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. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.