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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. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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