United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
DEONTE S. BONNER, Petitioner,
WILLIE SMITH, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY,
AND (3) DENYING PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA
TERRENCE G. BERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a habeas case brought by a Michigan prisoner under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Petitioner Deonte S. Bonner was convicted after
he pled guilty in the Wayne Circuit Court to second-degree
murder, Mich. Comp. Laws §750.317, and possession of a
firearm during the commission of a felony. Mich. Comp. Laws
§750.227b. He was sentenced under the terms of his plea
agreement to a term of 19 to 40 years imprisonment for the
murder conviction and a consecutive 2 years for the firearm
conviction. The petition raises a single claim:
Petitioner's guilty plea was involuntarily entered
because he was coerced into accepting the last-minute plea
offer. The Court will deny the petition because
Petitioner's claim is without merit. The Court will also
deny Petitioner a certificate of appealability, and it will
deny permission to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis.
was originally charged with first-degree murder and lesser
offenses after he and accomplices attempted to rob
individuals at a drug house in Detroit. During the robbery
gunfire was exchanged. Petitioner was struck by a bullet, and
one of the occupants of the house was shot and killed.
Petitioner's DNA was recovered from blood stains at the
scene, and he gave a false name when he was admitted at the
hospital. See Dkt. 9-5, at 2-8.
morning scheduled for trial, the parties indicated that the
prosecutor made a plea offer for the reduced charge of
second-degree murder with a sentencing agreement of 23 to 40
years plus 2 years for the firearm charge. Dkt. 9-8, at 3-4.
This was a reduction from a previous offer made by the
prosecution calling for a minimum sentence of 36 years.
Id. Petitioner rejected the offer and indicated his
intent to proceed to trial. Id., at 4.
jury venire was brought into the courtroom, the court read it
preliminary instructions, and the court began the jury
selection process. Id., at 6-24. After a lunch
break, the prosecutor informed the court that family members
of the victim “were amenable to mercy for this
defendant so long as he took responsibility for what he
did.” Id., at 25. The prosecutor then
indicated that a new plea offer was being made that called
for a sentence of 19 to 40 years for the murder plus 2 years
for the firearm offense. Id., at 26.
was then placed under oath. Id., at 27. He indicated
that his attorney had informed him of the terms of the new
plea bargain. Id. He indicated that he understood
the terms called for a sentence of 19 to 40 years
imprisonment for second degree murder plus a consecutive 2
years for the firearm offense. Id.
court informed Petitioner of all the trial rights we would be
waiving by pleading guilty. Id., at 28-30.
Petitioner denied that anyone had made any threats or
promises other than the terms of the plea agreement to elicit
his guilty plea. Id., at 30. At no point did
Petitioner complain that he was being rushed into making a
decision whether to accept the plea bargain.
then testified that on February 25, 2013, he went to a house
located in Detroit with the intent to rob individuals inside.
Id., at 32. While inside, Petitioner exchanged
gunfire with the occupants. Id. During the incident
one of the occupants, Raynard Sebree, was shot and killed.
Id. Petitioner denied that he acted in self-defense.
Id. Petitioner then apologized to the family of the
victim “for having the intention to commit this
crime.” Id., at 33. The court accepted the
plea. Id., at 32.
to sentencing, Petitioner moved to withdraw his guilty plea
on the grounds that he was coerced into quickly agreeing to
the plea bargain due to the imminence of trial. The trial
court held two hearings on the motion. Dkts. 9-9 and 9-10.
Petitioner testified at the second hearing, and he stated
that he felt pressured by his attorney to accept the plea
deal, and he was not given sufficient time to decide. Dkt.
9-10, at 11-13. The court denied the motion, making the
From what I'm understanding here the Defendant was not
maintaining innocence or saying I don't want a plea or
whatever might be. He just wanted the best offer that he
could get, you know, and that's what plea offers are all
about, you know, going back and forth. So to me that's
not being coerced. It's, it's, there's a
negotiation process is going, you know, back and forth. He
wasn't put on the spot where he had to make a decision
within a matter of a few minutes or something, you know, like
As indicated, there was an initial plea offer of 30 to 60
years from the initial offer then there came the supervisor
in to see about getting something less than that. There was
some things done with the family and apparently even with the
Defendant. And what counsel has said, there was some back and
forth talk between the, with the parties where things were
being communicated and even getting on the record where the
judge was able to hear some things and things were done then.
I don't see coercion or duress here. All I'm seeing
here is somebody was trying to get the best offer that they
could. It finally came down to you take the 19, I suppose, or
we're going to trial, and this to me is not coercion.
That's simply coming to your senses and saying, okay,
that might be the best offer I can get and with the trial
pending maybe I'd better just go ahead and take it, which
to me, pardon the expression, seem to be a darn good offer
based on how I see ...