United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
ORDER DENYING § 2255 MOTION
Morris United States District Court Judge.
case comes before the Court on Defendant/Movant Samantha
Renee Headcarrier's motion to vacate, set aside, or
correct her sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
Headcarrier filed the motion pro se. After requiring the
United States to file certain discovery and to serve a copy
on Headcarrier, the Court appointed counsel Daniel V. Donovan
to file an amended motion and to ensure that Headcarrier or
counsel were able to review the discovery.
filed two technical amendments to the original § 2255
motion and determined the discovery produced by the United
States had been produced to defense counsel at the time of
trial. See Notice of Ams. (Doc. 73) at 1-2; Resp. to
Order (Doc. 75) at 2-3.
the United States must respond to the § 2255 motion, the
Court must determine whether “the motion and the files
and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner
is entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b);
see also Rule 4(b), Rules Governing Section 2255
Proceedings for the United States District Courts. A
petitioner “who is able to state facts showing a real
possibility of constitutional error should survive Rule 4
review.” Calderon v. United States Dist.
Court, 98 F.3d 1102, 1109 (9th Cir. 1996)
(“Nicolas”) (Schroeder, C.J.,
concurring) (referring to Rules Governing § 2254 Cases).
The Court should “eliminate the burden that would be
placed on the respondent by ordering an unnecessary
answer.” Advisory Committee Note (1976), Rule 4, Rules
Governing § 2254 Cases, cited in Advisory
Committee Note (1976), Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2255
case concerned grave injuries inflicted on two separate
occasions on M.L.R., a niece of Defendant Headcarrier. At the
time of the first incident, in July of 2013, M. was six
months old. At the time of the second incident, on September
4, 2013, M. was eight months old. Headcarrier was 23 years
old, pregnant, had a four- or five-year-old son, and was
addicted to prescription pain relievers due to rheumatoid
arthritis and other issues. She took custody of her niece
when Child Protective Services was looking for a home for the
girl. Despite her initial attempt to take responsibility for
her niece, Headcarrier was unable to care for her properly.
2013, when M. was crying, Headcarrier hit M. on the left side
of her head with the back of her hand, “like an
adult.” M. fell backwards and struck her head on the
cement floor. After the assault, M. slept and threw up a lot
and would sometimes fall over while sitting.
September 4, 2013, when M. was again crying, Headcarrier hit
her in the back of the head with a baby bottle. Five minutes
later, M. had a seizure. She was unable to breathe properly
and unable to hold up her head. M.'s injuries seriously
impeded her development. M. may have long-term or permanent
disabilities, including seizures, cognitive impairment,
blindness, and inability to walk, talk, or eat without
jury indicted Headcarrier on November 22, 2013, on one count
of assault resulting in serious bodily injury in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(6) (Count 1); one count of assault
with a dangerous weapon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
113(a)(3) (Count 2); one count of felony child abuse in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1153(b) and Mont. Code Ann.
§ 45-5-212 (Count 3); and one count of making a false
statement to a federal officer in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1001(a)(2) (Count 4). Conviction on either Count 1 or
Count 2 carried a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years and
a maximum of life in prison. See 18 U.S.C. §
3559(f)(3). The Court appointed Assistant Federal Defender
David Ness to represent Headcarrier. Minutes (Doc. 6); Order
parties reached a plea agreement. Headcarrier agreed to plead
guilty to Counts 1 and 3 of the Indictment (the September and
July assaults, respectively) and waived her right to appeal
the sentence. The United States agreed to dismiss Counts 2
and 4 and to give Headcarrier full credit for acceptance of
responsibility. Plea Agreement (Doc. 36) at 2-3 ¶¶
2-3, 7-8 ¶ 6, 8 ¶ 8. Headcarrier pled guilty in
open court on June 3, 2014. Minutes (Doc. 34).
sentencing, counsel submitted letters from friends and
relatives and certificates from a treatment program on
Headcarrier's behalf. See Letters (Doc. 43).
Headcarrier's base offense level was 14. She received
upward adjustments because she used a dangerous weapon, she
inflicted permanent or life-threatening injury, and M. was a
vulnerable victim. Headcarrier also received a three-level
downward adjustment for acceptance of responsibility. Her
total adjusted offense level was 23. She had no criminal
history points and was in category I. Her advisory guideline
range would have been 46-57 months, but the statutory
mandatory minimum term attached to Count 1 overrode the
guideline range and set it at 120 months. Cf.
U.S.S.G. §§ 5G1.1(b), 5G1.2(a), (c). The Court
sentenced Headcarrier to serve the mandatory minimum sentence
of 120 months in prison, to be followed by three years of
supervised release. Minutes (Doc. 48); Judgment (Doc. 50) at
appealed. Counsel moved to withdraw and filed an
Anders brief. See Anders v. California, 386
U.S. 738 (1967). Following its independent review of the
record, the Ninth Circuit granted the motion to withdraw and
dismissed the appeal on August 3, 2015. Mem. (Doc. 58) at
1-2, United States v. Headcarrier, No. 14-30203 (9th
Cir. Aug. 3, 2015).
conviction became final on November 2, 2015. Gonzalez v.
Thaler, 565 U.S. 134, 150 (2013). She timely filed her
§ 2255 motion on July 19, 2016. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255(f)(1); Mot. § 2255 (Doc. 60) at 6 ¶ C;
Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 270-71 (1988).
claims that trial counsel violated her Sixth Amendment right
to the effective assistance of counsel in several respects.
Headcarrier first alleges that counsel should have moved to
suppress her self-incriminating statements. She also claims
that she would have been in a stronger plea-bargaining
position had counsel filed such a motion. Mem. in Supp. of
§ 2255 Mot. (Doc. 61) (“Mem.”) at 5-8.
Headcarrier next asserts that counsel failed to investigate
and present important exculpatory or mitigating evidence
regarding Child Protective Services' decision to place M.
in Headcarrier's home and regarding Headcarrier's
drug and alcohol dependence. She claims this evidence would
have been useful in plea negotiations, might have supported a
defense, and should have been cited in a request that she be
admitted to the Residential Drug Abuse Prevention program in
prison. Mem. at 9-12. Third, Headcarrier argues that counsel
should have hired experts “to review the victim's
medical history and refute the prosecution's theory of
causation of the victim's injuries.” Id.
at 9-10; see also Notice of Ams. (Doc. 73) at 1-2.
Finally, Headcarrier claims that counsel provided ineffective
assistance because he failed to raise these issues on appeal.
Mem. at 12-13.