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Denial of Petition for Habeas Relief Claiming Ineffectiveness

By FindLaw Staff on April 23, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In Rainey v. Varner, No. 08-1714, the Third Circuit dealt with a defendant's petition for habeas relief, claiming that his trial and appellate counsel were ineffective for failing to challenge his first degree murder conviction on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to prove his shared intent to kill a jewelry store owner during the robbery. 

As stated in the decision: "Assuming the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to establish a shared intent to kill, it was nonetheless sufficient to establish the elements of second degree felony murder...had Rainey been retried and convicted of second degree murder, he would have received the same sentence."

Thus, in affirming district court's denial of defendant's petition, the court held that there is no prejudice under Strickland v. Washington, as evidence at trial was sufficient to prove second degree murder and a conviction for second degree murder in Pennsylvania results in a mandatory life sentence, the same sentence which defendant is now serving. 

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