A maverick judge in Michigan known for ripping into criminal defendants is catching criticism again from a higher court.
The Michigan Court of Appeals suggested Jackson County Judge John McBain is ripe for a misconduct investigation for how he handled the sentencing of a woman convicted of killing her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day 2015.
The court overturned a 30-year minimum prison sentence and said a different judge must handle the case. It was the second time that McBain’s work was set aside; the first sentence was a minimum of 35 years. Both were much higher than the guidelines.
“If a trial judge is unable to follow the law as determined by a higher appellate court, the trial judge is in the wrong line of work,” the appeals court said in a 3-0 opinion Tuesday.
Dawn Marie Dixon-Bey, 49, claimed self-defense and was convicted of second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Greg Stack.
The appeals court, however, said McBain treated Dixon-Bey as if she were convicted of premeditated first-degree murder. The court noted that the judge grilled her and interrupted her right to speak.
“She stabbed the victim in the heart not once, but twice, and murdered him in cold blood. … She planned it,” McBain said at the hearing in 2020.
McBain’s conduct “may warrant investigation by the Judicial Tenure Commission,” said judges Amy Ronayne Krause, Jane Markey and Douglas Shapiro, referring to a watchdog agency.
McBain’s office declined to comment Wednesday.
During argument on Dec. 14, Krause said she had read the transcript from the hearing and found it “hideous.”
McBain is known for making sharp remarks: Courtroom excerpts on YouTube have been watched hundreds of thousands of times. In 2015, while sentencing a man who had broken into a police officer’s home, the judge said he wished the owner had returned in time.
“Because you know what? You might not be going to the Department of Corrections for 10 years,” McBain said. “You might be getting buried in some cemetery.”
The judge once took off his robe and helped police restrain a defiant man in his courtroom.
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