I want to talk today about grounds for appealing a criminal conviction. Now people call me all the time and they say the judge was biased, the DA was corrupt, and the jury made a horrible decision. They really didn’t have a good case. Well, that’s not enough by itself to form the basis for an appeal. To appeal successfully you have to be able to demonstrate more than that. You have to be able to show that there were some legal errors that occurred at trial that prevented the person from getting a fair trial.
I’m going to talk about the five most common grounds for appeal.
The first is the improper admission of evidence, so if the judge allows a prosecutor to bring in hearsay, or to talk about the defendant’s prior record, or allows in or admits evidence that should be inadmissible. That would be a potential grounds for appeal.
The second most common grounds for appeal is prosecutorial misconduct when the DA does something underhanded. Now prosecutors are part of law enforcement. They’re supposed to uphold justice, but they do things that are below board all the time, so just commenting on the inadmissible evidence, or purposely misdating the law or evidence.
A third common ground for appeal is ineffective assistance of counsel. That’s when we say that the defense attorney did a bad job that falls below the standard of competence that is expected. So, for example, maybe there’s an alibi witness that could be very crucial to the defense, but he doesn’t call that person to the stand. This is a common grounds for appeal and is protected under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.
Another common grounds for appeal is jury misconduct, and I’ll give you an example. During a trial, the judge tells the jury all the time, “Do not discuss the case amongst yourselves. Do not form an opinion about the case until all the evidence is presented, the arguments are made, and it’s submitted to you at the end of the trial.” But let’s say the jury convicts a defendant, and afterward, it comes to light that in fact every day the jury was talking about the case in the lunchroom and that some of the jurors had decided, “Oh, I think he’s guilty,” on even the second day of trial. In a situation like that, we may be able to effectively appeal the conviction based on jury misconduct.
And a fifth common ground for appeals is insufficient evidence. This is when a jury returns a guilty verdict, but there has not been compelling evidence to support that conviction.
If you have any other questions regarding the criminal appeals process, reach out to an attorney that can answer your questions and lead you through the process if needed.