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Name: Plascencia v. Alameida
Case #: 05-56458
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 11/03/2006

The appellate court affirmed the district court’s denial of Mara Plascencia’s habeas petition challenging her murder conviction. The court first held that trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance by failing to investigate the background and motives of the two jailhouse informants, because counsel in fact sought to discredit the informants by demonstrating their motivations for testifying and the inconsistencies in their stories. The court also held that the trial court’s limitations on Plascencia’s cross-examination were reasonable and did not violate the Confrontation Clause. Further, testimony about and photographs of the victim did not amount to victim-impact or sympathy evidence, or otherwise inflame the passions of the jury. Therefore, counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to this evidence. Likewise, the panel held that the police witnesses did not testify as to their opinions on who committed the murder and counsel was not ineffective for failing to object. The trial court did err by admitting evidence of Plascencia’s drug use, but that the error did not render her trial fundamentally unfair. Similarly, trial counsel was deficient for failing to object to this evidence, but Plascencia had failed to demonstrate prejudice. The court finally held that Plascencia’s sentencing enhancement for use of a firearm did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause, and that her 50-years-to-life sentence did not violate the Eighth Amendment.