of Appeals] concern. "`[I]t is not required that we should be sure as to the precise reasons for [a particular statutory] judgment or that we should certainly know them or be convinced of the wisdom of the legislation.'" Cady, supra at 509, 286 N.W. 805 (citation omitted); see also Melia v. Employment Security Comm., 346 Mich. 544, 561, 78 N.W.2d 273 (1956). To paraphrase the apt observation Justice RILEY made in another context, in our democracy, a legislature is free to make inefficacious or even unwise policy choices. The correction of these policy choices is not a judicial function as long as the legislative choices do not offend the constitution. Instead, the correction must be left to the people and the tools of democracy: the "ballot box, initiative, referendum, or constitutional amendment."
It cannot be gainsaid that if the Legislature intended that immunity be forfeited completely upon the giving of false testimony, it could easily have said so.
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For the reasons stated in the above opinion by Justice YOUNG, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and reinstate the judgment of the circuit court. MCR 7.302(F)(1).
WEAVER, C.J., and BRICKLEY, TAYLOR, MARILYN J. KELLY, and CORRIGAN, JJ., concur.
MICHAEL F. CAVANAGH, J., concurs in the result only.
YOUNG, J., took no part in the decision of this case.
Having in effect created such a provision from wholecloth, the [Court of Appeals] majority fails to suggest how to determine in a given case whether a witness' false testimony is sufficiently false to warrant a finding that immunity has been forfeited. These are, however, mere "practical problems" that [the Court of Appeals] is wont to pass off as issues to be addressed on another day. [We] merely note for the record that it is the [Court of Appeals] insistence upon creating a new policy not found in the statute that has caused the breach in the damworks.