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United States v. Thompson

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 18, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
MICHAEL DEON THOMPSON, also known as "ICE MIKE" Defendant-Appellant

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

          Before HIGGINBOTHAM, DENNIS, and HO, Circuit Judges.

          JAMES L. DENNIS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Michael Deon Thompson was charged with and convicted by a jury of two counts: (1) distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin resulting in serious bodily injury to April Myers and (2) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin. Because of Thompson's prior felony drug convictions, and pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C), he was sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment. Thompson appeals his conviction and the denial of his motion for a new trial. For the following reasons, we AFFIRM.

         I. Background

         Michael Thompson was a drug dealer who, from October 2016 to October 2017, sold heroin to Bobby Mason multiple times per week. Mason would at times act as a middleman, connecting customers with Thompson in exchange for extra heroin. On the morning of October 6, 2017, Mason met fellow heroin user April Myers at her house; the two planned on picking up some heroin to use and some to sell. Myers had started her day by taking out cash to purchase the heroin. She also used some of the funds to buy Xanax and hypodermic needles. When she arrived home, she gave her money to Mason who began calling drug dealers to arrange a deal. Mason called Thompson and another supplier, John Carrion, also known as Rico. Myers had never previously met either dealer.

         At trial, Mason testified that Thompson arrived first at Myers's residence, pulling up to the front of the home in his Ford SUV. Mason went outside, got into Thompson's vehicle, and bought at least two grams of heroin with Myers's money. Although Myers could not see Thompson, she watched the transaction from her porch to make sure that Mason did not steal any of the heroin.

         After completing the transaction, Mason went back inside Myers's home, informed her that he had purchased heroin from Thompson, and proceeded to use a spoon to prepare the heroin for use. At this point, Carrion called Myers's phone, and Mason went outside and purchased around one gram of heroin. Mason returned to the residence and drew the heroin Thompson supplied from the spoon into a syringe. Mason then injected himself with the heroin. Mason testified that Myers next injected herself with the heroin, while Myers testified that Mason injected her. Mason was the only witness with firsthand knowledge that Thompson was the source of the heroin that Myers used that morning.

         Immediately after the injection, Myers "knew [she] was in trouble." She "felt out of control" and afraid. Myers headed to her bathroom to throw up, but she collapsed on the bathroom floor, losing consciousness.

         Mason called 911 from Myers's cell phone and reported the overdose. He then gathered the remaining heroin and fled from the house. Paramedics later arrived and administered Narcan, a medication that counteracts the effects of a heroin overdose. One paramedic testified that it required about twenty minutes to resuscitate Myers after administering the Narcan.

         The paramedics took Myers to a hospital where Dr. Jonathan Dizon, an emergency room physician, examined her. At trial, Dr. Dizon testified that, after reviewing the paramedic's report, he believed that Myers "suffered serious bodily injury . . . from the ingestion of heroin" and that her ingestion of heroin "create[d] a substantial risk of death." Dr. Dizon also stated that a toxicology report based on a sample of Myers's urine found heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, and benzodiazepine. He testified that, in his expert opinion, but for Myers's use of heroin, she would not have sustained serious bodily injury.

         At trial, the jury was instructed that "[t]o prove that serious bodily injury resulted to April Myers from the use of heroin, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that but for [Myers]'s use of heroin, [Myers] would not have sustained serious bodily injury." During closing argument, Thompson's counsel argued that Mason is a liar and asked the jury not to believe him. After deliberating, the jury found Thompson guilty of both counts. With respect to Count One, the jury specially found "beyond a reasonable doubt, that [April Myers] suffered serious bodily injury as a result of ingesting heroin distributed by Michael Deon Thompson."

         Following the verdict, Thompson moved for judgment of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 and for a new trial under Rule 33. The district court denied both motions.

         Due to Thompson's prior felony convictions, his conviction under Count One for distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin resulting in serious bodily injury mandated a sentence of life imprisonment. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C);[1] Thompson was also sentenced to ...


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