Convictions upheld by appeals court
MARQUETTE — The Michigan State Court of Appeals has affirmed the convictions of Justin David Langsford, 41, of Ishpeming, who appealed them based on several issues, including his right to a speedy trial.
Langsford was found guilty in April 2020 in a bench trial in 25th Circuit Court and sentenced as a fourth-offense habitual offender to 25 to 50 years in prison for assault with intent to commit great bodily harm and 40 to 60 years in prison for domestic violence.
The case stemmed from an incident that occurred on May 18, 2019, in which Langsford was accused of throwing his then girlfriend on the ground, breaking her leg, bouncing on top of her while slapping her face and making her look at him, according to Court of Appeals documents. The assault sentence was the mandatory minimum sentence prescribed because Langsford was convicted as a fourth-offense habitual offender.
The court issued its unpublished decisions on Thursday.
The Court of Appeals disagreed with Langsford’s claim that his right to a speedy trial was denied. The length of the delay in the case, the trial of which was held via Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was 10 months and 13 days. The court indicated that while the delay was more than the 180 days that the Michigan Legislature deems reasonable for a person in custody, it was far less than the 18-month delay that courts presume to be prejudicial.
The court also pointed out that the trial lasted two days and involved testimony of six witnesses, including two competing expert witnesses about the possible causes for the victim’s injuries.
“Thus, while this case may appear to be a straightforward assault at first glance, the circumstances surrounding this case were more complex,” the court said in its decision.
Other factors brought up by the defendant, it said, included docket congestion, the fact that the defendant had not suggested before his appeal that his right to a speedy trial had been violated, and that he was exposed to COVID-19 because of his incarceration. The court found no violation of a right to a speedy trial because of these claims.
The court also disagreed with Langsford’s assertions that he did not execute a valid waiver of his right to confront witnesses and that the 25-year mandatory minimum sentence was excessive and in violation of the Michigan Constitution’s prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments.
According to court records, several witnesses were allowed to testify remotely using videoconferencing technology, with defense counsel consenting to the use of this technology before the trial began. However, the defendant argued that the “court should ask whether, in light of COVID-19, a defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to confrontation through his attorney.” The court said Langsford failed to show that the waiver was involuntary or an unreasonable trial strategy.
Regarding the assertion that his 25-year mandatory minimum sentence was unconstitutional, the court said Langsford “failed to articulate any unique circumstances” that would overcome the presumption that the statutorily enhanced sentence is proportionate to the offense.
Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.