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Neeley v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

February 5, 2019

DOROTHY M. NEELEY, Petitioner,



         For the reasons explained in this Entry, the motion of Dorothy Neeley for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 must be denied and the action dismissed with prejudice. In addition, the Court finds that a certificate of appealability should not issue.

         I. The § 2255 Motion

          A court may grant relief from a federal conviction or sentence pursuant to § 2255 “upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). “Relief under this statute is available only in extraordinary situations, such as an error of constitutional or jurisdictional magnitude or where a fundamental defect has occurred which results in a complete miscarriage of justice.” Blake v. United States, 723 F.3d 870, 878-79 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Prewitt v. United States, 83 F.3d 812, 816 (7th Cir. 1996); Barnickel v. United States, 113 F.3d 704, 705 (7th Cir. 1997).

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         Neeley and several others were “involved in a vast methamphetamine-distribution conspiracy in an around North Vernon, Indiana from October 2013 through May 2014.” United States v. Maggard, 865 F.3d 960, 964 (7th Cir. 2017). As part of this conspiracy, Neeley supplied methamphetamine to her codefendant Jeremy Jackson. On April 5, 2014, she sold him a particularly potent batch that ultimately killed Jackson's wife Jessie. Id.

         On August 4, 2015, Neeley and others were charged in a ten-count Second Superseding Indictment in this Court. Neeley was charged in Counts 1, 4, 6, and 8. Count 1 charged conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. Counts 4, 6, and 8 charged distribution of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). The Second Superseding Indictment also contained a sentencing enhancement alleging that a death resulted from the use of methamphetamine distributed by Neeley and Jackson as charged in Counts 1, 6, and 7.

         On September 25, 2015, Neeley was found guilty by a jury of Counts 1, 4, 6, and 8, including the sentencing enhancement for engaging in drug trafficking activity resulting in death. Neeley was sentenced to 264 months imprisonment to be followed by five years of supervised release. Neeley appealed, and the Seventh Circuit upheld her convictions and sentence. See United States v. Maggard, 865 F.3d 960 (7th Cir. 2017).

         On November 27, 2017, Neeley filed a motion for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Neeley was later permitted to supplement her § 2255 motion. The United States has responded to the motion and the supplement.

         III. Discussion

         Neeley challenges her conviction and sentence arguing that her counsel was ineffective in a number of ways: (1) for failing to investigate the death charged in Counts 1 and 6; (2) failing to file a motion to sever; (3) failing to object to the sentence enhancement; and (4) failing to file a separate appeal. Ms. Neeley later supplemented her § 2255 motion claiming that her Sixth Amendment right to confront her codefendant was violated.

         A. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Neeley first asserts that her counsel was deficient. A petitioner claiming ineffective assistance of counsel bears the burden of showing (1) that trial counsel's performance fell below objective standards for reasonably effective representation and (2) that this deficiency prejudiced the defense. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688-94 (1984). If a petitioner cannot establish one of the Strickland prongs, the court need not consider the other. Groves v. United States, 755 F.3d 588, 591 (7th Cir. 2014). To satisfy the first prong of the Strickland test, the petitioner must direct the Court to specific acts or omissions of his counsel. Wyatt v. United States, 574 F.3d 455, 458 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court must then consider whether in light of all of the circumstances counsel's performance was outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690. To satisfy the prejudice component, Neeley must establish that “there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. Each of Neeley's specifications of ineffective assistance is discussed below.

         1. Failure ...

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