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Massaro v. United States

United States Supreme Court
538 U.S. 500 (2003)


Massaro (defendant) was indicted on federal racketeering charges, including murder. The day before his trial, prosecutors discovered a key piece of evidence, namely, a bullet found in the victim’s car. The prosecution, however, did not notify defense counsel of this development until the trial had started and the defense had made its opening statement. After the defense had been informed of the development, but still during the trial, defense counsel refused the trial court’s offer of a continuance, so that the bullet could be examined. Massaro was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. On direct appeal and represented by new counsel, Massaro argued that the district court had erred in admitting the evidence of the bullet, but did not raise an ineffective counsel claim. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the conviction. Massaro later filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, seeking to vacate the conviction, because he claimed that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel since his counsel failed to accept the trial court’s offer of a continuance. The district court found that this motion was procedurally defaulted, because Massaro could have made it on direct appeal, but did not. The Second Circuit affirmed. It held that when a defendant is represented by new counsel on appeal, as Massaro was, and he makes a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel solely on the basis of the trial record, then that claim has to be made on direct appeal. If the defendant fails to make the claim on direct appeal, the result is procedural default, unless he can show cause and prejudice. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

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