Finding yourself arrested, tried, and convicted can happen to anybody but once the verdict has been read, it doesn’t mean the case is over, in fact, it’s far from it. Everybody has the right and reasons to appeal except in only the most special of circumstances.
It is estimated that between 2% and 5% of incarcerated prisoners might be innocent and in a prison system of 2.4 million people in the USA alone, this means that approximately 120,000 innocent people are serving time and this could be you.
Of course, even if you committed the crime the sentence might be unduly harsh and you also have the right to appeal in that case. Other reasons for appeal might fall on the grounds of:
- Ineffective counsel
- Lack of evidence
- Legal error
Ineffective counsel can happen for a number of reasons and is more common than you would think while unjust verdicts are handed down all the time and clerical or legal errors can happen which result in a wrongful conviction.
As a prisoner, in most countries you have the right to legal counsel with the appropriate skills and experience in order to represent you to the maximum level as according to the law. Ineffective counsel when appealing a conviction can be granted on many grounds including failure to interview witnesses, non-disclosure of exculpatory evidence, and even conflict of interest where attorneys have affected the outcome of one client’s case at the degradation of another’s.
Should you decide that you were the subject of ineffective counsel then you have the right to appeal under the specific laws of your country or state but you must be able to prove that your lawyer acted in a manner unbecoming of a court representative and arguing that you had a court-appointed lawyer isn’t enough since these are usually just as well trained as private attorneys.
Being convicted on little evidence can be described as a miscarriage of justice. All too often men and women all over the world are heard, tried, and convicted in cases where there was little to no evidence at all to support a conviction that should not have happened. Although the prolific use of DNA testing is excellent in establishing that someone was present at a crime scene, it can also be misinterpreted or be present at a scene for reasons other than the crime that took place, which has been proven with advances in DNA techniques such as touch DNA.
Other cases have had convictions overturned on appeal when it has emerged that persons serving time for a particular crime have subsequently been proven to have not been present upon further investigation into the case such as that of Sam Hallam who served 7 years for a murder he didn’t commit in the UK.
An error of law is determined when judges make mistakes, incorrect instructions are given to juries or attorneys, or juries act inappropriately such as talking to the press regarding the case. As an arrested defendant turned convict, you have the right to a fair and unprejudiced trial where everything is carried out to the highest level of legal proceedings.
That being said, you cannot simply appeal a decision if you feel it is wrong and the burden of proof is on you to show that serious legal errors were made. This is a difficult thing to prove but a judge’s decision isn’t final if it is true such as a famous case where Justice Anthony Kennedy claimed that DNA can be used to identify a suspect with 100% accuracy. Contrary to popular belief that isn’t entirely true..