Perrone v. United States

Learn died after Perrone injected her with cocaine in 2008. Perrone pleaded guilty to unlawful drug distribution and stipulated that his distribution of the cocaine caused Learn’s death, claiming that they had made a “suicide pact.” The court applied a statutory enhancement that mandates a 20-year minimum prison term if unlawful drug distribution results in death. The Supreme Court later clarified that this provision requires a defendant’s drugs to be a but-for cause of the death, not merely a contributing cause. Perrone filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. 2255, arguing that the narrowed interpretation indicated that he is actually innocent of causing Learn’s death and that his counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of a Seventh Circuit case decided one day before his sentencing that narrowly interpreted the enhancement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. While the coroner’s report listed the cause of death as “[c]ombined toxicity with cocaine, ethanol and opiates,” Perrone stated he gave Learn additional cocaine because he concluded that she would not die without it. Perrone cannot establish that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have voted to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Even assuming that Perrone could show “deficient performance” by counsel, it is unlikely that he could satisfy the “prejudice” prong. The evidence of causation was strong and his plea agreement allowed him to obtain a sentence reduction for cooperating View "Perrone v. United States" on Justia Law