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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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