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Sinisterra v. US, No. 08-1925

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By FindLaw Staff on April 01, 2010 12:04 PM

Sinisterra v. US, No. 08-1925, concerned a capital murder prosecution, in which the district court denied defendant's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. section 2255.  The court of appeals affirmed in part, holding that 1) the prosecutor's closing remarks did not have the effect of diverting the jury from its role in weighing defendant's mitigation evidence; and 2) defendant failed to show that, had counsel objected to improper statements by the prosecutor, he would not have received the death sentence.  However, the court reversed in part where the record did not conclusively show that defendant's attorneys acted within the range of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases.

As the court wrote:  "German Sinisterra was convicted of murder, drug trafficking, traveling in interstate commerce with the intent to commit a murder for hire, and criminal forfeiture, and was sentenced to death. After his convictions and sentence were affirmed on appeal, United States v. Ortiz, 315 F.3d 873 (8th Cir. 2002), Sinisterra moved to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Sinisterra argued, among other things, that he had been denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel during the penalty phase of his trial. The district court denied the motion without holding an evidentiary hearing, and Sinisterra appeals. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for an evidentiary hearing."

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