Sometimes the courts just get it wrong. Sometimes as a result of a mistake, sometimes as a result of misconduct, a defendant is unduly convicted. When this happens, luckily there are ways to correct this issue. Oklahoma has a criminal appeals system to correct those mistakes. Defendants may use their trial attorney or select a criminal defense attorney with a different perspective or more experience to handle their criminal appeals. Here is more information about criminal appeals and how they are handled in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
What is a Criminal Appeal?
There are varying kinds of appeals. The most common kind is a direct appeal. Anytime a person is convicted, that person should file a direct appeal of their conviction with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. A direct appeal is a term for any appeal filed on a conviction. Convicted defendants have the right to appeal as a fundamental right.
A direct criminal appeal is always filed as a petition for review to a higher court regarding the conviction in a lower court. It can be filed in state court or in federal court depending on the jurisdiction of the underlying matter. In general, state courts hear matters arising out of state law violations while federal courts hear matters arising out of federal law violations or which arise out of a federal question, such as a constitutional question. An example of a typical federal criminal court appeal arises out of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
It is also possible to file a collateral appeal in the same court as the underlying conviction. This is also sometimes called a post-conviction appeal. This type of appeal is limited to federal courts and often occurs in capital murder cases or with violent felony cases.
Rules Regarding Appeals
Criminal appeals are subject to stringent court procedures and rules. Generally, the process is begun by filing a Notice of Appeal. The timeline for filing the Notice of Appeal and the appellate briefs is strict and short. Often, the Notice of Appeal must be filed within days of the underlying court’s conviction.
Because the timeline is often short, it is helpful to have an experienced criminal appeals attorney review everything as soon as possible after the conviction. Because some of the grounds for appeal include the possibility of ineffectual assistance of counsel in the underlying trial, it is usually helpful to have fresh eyes review and handle the appeal. In addition, appeals require a high degree of research and writing. Many attorneys specialize in this aspect of criminal law.
Grounds For Appeal
Grounds for appeal can usually be broken down into errors law, fact, procedure or due process. Once the trial is concluded and the trial transcript is made available, an appellate attorney reviews the entire record and develops a comprehensive appeals plan to include all possible appeals that might be necessary.
In order for an error to be the grounds for an appeal, it must have fundamentally affected the outcome of the trial. Many mistakes occur during trials that do not affect the outcome. These are called “harmless error” and are not appealable.
Legal errors are often the basis for a direct appeal. This is usually a mistake that the judge made and van include evidence that was improperly admitted, a mistake in the jury instructions issued by the court, or other rulings made by the judge that were a serious enough mistake to have reasonably affected the outcome of the case.
Jury misconduct can and does occur. Jurors are human and it is unfortunate that when they blunder or don’t take the process seriously, it can result in a miscarriage of justice.
Jury misconduct most often occurs when a juror has an improper communication about the case with a person either outside the courtroom or has an improper conversation with a one of the parties or their attorney inside the courtroom. Other types of jury misconduct can include lying during initial jury questioning, the voir dire, accepting a bribe, and using drugs or alcohol while engaging in juror duties.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
This is one of the most common grounds for appeal. Attorneys make judgement calls throughout a trial regarding what arguments to make, whether to cross-examine a witness, whether to allow the defendant to testify. There are a thousand kinds of mistakes that an attorney may make. Some of them are appealable and some are not. In general, the appeal must show that trial counsel’s performance was deficient, and that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense.
Other grounds for appeal include prosecutorial misconduct and the discovery of new evidence. Prosecutorial misconduct is when the prosecutor cheats or tries to win their case in an underhanded manner. Not playing by the rules lays the groundwork for an appeal. The discovery of new evidence often includes new DNA evidence.
Appeal Remedies Vary
The appeals court may rule in a number of different ways. It may reverse or affirm the underlying decision in whole or in part. It can also order a new trial or a new hearing on one aspect of the case. The matter is then sent back down to the lower court.
Consult With a Bartlesville Criminal Appeals Attorney
If you or a loved one are looking toward filing an appeal of a conviction and have questions, bring them to us. We can meet with you to discuss whether the Wirth Law Group Bartlesville attorney is the right attorney for your appeals case.
If you would like a consultation with a Bartlesville Oklahoma criminal appeals lawyer, or his staff call today — (918) 213-0950, call toll free at (888) 947-8452, or submit the question form at the top right of this page.