United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER GRANTING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, SENIOR JUDGE
Anastazia Schmid was found guilty but mentally ill of murder
and related charges in an Indiana state court. Ms. Schmid now
seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254. After reviewing the record and the parties' briefs,
the Court concludes that Ms. Schmid received ineffective
assistance of counsel at trial in violation of her Sixth
Amendment rights. Ms. Schmid's counsel failed to request
a competency hearing before trial despite his inability to
communicate effectively with her about her case due to her
denying Ms. Schmid's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel
claim, the Indiana Court of Appeals unreasonably determined
the facts and unreasonably applied clearly established
Federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court
in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984),
and Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 171 (1975).
When these standards are correctly applied, they reveal that
Ms. Schmid's counsel's errors “so undermined
the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the
trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just
result.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 686.
federal habeas court “will not lightly conclude that a
State's criminal justice system has experienced the
‘extreme malfunctio[n]' for which federal habeas
relief is the remedy.” Burt v. Titlow, 571
U.S. 12, 20 (2013) (citation omitted). But this case presents
a rare instance where this has occurred. Accordingly, Ms.
Schmid's petition for a writ of habeas corpus is
GRANTED. A writ of habeas corpus shall issue
ordering Ms. Schmid's release from custody unless the
State elects to retry Ms. Schmid within 120 days of the entry
of Final Judgment.
habeas review requires the Court to “presume that the
state court's factual determinations are correct unless
the petitioner rebuts the presumption by clear and convincing
evidence.” Perez-Gonzalez v. Lashbrook, 904
F.3d 557, 562 (7th Cir. 2018); see 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1). On direct appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals
summarized the relevant facts and procedural history as
Schmid has an extensive history of psychological problems
that began when she was a young girl. By 2001, when she was
twenty-eight years of age, she had been married and divorced
and was living with her boyfriend, Tony Heathcote
(Heathcote), the victim. Schmid's prior marriage had
produced a daughter, and, on March 2, 2001, Schmid was
informed that Heathcote allegedly had molested her daughter.
Upon receiving this news, Schmid became very upset. Two days
later, on March 4, 2001, Schmid and Heathcote were having
sexual relations at their home using restraints, a dog
collar, a leash, and a blindfold when Heathcote suggested
that Schmid play the part of the little girl and Heathcote
would play the part of the daddy. This statement caused
Schmid to think of her daughter. At that time, Schmid
obtained a knife and began stabbing Heathcote who was
blindfolded and restrained at the ankles. Heathcote was
stabbed thirty-nine (39) times and died. Later, Schmid
indicated that at the time of the stabbing she had heard a
voice telling her that she was the messiah and that Heathcote
was evil and needed to be eliminated. Following a jury trial,
Schmid was convicted with verdicts of guilty but mentally
Schmid v. State, 804 N.E.2d 174, 177 (Ind.Ct.App.
Schmid was arrested on March 6, 2001, and charged with murder
and related counts. Dkt. 66-3, p. 45. Three judges presided
over the proceedings, beginning with Judge George J. Heid.
Trial Tr. 1. The court appointed public defenders
Phillip Smith and Amy Hutchinson to represent Ms. Schmid.
Id., p. 39-40. They filed a motion for a competency
hearing and Ms. Schmid was evaluated by Dr. Richard Rahdart
and Dr. Mukesh Desai. Id. p. 40. On June 25, 2001,
the trial judge determined that she was not competent, so she
was transferred to Evansville State Hospital for treatment.
Id. pp. 52-53; 62. On October 16, 2001, she returned
to the county jail. Id., p. 62.
January 16, 2002, Ms. Hutchinson filed a second motion to
determine competency because Ms. Schmid was experiencing
hallucinations and “going backwards again.”
Id. p. 51; Trial Tr. 17. The court reappointed Dr.
Rahdert and Dr. Desai, who evaluated Ms. Schmid on January 22
and 23, 2002. Id. at 18. Although both found her
competent, the court did not make a competency determination.
On February 6, 2002, the trial judge changed. Judge David J.
Crouse took over as the pro tem judge for Judge Heid.
Id. at 27.
months elapsed between Dr. Rahdert and Dr. Desai's
evaluations and the start of Ms. Schmid's trial. During
this time, she was transported several times to Wabash Valley
Hospital to be evaluated and have her medications adjusted by
a psychiatrist based on fluctuations in her mood and
behavior. Dkt. 42-4, PCR Confidential Exhibit Vol. 1, pp.
17-24, 51-54, 72-78, 83-84; PCR App. 56-57. Prior to and
during her trial, the county jail administered the following
psychiatric medications daily to Ms. Schmid: Neurontin,
Topamax, Depakote, Klonopin, Thorazine, Effexor, Zyprexa, and
Risperdal. Id., pp. 51-54.
before the trial commenced, the pro tem judge, Judge Crouse,
was relieved from his temporary duties by Judge Thomas H.
Busch, who became the third judge to preside over the case.
Trial Tr. 54. On August 12, 2002, Ms. Schmid's family
retained private counsel, David Hennessy, who became lead
counsel on the case. Dkt. 66-3, p. 54; PCR Tr. 432.
August 15, 2002, Ms. Hutchinson filed a motion to withdraw.
Dkt. 66-3, p. 75. On August 19, 2002, Mr. Hennessy filed a
motion for continuance. Dkt. 66-3, pp. 69-70. The court
denied both motions. Trial Tr. 77-78.
to the start of trial, the judge realized that a final
determination of Ms. Schmid's competency to stand trial
had never been made. Dkt. 66-3, p. 91; dkt. 66-4, pp. 2-5. On
August 23, 2002, despite 1) his lack of personal knowledge of
the proceedings before he took the bench three weeks prior;
2) the eight months that had passed since Ms. Schmid's
last evaluation, during which her medications had been
adjusted on several occasions; and 3) without any further
evaluations or a hearing to determine Ms. Schmid's
present mental state, the court entered a nunc pro
tunc competency determination backdated to February 8,
2002. Dkt. 66-4, p. 5. On September 19, 2002, the court
granted Mr. Smith's motion to withdraw as counsel. Dkt.
66-3, p.77. Ms. Hutchinson continued to assist Mr. Hennessy.
by jury began on September 30, 2002. Mr. Hennessy presented
evidence of Ms. Schmid's mental illness, including the
testimony of three psychiatrists. Dr. Desai testified to her
psychiatric history, stating “she had a history of
hallucinations from about age five . . . [and] a history of
several psychiatric hospitalizations.” Trial Tr. 613.
His diagnosis was:
she suffered from dissociative disorder not otherwise
specified [and] ... bipolar disorder with psychotic features.
The evidence for this is the history of auditory
hallucinations, hearing voices, the visual hallucinations,
seeing angels and devils, delusional belief that [Heathcote]
was the devil.
Id. at 621. Dr. Desai opined that at the time of Mr.
Heathcote's death, Ms. Schmid “was not able to
appreciate the nature and quality of her act.”
Id. at 622. Similarly, Dr. Rahdert and Dr. Coon each
diagnosed Ms. Schmid with schizoaffective disorder and both
found that she was legally insane at the time of the killing.
Id. at 688-91, 741-42. On the other hand, Dr. Crane,
the prosecution's witness, testified that he believed Ms.
Schmid was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of her acts at
the time of the murder. Id. at 782.
the trial, Schmid's attorneys had increasing concerns as
to her competence. In a sidebar on October 2, 2002, Mr.
The Court's aware from previous competency and
restoration of competency pretty much the mental condition of
Ms. Schmid. Yesterday she was having some problems and the
voices were starting and it's typical of the
schizophrenic aspect of the mental disease that they start as
whispers and build and to a crescendo and that's where
they were. Through the day we'd get a break and that
helped her and then last night [Ms. Hutchinson] went to see
her and [Ms. Hutchinson] has some real concerns after that
Id. at 223-24.
Hutchinson added that Ms. Schmid had been experiencing severe
shaking, was hearing voices, and that her eyes would
“just fixate on one spot.” Id. at 225.
The judge responded, “I don't want to question [Ms.
Schmid] because that's probably not appropriate.”
He then asked Ms. Hutchinson if Ms. Schmid knew “enough
to let you know when she's having a problem or does
someone have to observe her and let us know?”
Id. Ms. Hutchinson stated she thought Ms. Schmid
could let her know when she was having a problem and that
they would let the Court know if they questioned her
competence. Id. at 226.
further inquiry, the Court resumed the trial. The following
day, the prosecutor requested a ruling from the court that
Ms. Schmid was competent. Id. at 328. Judge Busch
asked counsel if there was any objection and stated that from
his observations, Ms. Schmid appeared aware of the
proceedings and had been communicating with counsel. In
response, Mr. Hennessy stated, “[w]e would stipulate to
that ... she's been communicating with counsel.”
Id. Ms. Hutchinson stated, “[s]he gets-she can
talk to me about the trial last night as well, it's just
the auditory voices and her eyes, I had some concerns.”
Id. at 329. The Court found her no reason to find
Ms. Schmid incompetent. Id.
jury returned its verdict on October 5, 2002, finding Ms.
Schmid guilty, but mentally ill, of murder and other related
charges. Dkt. 66-1, pp. 32-33. The court sentenced Ms. Schmid
to 55 years' incarceration, with five years suspended.
Dkt. 66-3, pp. 56-58. Ms. Schmid's conviction was upheld
on direct appeal. Schmid, 804 N.E.2d 174. After her
petition to transfer was denied by the Indiana Supreme Court,
Ms. Schmid sought state post-conviction relief. On appeal
from the denial of post-conviction relief, she argued that:
1) her attorneys were ineffective for failing to raise the
defense of use of justifiable reasonable force; 2) “she
was incompetent to stand trial, and the attorneys were
ineffective for failing to bring to the court's attention
her deteriorated mental condition”; 3) her attorneys
were ineffective for failing to communicate a plea offer; and
4) her trial attorneys were ineffective for failing to
explore the possibility that she testify. Dkt. 61-9. The
Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of
postconviction relief on August 13, 2012. Dkt. 6-11. On
transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court, Ms. Schmid reasserted
her claims, and the Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer on
November 8, 2012.
Schmid filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus
on February 11, 2014. This Court denied her petition as
untimely on June 24, 2014. The Seventh Circuit Court of
Appeals vacated the judgment and remanded the case with
instructions to consider holding an evidentiary hearing on
the issue of equitable tolling. Dkt. 49. A hearing was held
on February 15, 2019. Dkt. 101. The Court ...