For Immediate Release
August 1, 2019
SUPREME COURT DENIES VANCALLIS APPEAL – CONVICTION STANDS
This Monday, July 29, the Michigan Supreme Court denied convicted murderer, James Vancallis’ application for leave to appeal.
On February 8, 2016, following his month-long jury trial, James Vancallis was convicted of First Degree Premeditated Murder, First Degree Felony Murder, Kidnapping with Intent to Commit Criminal Sexual Penetration, and Assault with intent to Commit Criminal Sexual Penetration. Each of those convictions resulted from Vancallis violently taking the life of 14-year-old April Millsap in the small town of Armada on July 24, 2014. Subsequently, on March 30, 2016, then-Judge Mary Chrzanowski sentenced Vancallis to life without parole for his two First Degree Murder convictions, to 18 3/4 years to 40 years in prison for his Kidnapping conviction, and to 6 2/3 years to 10 years in prison for his Assault with Intent to Commit Criminal Sexual Penetration conviction.
Vancallis ultimately appealed by right, claiming, amongst other things, that his trial counsel was ineffective for: (1) failing to challenge the admissibility of a computer-generated animation at trial; (2) failing to object to the police chief’s testimony as vouching for the credibility of eyewitness testimony; (3) failing to offer an eyewitness identification expert at trial; and (4) failing to object to the prosecutor’s closing argument. However, on January 9, 2018, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Vancallis’s convictions and sentences.
Vancallis then filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court seeking to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeals, and on September 12, 2018, the Supreme Court issued an order denying his application regarding all of the claims considered by the Court of Appeals, but remanding the case back to the Court of Appeals to consider whether his trial attorney, Azhar Sheikh, was ineffective for failing to offer a private investigator and crime scene expert as witnesses at trial.
In accordance with the Supreme Court’s order, the Court of Appeals again considered whether Sheikh was ineffective, and on December 6, 2018, it again affirmed Vancallis’s convictions and sentences, finding that his trial counsel was NOT ineffective for any of the alleged reasons. Vancallis was then permitted by the Supreme Court to file another application for leave to appeal, but ONLY as to the issue decided on remand. Nevertheless, on July 29, 2019, the Supreme Court issued a final order denying Vancallis’s application for the final time.
Prosecutor Eric Smith stated, “We are thankful for the Appellate Court confirming our conviction and the Supreme Court for denying any further delay in closure for the Millsap family. We hope this brings them some sense of comfort and peace.” The Prosecutors conviction was over three years ago. Last year, after the Court of Appeals affirmed the Vancallis conviction Eric Smith dedicated a Victim Waiting Room in the Prosecutors Office to the young victim. “April was a special young lady that touched so many lives throughout our community. It was an honor for our team to seek justice on behalf of her family. We were proud to have named one of our victim advocacy spaces ‘April Millsap Memorial Conference Room’,” continued Smith.