SAN FRANCISCO — Ronald Deere killed his girlfriend’s brother-in-law and two children, then told his trial lawyers not to defend him. He wanted to die for his crimes.

Thirty years later his federal habeas corpus lawyers are fighting for Deere’s life with the state of California, and occasionally Deere himself. On Monday the disagreements appeared to extend to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, too. Judge William Fletcher sounded eager to uphold a lower court decision finding Deere received ineffective assistance of counsel when he entered his plea, while Judges Barry Silverman and Johnnie Rawlinson expressed skepticism.

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