Man convicted in cartel killing loses appeal

Published 9:30 am Friday, March 10, 2017

FARGO, N.D. — A man convicted of murder in a North Dakota drug conspiracy case tied to a major Mexican cartel has lost his appeal after asserting that his lawyers did a poor job and one of them was too chummy with a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson of North Dakota sentenced Gabriel Martinez to life in prison in 2008 for the shooting death of Lee Avila of East Grand Forks, Minnesota. The killing was tied to the violent Arellano Felix cartel based in Tijuana, Mexico.

Martinez said in his appeal that defense attorney Thomas Dickson told him Erickson “owed him favors” and Martinez should take a plea deal rather than go to trial.

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U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken of South Dakota heard the appeal because Erickson was called to testify.