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Home / Case Digests / 00-2167 Valenzuela v. U.S.

00-2167 Valenzuela v. U.S.

“Valenzuela alleges that his counsel was deficient because he did not call an expert witness to refute the government’s contention that the controlled substances at issue were crack cocaine rather than powder cocaine or another form of cocaine base. At the sentencing hearing, Valenzuela’s attorney strenuously cross-examined the government’s witnesses to establish the limitations of the police officers’ ability to ascertain that the substances in question were actually crack cocaine. Valenzuela asserts that this was not sufficient; he claims that his counsel should have called a chemist to testify that, based on the lab reports as presented at the sentencing hearing, it would not be possible to determine to a scientific certainty that the substances in question were crack cocaine. Unfortunately for Valenzuela, however, ‘[a] lawyer’s decision to call or not to call a witness is a strategic decision generally not subject to review.’… Here, Valenzuela’s attorney established on cross-examination that: (1) the police officers did not have a background in chemistry; (2) the police officers did not perform the lab tests themselves; (3) many of the lab reports used the term ‘rock’ as opposed to the term ‘crack’ and none of the lab reports state that the cocaine tested positive for crack; and (4) the police reports of the cocaine purchases did not use the term ‘crack.’ Given this testimony, we are unsure what, if any, added value the proposed witness would have added. Thus, because Valenzuela has not demonstrated that his counsel’s decision not to call a chemist was unreasonable under prevailing professional norms, his second ineffective assistance of counsel claim must fail.”


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Marovich, J., Kanne, J.

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