People v. Debruyn

Decision Date31 March 2022
Docket Number352274
PartiesPEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. SCOTT ALLEN DEBRUYN, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

UNPUBLISHED

Ottawa Circuit Court LC No. 19-043164-FC

Before: K. F. Kelly, P.J., and Sawyer and Gadola, JJ.

Per Curiam.

Defendant was convicted after a jury trial of delivering a controlled substance causing death, MCL 750.317a. The trial court sentenced defendant to 198 to 360 months' imprisonment. Defendant appealed as of right and moved for remand to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether he was entitled to a new trial on the basis that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. This Court granted the motion[1] and remanded the matter to the trial court for a Ginther[2] hearing. At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing on remand, the trial court denied defendant's motion for a new trial, finding that defendant was not denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Returning to this Court after remand, defendant challenges the trial court's order denying his motion for a new trial. We affirm.

I. FACTS

Defendant's conviction relates to the death of Camille Gesiakowski, who was found dead in defendant's motel room on the morning of April 12, 2017. At the time of her death Gesiakowski was 23 years old and defendant was 53 years old. The two had known each other since Gesiakowski dated defendant's son while a teenager. Sometime after that relationship ended, Gesiakowski and defendant began a relationship and lived together for a time. At some point Gesiakowski began abusing opioids and other substances.

On April 7, 2017, less than one week before her death Gesiakowski was released from jail where she had served approximately 8 ½ months after violating probation for charges related to drug use. Communications between Gesiakowski and defendant while she was in jail demonstrated that the couple intended to meet upon her release from jail to use "oxy," apparently referring to the opioid oxycodone, and other drugs. In these communications, they repeatedly discussed defendant's efforts to obtain "oxy" for Gesiakowski; in one exchange Gesiakowski stated that "I can't wait to take some oxys," and defendant replied that he had "some" and that he had "good stuff." In another exchange, when Gesiakowski stated that she wanted oxy, defendant replied that he had "some of them" and that he could "get some oxys from Lona between now and then." Defendant also stated that they could "pick up a can or two later on," apparently referring to cans of compressed air, commonly known as air duster, manufactured for use in cleaning, but sometimes misused for inhaling or "huffing" to produce a disorienting or euphoric effect.

When Gesiakowski was released from jail on April 7, 2017, defendant picked her up and the two went to a Walmart store where defendant purchased two cans of air duster and two bottles of wine. Upon learning that Gesiakowski had been released earlier than expected, Gesiakowski's sister, Celia, went to defendant's house and discovered that Gesiakowski was unresponsive, lying on a bed surrounded by pill bottles and a can of air duster. Celia also saw open alcohol bottles in the house and guns standing against the wall. Celia was able to revive Gesiakowski, whom Celia described as delirious, and transport her to their parents' home.

Thereafter, Gesiakowski and defendant exchanged numerous messages in which they discussed meeting to use drugs and defendant's efforts to obtain "pills" and "duster." Throughout the extensive message exchange, defendant was insistent that the couple meet to spend time together, while Gesiakowski was insistent that defendant obtain oxycodone as a condition of them meeting. During the message exchange, defendant assured Gesiakowski that he had "another can and stuff," and that he was buying pills. Gesiakowski asked whether the pills were "oxys," to which defendant responded, "Yeah. I got more coming. Good." Gesiakowski asked defendant to drop some off to her, and repeatedly told defendant that she had a headache and that she needed the pills. Defendant agreed to drop off a can of air duster and some wine. Later in the exchange, Gesiakowski emphasized that she had a migraine and needed "pain pills." Defendant responded that he had "hooked up with Mike's stuff," and that he had gotten "a hold of Lona."

Gesiakowski left her parents' house on the evening of April 9, 2017, and joined defendant at his house after defendant purchased two cans of air duster. On April 10, 2017, defendant purchased another four cans of air duster at Walmart. That same day, defendant purchased 40 Percocet pills, a medication containing oxycodone and acetaminophen, from Lona Daniels and her boyfriend, Michael Montgomery; each pill contained 10 milligrams of oxycodone and 325 milligrams of acetaminophen. According to Daniels, defendant paid her $400 for the 40 pills. Montgomery testified similarly that on April 9, 2017, defendant texted Daniels looking for pills, and Montgomery told Daniels that he would sell defendant 40 pills for $400. Montgomery traveled with Daniels to Grand Haven to sell defendant the pills, and waited in the car while Daniels completed the transaction. He further testified that he had sold pills to defendant 20 or 30 times in the past.

On April 11, 2017, Gesiakowski's father, Blake, called the police and asked them to check on the welfare of Gesiakowski at defendant's house. The police went to the house, but did not retrieve Gesiakowski. Blake then went to defendant's house, but was unable to convince Gesiakowski to come outside. Blake later returned to defendant's house, but discovered that defendant and Gesiakowski had left.

After leaving the house on April 11, 2017, defendant and Gesiakowski took a taxi to a Walmart store, where defendant purchased additional cans of air duster. Defendant and Gesiakowski then traveled to the Baymont Inn in Grand Haven, where defendant rented a room. After learning where the couple had gone, Blake went to the Baymont Inn. Blake told the desk clerk that Gesiakowski might be in danger, but the clerk said that there was nothing he could do. Blake banged on the door of the motel room where the couple was staying until police arrived and advised Blake that he would be arrested if he did not leave.

The next morning, on April 12, 2017, at approximately 6:00 a.m., defendant went to the front desk of the Baymont Inn and told the desk clerk to call 911 because Gesiakowski was not breathing. Although defendant had a cell phone in his possession, he did not call 911. While the desk clerk called 911, defendant returned to his room. When police arrived, they saw defendant in the parking lot, smoking a cigarette. Police found Gesiakowski dead in defendant's room. The room was extremely cold, and Gesiakowski's body was cold to the touch. In the room, police found four empty cans of air duster, but did not find any pills or empty pill bottles.

Defendant told police that he and Gesiakowski arrived at the motel the day before at 4:30 p.m. and that they "were just hanging out." He told police that they went to bed at approximately seven or eight p.m., but that Gesiakowski said that she did not feel well and repeatedly went to the bathroom to vomit. At approximately 3:00 a.m., Gesiakowski again vomited in the bathroom and again said that she did not feel well. When defendant awoke at approximately 6:00 a.m., he found Gesiakowski was dead. Gesiakowski was found unclothed from the waist up; defendant reported that she was wearing clothes earlier, but she had complained that she was very hot and had turned the air conditioning to a very cold setting.

Prosecutors charged defendant with delivering a controlled substance causing death, MCL 750.317a, alleging that defendant delivered oxycodone, a Schedule 2 controlled substance, to Gesiakowski, who then died after consuming it. At trial, the prosecution introduced evidence that Gesiakowski died of mixed-drug toxicity, caused by a combination of four of the substances found in her system: oxycodone[3] (a semisynthetic opioid pain reliever), tramadol (a synthetic opioid pain reliever), fluoxetine (an antidepressant branded as Prozac), and difluoroethane (a halogenated hydrocarbon used as an aerosol propellant in compressed air dusters). Regarding the cause of death, the prosecution called as witnesses toxicologist Dr. Benedict Kuslikis, toxicologist Dr. Matthew McMullin, pathologist Dr. Matthew Carr, and forensic pathologist and chief medical examiner Dr. David Start. The consensus of the prosecution's experts was that all four substances played a role in Gesiakowski's death and that oxycodone, a Schedule 2 controlled substance, was a substantial factor in Gesiakowski's death. Dr. Start testified that oxycodone was the most significant factor in her death, while Dr. Carr testified that, assuming Gesiakowski had not been using oxycodone while in jail, the amount of oxycodone she consumed on April 11, 2017, was alone enough to have caused her death.

The defense contended that the prosecution failed to demonstrate that defendant delivered oxycodone to Gesiakowski and also failed to prove that oxycodone was a substantial cause of Gesiakowski's death. The defense further contended that serotonin syndrome, caused by the interaction of tramadol and fluoxetine, or the effect of difluoroethane alone, had not been excluded as causes of Gesiakowski's death. The defense did not present an expert witness to support its causation theories, but cross-examined the prosecution's experts on the theories that serotonin syndrome or difluoroethane caused Gesiakowski's death.

At the conclusion of trial, the jury convicted defendant. Thereafter, defendant...

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