from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Oklahoma (D.C. No. 6:15-CR-00084-RAW-1)
Whitney R. Mauldin, Assistant Public Defender (Julia L.
O'Connell, Federal Public Defender; Chance Cammack,
Assistant Public Defender, with her on the brief), Office of
the Federal Public Defender, Northern and Eastern Districts
of Oklahoma, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Defendant-Appellant.
A. Epperley, Assistant United States Attorney (Douglas A.
Horn, Acting United States Attorney; Edward Snow, Assistant
United States Attorney, with her on the brief), Office of the
United States Attorney, Eastern District of Oklahoma,
Muskogee, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
LUCERO, HOLMES, and McHUGH, Circuit Judges.
HOLMES, CIRCUIT JUDGE
a jury trial in the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Oklahoma, Defendant-Appellant Nikolle
Denise Dixon was convicted on one count of embezzlement and
theft from an Indian tribal organization, 18 U.S.C. §
to trial, Ms. Dixon filed a Notice of Defense of duress, on
the theory that she faced an imminent threat of sexual
assault from her stepfather and that her Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder ("PTSD") caused her to believe that
no recourse to escape that assault was available except
through theft. More specifically, Ms. Dixon asked the court
to consider her theory of duress under the elements for that
defense spelled out in Tenth Circuit Pattern Jury Instruction
No. 1.36 ("Pattern Instruction 1.36"). In response,
the government filed a motion in limine, asking the
court to reject the defense and to exclude all evidence and
testimony relevant to the defense. The court granted the
ensure preservation of her objection, shortly before trial,
Ms. Dixon's counsel offered Pattern Instruction 1.36 for
the court's possible presentation to the jury and filed a
written proffer of the expert testimony that would be
elicited in support of her duress defense. At trial, however,
the court maintained its previous ruling, which rejected the
defense, and the jury convicted Ms. Dixon.
appeal, Ms. Dixon asks us to reverse the district court's
decision to reject her duress defense and, more specifically,
her related request for a jury instruction. Ms. Dixon
contends that her duress defense was viable because her
actions were reasonable when viewed through the lens of her
history of sexual abuse and her diagnosis of PTSD. Exercising
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we reject this
argument and affirm the district court's
events relating to Ms. Dixon's conviction for
embezzlement occurred in 2013 and 2014, but the events
underlying her claimed defense of duress are more
Dixon was employed as a cashier at the Pocola Travel Plaza
("Travel Plaza"), a convenience store owned by the
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. On January 6, 2014, a Choctaw
Tribal officer was dispatched to speak with the Travel Plaza
Director, who informed the officer that Ms. Dixon was voiding
out cash sales and pocketing the sales at the end of her
shifts. A review of three days of surveillance video showed
that Ms. Dixon had voided a total of $1, 536.81 in sales
transactions. A more longitudinal review revealed that Ms.
Dixon voided over 845 transactions totaling $16, 937.83
during the period between October 20, 2013, and January 4,
2014. Investigators were not able to determine how much was
taken prior to October 2013, due to a lack of transaction
journals before that time.
Dixon admitted to taking the money at a February 21, 2014,
interview with an investigator for the Choctaw Tribal Police.
In the interview, Ms. Dixon indicated that she felt like she
had to steal the money because of the financial situation in
time of the theft, Ms. Dixon was twenty-one years old. She
lived at home and was a caretaker for her disabled mother.
Ms. Dixon attended college during this time but struggled
because of severe emotional issues. Those emotional issues
accrued during childhood and allegedly were directly related
to her stepfather's occupancy of the home that Ms. Dixon
shared with her mother; the stepfather began living with them
when Ms. Dixon was twelve years old. During his time in the
home, Ms. Dixon's stepfather allegedly sexually assaulted
her on a near-daily basis. Even after her stepfather moved
out of the house, he allegedly continued to abuse her, albeit
less frequently. Ms. Dixon never reported the abuse to her
mother or the authorities prior to her indictment, in large
part due to threats that her stepfather allegedly made
against the lives of Ms. Dixon and her mother.
before Ms. Dixon began to steal from the Travel Plaza, her
stepfather cut off financial support to the family and
refused to assist financially unless he was allowed to move
back into the home. Ms. Dixon's mother wanted the
stepfather to return in order to alleviate their financial
hardship. Ms. Dixon was unable to explain her fear of her
stepfather's return to her mother. But this fear
allegedly impelled Ms. Dixon to begin embezzling from the
Travel Plaza and giving her mother the money to pay the
bills, in the hope of keeping her stepfather at bay. Ms.
Dixon states that she did so, "knowing that if my mother
had enough money, she wouldn't let [her stepfather] move
back into the house." R., Supp. Vol. I, at 132 (Aff. of
Dixon was indicted by a grand jury for her embezzlement
offense on December 9, 2015. Thereafter, she began receiving
psychological therapy from Dr. Patricia Nation, a licensed
counselor, sociologist, and criminologist employed by the
Choctaw Nation. Dr. Nation diagnosed Ms. Dixon with PTSD and
Dissociative Disorder. Dr. Nation's evaluation found
that, consistent with PTSD's clinical criteria, Ms. Dixon
was exposed to traumatic events (i.e., the sexual abuse and
threats of extreme violence against her mother if she
reported the abuse); consequently, she experienced
flashbacks, dissociation, distressing memories and the need
to avoid them, persistent and exaggerated negative feelings,
and feelings of detachment from others. Dr. Nation found
Dixon was sexually abused for many years resulting in her
mental health diagnoses, as a result she believed there to be
no hope, no help coming, and that she had no power over her
body or her life . . . . Dixon saw no alternative to her
actions[, ] and by taking the money, she was able to secure
some momentary peace and safety.
R., Supp. Vol. I, at 27 (Aff. of Patricia Nation, dated Aug.
26, 2016). Dr. Nation concluded that Ms. Dixon's
diagnoses directly stemmed from the long-term sexual abuse
she suffered at the hands of her stepfather. As a result of
the counseling with Dr. Nation, Ms. Dixon reported the abuse
(apparently to law enforcement), but her stepfather died
before any criminal action against him could be initiated.
Curtis Grundy also corroborated Dr. Nation's diagnosis of
PTSD and Dissociative Disorder. After conducting a forensic
psychological examination of Ms. Dixon, Dr. Grundy agreed
that Ms. Dixon's results were "strongly
characteristic of an individual with a genuine disorder who
is making no efforts to overstate her symptoms."
Id. at 127 (Psych. Rpt. of Curtis Grundy, dated May
20, 2016). Specifically, Dr. Grundy found that "Ms.
Dixon described experiencing increased symptoms of [PTSD] and
depression, explaining that she could not cope with her
stepfather returning to live with her and her mother . . . .