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Deuman v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

May 23, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Criminal No. 1:11:CR:266)



         Movant, Steven William Deuman, Jr., has filed a Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 To Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence By a Person in Federal Custody. Deuman alleges that, for a number of reasons, his trial counsel was ineffective. The Government has filed a response, as well as an affidavit from Deuman's trial counsel, and Deuman has filed a reply. In addition, Deuman filed a supplemental reply, to which the Court allowed the Government to file a response. After reviewing the motion and briefs, the Court concludes that Deuman's arguments are without merit and he is not entitled to relief.

         I. Procedural History

         On September 15, 2011, a grand jury returned a two-count Indictment against Deuman, charging him with first-degree murder and aggravated sexual abuse of a minor child who had not attained the age of twelve years, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1111(a) and 2241(c). On September 19, 2012, at the conclusion of an eight-day trial, a jury convicted Deuman on both counts. On March 8, 2013, this Court sentenced Deuman to life in prison on each count. (Case No. 1:11-CR-266 ECF No. 157 (the criminal docket will be referred to herein as “CC”).)

         Deuman appealed his sentence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which affirmed in an unpublished opinion dated June 11, 2014. United States v. Deuman, 568 F. App'x 414 (6th Cir. 2014). Deuman filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, which denied his petition on October 6, 2014. (CC ECF No.173.) Deuman thereafter filed this timely motion under § 2255.

         II. Facts

         The following facts were recited by the Sixth Circuit in its unreported opinion:

Deuman and Natasha Maitland had two children: a two-year-old son, S.D., and 15-week-old daughter, E.D. They lived in a trailer with Deuman's brother, Silvano Southbird, and Southbird's family. Deuman and Southbird were members of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Southbird owned the trailer, which was located within Indian country in Sutton's Bay, Michigan. Ten people lived in the trailer; Deuman, Maitland, and their two children shared one room.
On the night of August 11, 2011, Maitland and Deuman had sex using a condom. Afterwards, Deuman tied the used condom in a knot and tossed it on the floor beside the bed. The next morning, Maitland woke up early for work and cleaned the room. She picked up the used condom, its wrapper, and a soiled diaper off the floor, and threw them away in the kitchen trash can. Maitland then placed a box of condoms on the nightstand next to the bed. She did not shower that morning because the water heater was broken.
Deuman was unemployed and stayed home to care for E.D. He knew that Maitland was scheduled to work until 7:00 p.m. that evening. At 6:49 p.m., Deuman sent Maitland the first of two text messages; both messages asked Maitland where she was. Deuman called Maitland at 7:05 p.m., and told her to call him back after she picked up her paycheck from her second job. Maitland did so at 7:35 p.m., and told Deuman to meet her at the tribal gas station so that she could pay to fill his motorcycle with gas. Deuman told Maitland to call back when she neared the gas station, which was a five-to-ten minute drive from the trailer. Deuman then went outside to smoke a cigarette with Southbird and his wife, Veronica Reynaga.
Maitland called back at 7:45 p.m. Deuman answered while smoking outside the trailer. He asked Southbird and Reynaga to watch E.D. while he went to meet Maitland at the gas station. Before he left, Deuman told Southbird and Reynaga that he was going to check on E.D. (something he normally did not do). Deuman went into the trailer, quickly returned, and said that something was wrong with E.D. Deuman led Southbird to the bedroom, where E.D. lay on the bed, motionless. Deuman explained that earlier he had left E.D. in the middle of the bed with a bottle, surrounded by blankets and pillows; and that when he walked into the room just then, he found E.D. on the floor, by the foot of the bed. Southbird told Deuman that they needed to take E.D. to the hospital, immediately.
At 7:47 p.m., Deuman called Maitland and said “get home now; get home now.” As Maitland arrived home three minutes later, she saw Southbird's car pulling out of the driveway, headed towards Traverse City. Maitland pulled up to the trailer. Deuman exited Southbird's car with E.D.'s lifeless body in his hands. Maitland checked for a pulse, but found none. E.D. was blue, cold to the touch, and had a line of blood running from her mouth to her forehead.
Maitland called 911 immediately after learning that neither Deuman or Southbird had done so. Deuman grabbed the phone from Maitland and yelled at the dispatcher: “[E.D.] was sleeping on the bed, I laid her on the bed to sleep, she's not at the point of rolling over, she's three months old, I went to check on her, we were outside maybe ten minutes. And I go in and she is unconscious.”
Maitland told Reynaga to drive her and E.D. to the hospital. As they drove there, the 911 dispatcher told Maitland to pull to the side of the road and wait for an ambulance. Reynaga pulled over and Maitland gave CPR to E.D. on the side of the road. A paramedic arrived and also attempted CPR. An EMT then arrived and directed that E.D. be put into the ambulance. The EMT then inserted a breathing tube into E.D.'s throat. He observed that E.D.'s airway appeared deformed: instead of having a normal V-shape like other infants he had treated during his 24-year career, E.D.'s throat tissues had been pulled away, widening her throat to more of a U-shape. The paramedics drive E.D. to the hospital.
Meanwhile, Deuman had stayed at the trailer. He called out: “Oh, God, please don't let this happen to me.” Southbird told his brother that he should have gone to the hospital with E.D., and gave Deuman $16 to fuel his motorcycle. Deuman went to the gas station and filled his gas tank. Then he went inside the gas station and filled out a tribal-discount form, which saved him 76 cents.
When Deuman arrived to [sic] the hospital, he yelled at the paramedics, “[y]ou killed my fucking mom and now you killed my baby, too.” An emergency room doctor asked Deuman to explain what happened to E.D. Deuman responded that he had gone back into the bedroom after a smoke “and the baby was on the floor with blood around its nose.”
At 8:50 p.m., a doctor pronounced E.D. dead. Soon after, the hospital allowed Maitland and Deuman to see E.D.'s body in the trauma room. As they sat alone with their dead baby, Deuman whispered to Maitland that he had found a condom in E.D.'s mouth. He had not told this fact to Southbird, the 911 dispatcher, or the paramedics and doctors.
The next day, Dr. David Start performed an autopsy on E.D.'s body. He concluded that the cause of E.D.'s death was asphyxiation from a foreign object blocking her airway. Start found no evidence that E.D. had fallen from the bed; and he determined that it was “not a reasonable possibility” that the three-month-old E.D. could have grasped a condom, placed it in her mouth, and sucked it in far enough to block her airway. Start concluded that E.D.'s death was a homicide. He further determined that E.D.'s death was consistent with an adult penis having been put in her mouth and blocking her airway, and that the oral penetration would not necessarily have resulted in physical trauma to E.D.'s mouth.
Twenty-eight hours after E.D.'s death, the FBI searched the trailer. On the bedroom floor, the FBI found a used condom beneath a dirty diaper and several condom wrappers. The box of condoms was on the bed. A forensic scientist discovered a sizable blood stain on the carpet next to the head of the bed, which later proved to be a mixture of bloody fluid from E.D.'s lungs.
Later that day, FBI agents Robert Birdsong and Larry Stewart interviewed Deuman. He told them that E.D. had been healthy the day that she died. Deuman also said that E.D. was unable to hold a bottle by herself or grasp an item unless it as put in front of her. According to Deuman, he put E.D. in the center of the bed with a bottle, and surrounded her with blankets and pillows so that she could not roll off. Then he went outside to smoke a cigarette. Two-to-seven minutes later he heard E.D. cry. He got a “bad feeling, ” and went to check on her. He found E.D. lying face down on the floor by the head of the bed. He picked her up and found an unrolled condom in her mouth and blood on her lips. At that point, Agent Birdsong asked Deuman how E.D. could have ended up on the floor with a condom in her mouth. Deuman responded: “if you're accusing me of sticking my dick in her mouth, then you're a sick mother-fucker.” At that point, no one had yet suggested to Deuman that he had done anything of the sort.
On August 16th, Birdsong met with Maitland and Deuman. Birdsong told them that E.D. died of asphyxiation. Deuman then asked whether there was any damage to E.D.'s mouth. Birdsong responded that there was none. Deuman placed his head in his hands, and exclaimed, “[t]hank God.” Deuman also asked whether any fluids had been found in E.D.'s mouth. Birdsong responded that they were still awaiting the test results.
Later that evening, Deuman and Maitland visited Deuman's aunt, a member of the Grand Traverse Tribe. Deuman told his aunt that E.D. had rolled off the bed and that Deuman had found her unconscious. His aunt said that the story did not make sense, and that perhaps E.D.'s death could be explained by “bear walking”-i.e., there were good families and bad families, and the bad families were bear walkers, who could shape-shift into bears. Bear walkers could also take a person's DNA and become that person.
The next day, Agents Birdsong and Fred Berry, and Detective Richard Campos (Tribal Police) drove Deuman to Flint for a polygraph examination. During the drive, Deuman told the agents that E.D. had communicated to him when he saw her body at the funeral home. E.D. supposedly said that everyone should leave the trailer because it was haunted by evil spirits. On the drive home after the polygraph, Deuman said that he thought it as possible that he had killed E.D. while being bear-walked by one of the evil spirits. Deuman also said that there was a “50 percent” chance that he would be able to tell them what actually happened to E.D., an estimate he revised to “70 percent, ” and ultimately to “80 percent.” But first he wanted to talk to Maitland. The agents dropped Deuman off at the hotel where he and Maitland were staying.
Deuman took Maitland out to the hotel's golf course for a talk. He told her that he blacked out the day that E.D. died, and that he thought he had been bear-walked.
A forensic analyst tested the used condom found on the bedroom floor. On the outside of the condom she found DNA only from E.D. On the inside was DNA from both Maitland and Deuman. A forensic expert later explained that Maitland's DNA could have been transferred to Deuman's penis when the two had sex the night before.
The FBI arrested Deuman on August 18.

Deuman, 568 F. App'x at 416-18. ...

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