Criminal appeals are not easy to win. Typically, appeals court judges do not like to second-guess a jury’s verdict. These judges are even less likely to overturn a judicial colleague’s decision. Additionally, proving there was an error at trial is not enough. The law is quite clear that defendants are entitled to a fair trial, but not a perfect one.
Nevertheless, there are some arguments which a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney can make in this area. Many times, an appeal can at least secure a retrial free from the error which tainted the original verdict. And, a fair contest is all anyone really wants.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
This test is not outcome-determinative. An attorney can lose a case and still be effective. This inquiry is also not a matter of strategy or tactics. Attorneys who do not call or cross-examine any witnesses can be legally effective. In fact, there is even one case which stated that an attorney who fell asleep during trial was competent under the Sixth Amendment.
Attorneys are ineffective if their service falls below the standard of care. Oddly enough, attorneys can do a reasonably good job and still be incompetent. Lawyers who are intoxicated or under the influence of another substance might be incompetent. Additionally, lawyers who were not actively licensed at the time are usually incompetent as a matter of law.
Jurors take oaths to decide cases based solely on the facts presented at trial. However, in the social media era, it is very easy for jurors to Google defendants or cases and perform their own investigations. It’s also tempting for jurors to visit the scene of a crime to see things for themselves.
On a related note, some courts allow jurors to take notes during trial. However, most judges tell jurors not to take notes. Frequently, they learn almost as much by watching witnesses as they do by listening to what they have to say.
Moreover, jurors also take oaths not to discuss any aspects of the trial with anyone except their fellow jurors. Any such discussions, no matter what was said, could taint the jury’s verdict.
This type of misbehavior could occur in the pretrial phase, mostly the discovery phase, or during the trial itself.
In their zeal to obtain convictions, some prosecutors withhold evidence during discovery. Occasionally, prosecutors even withhold potentially exculpatory evidence. During trial, some prosecutors ask questions which they know to be inappropriate or make inflammatory remarks during jury arguments.
Once again, prosecutorial misconduct alone is not enough. The misbehavior must be so bad that it changes the trial’s result.
As hinted above, judges have a great deal of discretion when it comes to things like admitting or denying evidence. However, they do sometimes make decisions which are clearly erroneous, frequently because they have a bias or interest in the case. Alternatively, some judges make mistakes during the juror instruction phase or when they answer a jury’s requests during deliberations.
A trial court’s verdict is not necessarily the last word. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle matters in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions.