The case of Douglas Flint, who was convicted two years ago for the 1999 murder of an elderly Manchester, Mich., man, will return once again to Lenawee County Circuit Court.
The Michigan Court of Appeals yesterday reversed Flint's sentence, saying it exceeded the guidelines.
Judge Harvey Koselka sentenced Flint in Lenawee County Circuit Court to a prison term of 60 to 90 years after a jury convicted him of second-degree murder in the beating and stabbing death of Russell Smith, 82.
Under sentencing guidelines, Flint should have faced a sentence of 22 to 47 years. No new sentencing date has been set.
In their ruling, the members of the appellate court said some of the factors given by Judge Koselka for the higher sentence were based on his "subjective assessment of defendant" and therefore should not have been used to determine a sentence.
"We cannot say with certainty that if the trial court only considered the valid factors it would have departed from the guidelines to the same extent," the opinion stated.
Flint, 43, of Clinton, Mich., was arrested for Mr. Smith's murder in November, 1999, after the elderly man was found in the basement of a house Flint used to own. The prosecution alleged
that Flint killed Mr. Smith to rob him so he could feed his drug habit.
A first trial in Lenawee County ended in November, 2000, in a mistrial after Judge Koselka ruled that certain evidence could not be heard. Flint next stayed in solitary confinement under a constant suicide watch in the Lenawee County jail while waiting for the Michigan Court of Appeals to rule on whether information about a prior manslaughter conviction could be admitted into evidence.
In November, 2002, Flint was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder. Two weeks later, he was sent to the Saginaw Correctional Facility to serve out his term.
Judge Koselka said during Flint's sentencing that he was convinced the defendant would kill again.
For that reason, he said, "Premeditation, the short time that you were out of prison, the short time you were off paroled, the fact that you will kill again, [indicate] that the guidelines should be exceeded."
The judge declined to comment on the reversal yesterday.
Arthur Rubiner, a West Bloomfield, Mich., attorney, was appointed to represent Flint in his appeal. Though most of the appeal was denied, including Flint's claim that the prosecutor violated his constitutional rights against self-incrimination, Mr. Rubiner said he was pleased to see that the sentence was deemed excessive.
Mr. Smith's daughter, Millie, was shocked to hear that her father's murderer would be out of prison sooner than she anticipated. She said she plans to be at the new sentencing.
"This is such a shock to even hear about this that, basically, I'm speechless," said Ms. Smith, 62. "Sixty to 90 [years] seemed like a good sentence and now, to think of him getting less. Wow."
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