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Anderson v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 2, 2017

Denny Ray Anderson, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
United States of America, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued January 10, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 1:13-cv-01734-TWP-MJD - Tanya Walton Pratt, Judge.

          Before Wood, Chief Judge, and Rovner and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          WOOD, CHIEF JUDGE.

         At the time Denny Ray Anderson pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, the district court had only a general knowledge of Anderson's mental-health problems. The court knew that Anderson had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and that he was on psychotropic medication. But it did not know what other illnesses Anderson had, what medication he had been prescribed, and how the drugs affected his functioning. The court also was unaware that Anderson had only spotty access to his medication while in jail awaiting trial. His appointed counsel, who had observed Anderson behaving unusually at points since his detention began, never requested a competence evaluation or hearing.

         Anderson's plea agreement prevented him from directly appealing his conviction and sentence, but he was nonetheless entitled to file a motion for collateral relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. He did so, supporting his motion with two arguments: first, that he was not competent at the time of his guilty plea because of his illnesses and the effects of the medications he was taking; and second, that his attorney provided constitutionally defective assistance for failing to challenge his competence. The district court rejected his petition outright. On appeal, he requests an evidentiary hearing to develop facts related to these interrelated claims. We agree that a hearing is appropriate.

         I

         Anderson's mental health was a recurring theme in the underlying offense for which he now seeks relief under section 2255. He was indicted on October 19, 2011, for being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e), a charge to which he ultimately pleaded guilty. At the government's request, he was held in Indiana's Marion County Jail pending trial. Although the court had appointed Anderson counsel, he still filed several pro se motions. In one, he asked the court to dismiss his attorney because his attorney was "not getting medical [r]ecords." Anderson also alleged that his appointed lawyer had violated his constitutional rights by seeking a continuance. His counsel resisted the request to withdraw, but Anderson told the court that he would rather represent himself than have this lawyer remain on the case.

         After a hearing in February 2012, the court decided to grant Anderson's request for a new lawyer. It appointed attorney Jesse A. Cook to replace the first lawyer. About six months later, on August 16, 2012, Anderson filed with Cook's assistance a petition to enter a guilty plea. At the same time, the parties submitted a written agreement that provided Anderson would plead guilty in return for a sentence of 15 years' imprisonment. In the deal, Anderson expressly waived his right to bring a direct appeal from the conviction and sentence. He did not waive his right to file any kind of collateral attack.

         The district court held a change of plea hearing on August 27, 2012. At the start of the proceeding, the court called Anderson and Cook to the lectern. The transcript reveals that Anderson started to approach the podium but apparently changed course. The court summoned him again: "Come right here. Where are you going, Mr. Anderson?" Anderson said nothing, but the government's attorney remarked: "Ready to run around for a while." The court then told Anderson, "You have to stay in here." That ended the episode, and the court proceeded to obtain Anderson's plea.

         Later in the hearing, the district court asked about Anderson's mental health:

Court: Have you been treated recently for any mental illness or addictions to alcohol or narcotic drugs of any kind?
Anderson: I'm on psychotropic drugs right now.
Court: Okay. What's your diagnosis?
Anderson: Paranoid schizophrenia and a few other things. I don't know ...

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