Disentangling Michigan Court Rule 6.502(G)(2): The “New Evidence” Exception to the Ban on Successive Motions for Relief from Judgment Does Not Contain a Discoverability Requirement
Claire V. Madill*
Michigan courts are engaging in a costly interpretative mistake. Confused by the relationship between two distinct legal doctrines, Michigan courts are conflating laws in a manner that precludes convicted defendants from raising their constitutional claims in postconviction proceedings. In Michigan, a convicted defendant who wishes to collaterally attack her conviction must file a 6.500 motion. The Michigan Court Rules generally prohibit “second or subsequent” motions. Nonetheless, section 6.502(G)(2) permits a petitioner to avoid this successive motion ban if her claim relies on “new evidence that was not discovered” before her original postconviction motion. Misguided by the similarity between the language of section 6.502(G)(2) and the Michigan Supreme Court’s opinion in People v. Cress, Michigan courts have started conflating the four-prong Cress legal standard with section 6.502(G)(2)’s “new evidence” exception to the ban on successive motions. This conflation imposes an additional discoverability element on the “new evidence” exception: a court will dismiss a petitioner’s motion as successive if the petitioner could have discovered the evidence underlying the motion through the exercise of reasonable diligence. This Note demonstrates that the conflation of section 6.502(G)(2) and the Cress standard, and the resulting imposition of an additional discoverability requirement on the “new evidence” exception, is plainly wrong. It contradicts the text and structure of the Michigan Court Rules and imposes unintended adverse consequences on criminal defendants seeking to vindicate their constitutional rights.
* J.D. Candidate, May 2015, University of Michigan Law School. I would like to thank Imran Syed for inspiring me to tackle this issue and for sharing his 6.500 expertise. I am eternally grateful to Adam Beagle for always supporting me and for putting up with the number of times I have said the word “6.500.” I am thankful to Matt McCurdy and Eve Brensike Primus for helping me improve this piece. This Note is dedicated to all of my past and present clients for their continual inspiration.