In Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County, as well as many of the surrounding areas of South Florida, I have successfully represented my own clients who did not receive a favorable outcome of their own case as well as clients who used another attorney in the original case where I was not the representing attorney.
To win an appeal, my task is to demonstrate to an appeals court that a legal error had taken place by the court in the initial trial. Doing so allows the appellate court to replace its own findings on the issue of whether the lower court appropriately employed the law throughout the original trial. I must also prove that the error was obvious enough to have affected the outcome of the original case.
It is important to understand that an appeal is not a retrial or a second trial where new evidence may be introduced. It is very rare that an appellate court will overturn a case on "factual grounds" which are based on the verdict of a jury. The appeal court will base its decision on "legal grounds" which mean that the mistake in the ruling stemmed from a problem with the law connected to the case.
Types of legal errors can be defined as singular or multiple errors made by the court or made by law enforcement prior to the commencement of the case.
If it can be shown to an appellate court that the defendant convicted of the charges was taken into custody under a false arrest, this would be a valid reason to appeal a guilty verdict. A false arrest can occur under various circumstances. If a police agency arrests an individual without a valid warrant or if no probable cause existed to search a person's home, business or vehicle that led to said arrest there may be basis for an appeal of the criminal conviction.
Issues of juror misconduct can also be exercised when a juror or more than one juror doesn't abide by the strict rules that are put into place during a trial or during deliberations. Some examples that may be reason to raise an appeal are: jurors communicating about the case outside of the jury room with one another; having communication with the defendant's attorney or the individual accused of the charges, as well as discussing the case with one of the prosecutors or government's witnesses. This can cause the juror to shape personal opinions formed in their thought process from outside the realm of evidence provided at trial. All of these instances can be labelled inappropriate communication and proper cause for an appeal can be brought forward. In many jurisdictions raising the issue of juror misconduct can shift the burden to the prosecution to prove that no misconduct actually occurred. An appeal can also be filed if it is found that a juror was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the course of the trial or during deliberations.
Prosecutorial misconduct can also work as a defense lawyer's opportunity to raise an appeal. Again, there are many scenarios where this could have occurred. An example could be if the government's attorney purposely or in error misstated a law to the jury during any part of the trial.
In the recent highly publicized case in Ferguson, Missouri, it has been pointed out by many who've covered the proceedings that the Assistant District Attorney told the Grand Jury panel that all that was required for a police officer to use deadly force was their "reasonable belief" that there was a threat to the officer's life. As it turned out, that means was made unconstitutional by the Supreme Court almost thirty years ago. There was never a clear commentary to correct that error by anyone in the District Attorney's office before the Grand Jury was sent in to decide whether an Indictment should be returned or not. Although this was not a "court case" the parallel is a perfect example.
Other unethical acts such as appealing to a specific jury member's supposed recognized prejudices or emotions, making untruthful comments about presented evidence, or a prosecutor's unethical statements during the trial regarding the defendant's lawyer.
In cases such as these, during the initial trial, the presiding judge will frequently instruct the jury to disregard the prosecutor's comments after a competent criminal defense attorney objects to the remarks, but if it can be proved to the appellate court that the judge's attempt to correct the problem failed, an appellate court may take this into consideration when determining if a conviction should be overturned.
The presiding judge (the court) may also bring about reasons for an appeal by giving incorrect or incomplete instructions to a jury prior to their deliberations. For example, in a case where the charge is first-degree murder, if the judge does not spell out the lesser verdict choices such as second-degree murder and manslaughter, in many jurisdictions this may be reason for an appeal. By leaving out the other possible decisions the court may be ill-advising the jury of laws that are relevant to the specific case and an appellate court may recognize that as a legal error.
Other considerations for legal errors for an appeal to be raised are: sentencing errors administered by the court, improper admission or exclusion of evidence as well as the absence of sufficient evidence to support a result of a guilty verdict, ineffective assistance of counsel, and others.
In all cases it must be proved that the error was conspicuously serious or offensive enough to materially affect the outcome of the case. Or in other words, to prevail with a winning appeal the appellate court must find the error as egregious. Otherwise, the court will consider the error harmless and uphold the original verdict.
With close to forty combined years in the legal field working as an Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting cases for the government and for the past fifteen years practicing as a criminal defense attorney, my law office is the proper choice to raise an appeal after conviction, particularly in federal cases in which my law firm specializes.
To view all of my qualifications and understand what you should do if you or someone you care about is seeking an appeal after conviction, or facing any other federal criminal charges, click here.
Consummate federal criminal defense in South Florida since 2000.