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7th Circuit: Attorney provided effective assistance to man facing drug charges

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a defendant’s argument that his trial attorney was ineffective because he failed to object to an interpreter arrangement during a witness’s testimony and chose not to have all of discovery translated into Spanish.

Gabriel Mendoza is serving a life sentence after being convicted of drug conspiracy and other drug offenses in federal court in South Bend. Attorney Mark Lenyo was appointed to represent Mendoza at trial. Mendoza wanted all discovery translated into Spanish, but given the volume of it, Lenyo instead summarized the discovery and had the court-appointed interpreter translate that for Mendoza.

Mendoza claimed in Gabriel v. Mendoza v. United States of America, 13-3195, 13-3196, that this decision, along with Lenyo’s failure to object to allowing one of Mendoza’s two court-appointed interpreters to move from the defense table closer to a witness to translate, resulted in ineffective assistance. Because Mendoza’s common-law wife Aurora Virruta also needed a translator and the court did not have one for witnesses, interpreter Ana Maria Toro-Greiner provided translation for Virruta while Susannah Bueno stayed at the defense table with Mendoza. Mendoza did not raise any concerns with this arrangement at trial.

The 7th Circuit affirmed the denial of Mendoza’s Section 2255 petition for relief.

“We have no reason to dispute the experienced trial judge’s credibility determinations. Given his findings that Leyno was ‘quite believable’ and Mendoza was ‘painfully unbelievable,’ there is no basis to think the judge made a mistake in finding that an interpreter was at the defense table during Virruta’s testimony. Because an interpreter was available to interpret communications between Mendoza and Lenyo at all times during Virruta’s testimony, Mendoza’s due process claim fails,” Judge John Tinder wrote.  

“Regarding counsel’s failure to object to the interpreter arrangement during Virruta’s testimony, Mendoza runs head-on into the district court’s finding that an interpreter was at the defense table and available to Mendoza for communications with counsel. Based on this finding, Mendoza’s rights were not infringed and Lenyo was not deficient in failing to object to the arrangement in which one interpreter was moved near the witness stand. But even if we were to find clear error in the district court’s finding as to the second interpreter’s location at the defense table, and assume that counsel was deficient in failing to object or ask for an alternative arrangement, such as multiple breaks during Virruta’s testimony, the claim still fails because Mendoza cannot show that counsel’s performance prejudiced the defense,” Tinder wrote.
 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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