Heavygun v. State

Heavygun v. State, 2016 MT 66 (March 22, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether Heavygun received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Heavygun was charged with and convicted of deliberate homicide, felony DUI, violation of an order of protection, felony criminal endangerment, driving with a suspended or revoked license, and felony tampering with physical evidence. He was sentenced to life in prison plus other concurrent sentences. His conviction was affirmed by this Court in 2011.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Heavygun petitioned for postconviction relief, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the petition, and Heavygun appeals. The Supreme Court affirms. 

Reasoning: Heavygun argues ineffective assistance on the grounds that: 1) he was represented by six public defenders, three of whom were his attorney of record; 2) his attorney failed to investigate and present evidence of his victim’s history of violence; and 3) his attorney failed to adequately prepare him to testify. Heavygun argues the cumulative effect prejudiced him and warrants reversal.

(1) This does not constitute objectively unreasonable performance under the first prong of Strickland. (2) The record does not support Heavygun’s claim. Heavygun testified that his victim’s prior violence was not on his mind at the time of the offense. Under the second prong of Strickland, Heavygun did not suffer prejudice. (3) The record shows that Heavygun’s attorney extensively prepared him for trial. This claim does not meet the first prong of Strickland.