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Decisions in Criminal Cases on Strickland Claim and Safety Valve Sentencing Provision

By FindLaw Staff on March 18, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Sixth Circuit decided two criminal cases involving ineffective assistance of counsel claim and a challenge to a denial of application of the safety valve sentencing provision.

In Thompson v. Warden, Belmont Corr. Inst., No. 08-3743, the court faced a challenge to the district court's conditional grant of defendant's habeas petition for his conviction of stealing a motor vehicle, possession of crack cocaine, carrying a concealed weapon and receiving stolen property, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel.  However, because the defendant failed to satisfy the deficient performance prong of Strickland, he cannot show that his counsel performed deficiently for failing to raise a Blakely claim.

In US v. Pena, No. 09-3073, the court addressed the district court's denial of defendant's request for application of the "safety valve" sentencing provision which permits a two-level reduction for certain defendants who fully cooperate with the government.  The defendant claimed that he did not give prosecution all the information he had regarding the drug trafficking offense for which he was convicted, because of his fears of retaliation.  However, the court rejected this argument and held that there is no such exception to the sentencing guidelines stating that a defendant cannot fully cooperate due to fear of retaliation.

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