In certain instances, a criminal conviction or a plea may be overturned because of an error or irregularity in the trial or plea, or newly discovered evidence. Post-conviction proceedings differ significantly from those in the trial court because they are based primarily on written submissions to the court. There is no testimony from witnesses and no jury. In order to be an effective criminal appellate lawyer, an attorney must be a good writer, a good researcher, and someone who understands criminal law.
What is An Appeal?
In the context of criminal law, an appeal is generally a challenge to a guilty verdict at trial. On appeal, a convicted person may raise a number of issues directed at errors in the trial. These may include improper instructions on the law by the court, improper prosecutorial tactics, or improper evidentiary rulings. From a lawyer’s perspective, appealing a case involves reading the recorded testimony of the trial and looking for any potential error. Once error has been identified, the lawyer submits issues in writing to the court of appeals, explaining the facts and the law, and why there was an error at trial. If the appellate court is persuaded by the lawyer’s written submission and, in some cases, argument before the court, the court may grant a defendant a new trial or punishment hearing, or reverse the conviction entirely.
What are Other Post-Conviction Remedies?
Motion for New Trial
A motion for new trial is filed following a guilty verdict or erroneous plea. The purpose of a motion for new trial is to ask the trial court to set aside the conviction or plea and effectively start the proceedings anew. A motion for new trial is often the “first bite at the apple” with respect to post-conviction relief because it is heard by the trial judge and not an appellate court. However, a motion for new trial must be filed not later than 30 days after the court imposes or suspends sentence in open court.
New trials must be granted for the following reasons:
- when the defendant has been unlawfully tried in absentia or has been denied counsel;
- when the court has misdirected the jury about the law or has committed some other material error likely to injure the defendant’s rights;
- when the verdict has been decided by lot or in any manner other than a fair expression of the jurors’ opinion;
- when a juror has been bribed to convict or has been guilty of any other corrupt conduct;
- when a material defense witness has been kept from court by force, threats, or fraud, or when evidence tending to establish the defendant’s innocence has been intentionally destroyed or withheld, thus preventing its production at trial;
- when, after retiring to deliberate, the jury has received other evidence; when a juror has talked with anyone about the case; or when a juror became so intoxicated that his or her vote was probably influenced as a result;
- when the jury has engaged in such misconduct that the defendant did not receive a fair and impartial trial; or
- when the verdict is contrary to the law and the evidence
Writs of Habeas Corpus
Writs of habeas corpus can be used after other appellate remedies have been exhausted. Not all errors are the proper subject of a writ of habeas corpus. Relief based upon a writ of habeas corpus may be granted where there is fundamental constitutional error in a case, where new evidence has been discovered, or where it has been demonstrated that a person is actually innocent.
Parole hearing representation will not undo or modify a conviction, but effective representation at a parole hearing may be the difference between whether a person is granted or denied parole. A qualified attorney can help an inmate bring evidence and arguments to the attention of the parole board in favor of an early release.
Houston Criminal Appeals lawyer
As a Board Certified criminal defense lawyer, an experienced civil litigator, and an honors graduate of Texas’s most prestigious law school, the University of Texas at Austin, David Nachtigall’s research and writing skills have been honed through years of practice and real-world testing in a variety of contexts. David is a thorough researcher and a skilled writer who has used his writing skills to successfully defend and preserve the rights of accused individuals.
Contact Houston criminal appeals lawyer David Nachtigall to discuss a potential appeal or other post-conviction matter.