Anderson v. United States, No. 19-1257 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Anderson participated in an Illinois conspiracy to distribute heroin that included a dealer, Mansini. In 2012, Reader, a 21-year-old addict, purchased and used heroin from another dealer. Later that day, Reader purchased an additional half-gram of heroin from Mansini, who had obtained it from Anderson. Reader used that heroin and was found dead that evening. According to the coroner’s report, the cause of death was “opiate intoxication.” The report did not attribute Reader’s death to one particular heroin dose or make findings on the incremental effects of other drugs. Anderson and others were charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), 846. Three defendants, including Anderson, pleaded guilty. Anderson admitted to distributing the heroin that resulted in Reader’s death, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Anderson concurred with the plea agreement’s factual statements but told the court that he might have a factual defense to Reader’s death because Reader had bought heroin from other sources and used prescription drugs. The court sentenced him to 223 months’ imprisonment.
Anderson's 28 U.S.C. 2255 petition claimed ineffective assistance of counsel because his counsel did not adequately investigate the cause of Reader’s death and advise Anderson of the “but-for” causation standard articulated by the Supreme Court in 2014. Counsel responded that Anderson authorized her to proceed with plea negotiations without hiring a medical examiner and she was “not trained to interpret toxicology results” and “never discussed” the toxicology evidence with anyone who had relevant training. The Seventh Circuit vacated a denial of relief. Anderson was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.