Appeals court upholds murder conviction

Published 4:50 pm Saturday, June 12, 2004

By Staff
ST. JOSEPH -- The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of Joseph David Hill for first-degree murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
A jury convicted Hill on Nov. 5, 2002. Hill was sentenced to life imprisonment on the murder count, 6 to 20 years for the conviction of possessing a firearm as a felon, and to a two-year consecutive term for the felony-firearm conviction.
Hill's convictions arose from the shooting death of DeMario Lowes in the early morning hours of Nov. 16, 2001, in Benton Harbor.
Two men had attempted to rob Lowes at gunpoint on November 13, 2001. The People's theory of the case was that Hill was one of these would-be robbers and had murdered Lowes to prevent him from identifying Hill.
At trial, the prosecutor introduced evidence of Hill's involvment in both the murder and the attempted robbery.
The Court of Appeals rejected Hill's claim that evidence of the attempted robbery should not have been admitted. The Court agreed that this evidence was relevant to explain Hill's motive for murdering Lowes.
The Court also rejected Hill's allegation that misconduct by the prosecutor had denied him a fair trial.
Hill can ask the Michigan Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals' decision, but the Supreme Court is not required to do so.
In other law enforcement-related news:
Niles City Police Department
NILES -- On June 10 at about 2 a.m., Niles City Police made a traffic stop on a vehicle for having expired plates on the 700 block of Cass St.
As police put a spotlight on the driver, the driver's side door opened and the subject began to run.
The officer recognized him from prior contacts as Marcel Deshan Cutler, 25, of 1829 Sycamore St. in Niles.
Cutler was eventually located hiding on the ground behind a garage on the 600 block of North Seventh Street by a Michigan State trooper.
After he was taken into custody, a search of his vehicle indicated that he was in possession of marijuana.
Cutler was transported to the Niles Police Department, where he was booked and lodged for resisting an officer, possession of marijuana, a parole violation and driving on a suspended license.
The victim advised police that he had parked his 1999 Plymouth Voyager in the south parking lot of the Niles Inn, located at 930 S. 11th St.
He woke up in the morning to find that his vehicle had been taken without his permission. The victim advised police that there were American Flag stickers on the rear window and on the driver's side front window.
The officer asked the driver, Timothy Wayne Strefling, 44, of 3333 Glendora Road in Three Oaks, if he was carrying anything illegal such as weapons or drugs. Strefling allegedly said no and agreed to a search. While searching his coat pockets, the officer located what was believed to be a metal crack pipe.
Strefling was advised that he was being arrested for possession of crack cocaine. He was transported to the Niles Police Department, where he was booked and lodged with no bond.
The resident advised police that seven rifles had been taken from his basement.
Police officers checked the home for a possible point of entry and could not find one.
There were no suspects and police are working to determine the serial numbers for the weapons.
The driver, Myran Devonn Berry, 29, of 1616 W. Indiana St. in South Bend, Ind., was arrested for having an outstanding warrant for disturbing the peace.
After the arrest, officers conducted a search of Berry and his vehicle. The search indicated a semi-automatic handgun in the backseat with a fully loaded magazine next to it.
According to the police report, the officer could also smell the odor of fresh marijuana, but could not locate the substance. With the help of the K-9 unit, they were able to locate marijuana near the center console.
Berry was taken to the Niles Police Department, where he was booked and lodged for carrying a concealed weapon in an automobile, possession of an unregistered firearm, possession of marijuana and the outstanding warrant.