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United States v. Door

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

May 23, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
GARRETT DEAN DOOR, SR., Defendant/Movant.



         This case comes before the Court on Defendant/Movant Garrett Dean Door's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Door is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se.

         I. Preliminary Review

         Before the United States answers the motion, the Court must decide 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). But the Court has a duty to "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 Proceedings.

         II. Background

         A grand jury indicted Door on one count of aggravated sexual abuse, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2241(a), and one count of assault with intent to commit aggravated sexual abuse, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(1). The indictment alleged that Door used force to engage in a sexual act with E.S. and that he struck her face and strangled her with his hands. Jurisdiction was predicated on the Major Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1153(a). See Indictment (Doc. 1) 2.

         Trial commenced on December 15, 2014. Testimony concluded on December 17, 2014. The case went to the jury at about noon. After deliberating for a little less than two hours, the jury convicted Door on both counts. Minutes (Docs. 89, 91, 92); Verdict (Doc. 100).

         On June 3, 2015, Door was sentenced to serve a total of 327 months in prison, to be followed by a life term of supervised release. See Minutes (Doc. 60); Judgment (Doc. 61) at 2-3.

         Door appealed, challenging the admission of testimony from a previous victim under Federal Rules of Evidence 413 and 403. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction on October 19, 2016. He filed a petition for writ of certiorari, but it was denied on February 21, 2017. See Clerk Letter (Doc. 78) at 1.

         Door's conviction became final on February 21, 2017. He timely filed his § 2255 motion on September 8, 2017. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1); Gonzalez v. Thaler, 565 U.S. 134, 150 (2012); see also Mot. § 2255 (Doc. 79) at 12, Supp. (Doc. 79-1) at 10; Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988). He also filed a timely supplement alleging that the evidence he describes in Claims 1, 3, and 4 was inadmissible and that he could not have been convicted if the evidence had not been admitted. See Second Supp. (Doc. 81) at 1-2.

         III. Claims and Analysis

         Each of the following claims could have been raised at the trial stage and on appeal. None were, so all are defaulted. See United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 162, 168 (1982). Door explains that counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the claims. See Mot. § 2255 (Doc. 79) at 4-8; Supp. (Doc. 79-1) at 5. The Court will consider the merits of the defaulted claims as well as the merits of the accompanying claim of ineffective assistance.

         The existing record of the case shows that Door is not entitled to relief on any of his claims.

         A. Claim 1

         Door claims, first, that law enforcement officers should have obtained a warrant from a Crow Nation Tribal Court judge to search the remote, rural area where the incident occurred. See Mot. § 2255 (Doc. 79) at 4 Ground One; Second Supp. (Doc. 81) at 1-2.

         When the victim reported the crime, Big Horn County Deputy Turner responded to the Rodeway Inn in Hardin. See 1 Trial Tr. (Doc. 69) at 41:21-42:3, 64:24-65:2, 131:18-132:6. Hardin is not on the Crow Indian Reservation. See Fed.R.Evid. 201(b). The victim identified her assailant, who "was a tribal member." Turner contacted the Bureau of Indian Affairs. See 1 Trial Tr. at 133:23-18. FBI Agent Walter was dispatched to the Rodeway Inn. He took the victim back to the scene of the crime to determine whether it was on or off the Crow Indian Reservation. It was on the Reservation. See 2 Trial Tr. (Doc. 70) at 166:21-167:1, 168:21-170:12, 177:14-18.

         As explained at trial, federal officers attempted to find out who owned the property where the crime occurred but were unable to do so. They entered the property and searched it because the victim's appearance and statements gave them probable cause to believe a crime occurred in the location she identified and because there were two exigent circumstances. First, it was beginning to rain, which would likely destroy at least some evidence. Second, it was getting dark and cold. After the victim escaped from Door, she got back into her vehicle and drove away, leaving Door stranded and in a highly intoxicated state. He might have still been on the property and unable to protect himself in the changing weather conditions. See 2 Trial Tr. (Doc. 70) at 172:2-173:20, 179:5-12. To the extent a warrant would have been required, the United States' failure to obtain one was excused by the combination of probable cause and exigent circumstances. See United States v. Alamailo, 313 F.3d 1188, 1192-93 (9th Cir. 2002).

         But the Fourth Amendment did not even apply. The search was conducted in an open field. See Gov't Exs. Docs. 45-2 through 45-5. The Fourth Amendment protects "persons, houses, papers, and effects." U.S. Const, amend. IV. An open field is none of these things. It may be fenced with locked gates and posted with "No Trespassing" signs. It may be thickly wooded or too vast to be taken in by the human eye. It may not be visible at all from a publicly accessible location such as a road. See Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 177-81 & nn.9-11 (1984). Regardless, "open fields do not provide the setting for those intimate activities that the [Fourth] Amendment is intended to shelter from government interference or surveillance." Id. at 179. No. warrant is required as a precondition to entering or searching an open field.

         Door appears to believe federal officers must obtain leave from a tribal court before entering a reservation, or at least before entering the Crow Indian Reservation. But he cites no authority to support ...

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