Appeals Process

Abstract An appeal in the criminal law system is a defendant’s way of challenging the court’s decision. In this paper I will discuss what an appeal is, how it factors into the overall procedures and process of the criminal system. How the appeals process may be improved. Steps in the appeals process and an example case of an appeal. And why the example case appeal did or did not succeed. Introduction A defendant can challenge is conviction by filling an appeal to have the conviction overturned. The first appeal filed in most cases in the Federal System and most State Court systems is an appeal of the Statutory Right.

If they lose the appeals under the statutory right they may then appeal to the State Supreme Court or the U. S. Supreme Court. But in most cases a defendant does not have the right to file such an appeal. The Supreme Court must agree to hear the defendant’s case. But defendant needs to remember that an Appeals Court is not automatically required to review a case. What is an appeal? An appeal is a petition to a higher court for review of a case that has already been decided by a lower court of law. The petition is made for the purpose of having the lower court’s decision overturned.

How do appeals factor into the overall criminal procedures and processes? Merely filing an appeal does not automatically mean that a defendant will find it easy to have the court decision reversed. It is imperative that the defendant shows the court in the appeals process that the initial decision was incorrect or flawed in some way. This can be done by proving that the previous decision was made in error, or by bringing to light new evidence that was not offered in the initial trial. Defendants need to know that appellate courts each have rules that control the appellate process.

These rules are firm, and cover steps in the appeal and time limits. Appellate courts usually aren't forgiving and flexible if you don't follow the rules. Each state usually has their own rules for filing an appeal but there basic appeals procedures that the Federal and State Courts do follow. Failure to follow the rules can result in an appeals dismissal. List of Basic Appeal Procedures Notice of Appeal: The document that you file to get the appeal started. Filed usually 10 to 30 days after the conviction (check state laws).

Filing the notice of appeal is a crucial step in the appeal process because takes the case out of the trial court's authority or jurisdiction. Obtaining Transcript: A record that consists of the trial court transcript, original pleadings, exhibits and docket entries. It is up to the appealing party to make sure the right parts are ordered and paid for. This is the record that the parties and appellate court look at on appeal. Filing Briefs: The appellant must write a brief containing a summary of the facts and issues and an argument of why the lower court was wrong.

The appellant's brief must be filed usually within 40 days after the record was filed. The appellee can write a response brief and file it within 30 days from when the appellant's brief was served or delivered. All Briefs must be filed with an appendix that references the following: All relevant docket entries, relevant portions of the pleadings, the charge(s), the finding or opinion, the final order or decision and any parts of the record that may be referred to in the arguments. Although the appeals process does offer hope, one should not be fooled into thinking the process is an easy one.

As you can tell the appeals process can be long, drawn out and at time can takes months before the court comes to a new decision. An appellate court is based on the law not on any facts so a defense attorney cannot argue the facts presented during the case or that you were found guilty and you believe you are innocent. Appeals factor in to the overall criminal justice procedure, because they ultimately change laws and amendments. For example our Miranda rights, that was brought about after someone challenge the court and now we have a law.

Also the citizen’s right to have an attorney also was brought about through pour appellate court systems. How can we improve the appeals process? There are numerous ways that the criminal appeals process can be made clearer and simpler. One is by making the procedures easy to do and follow. Basically the requirements need to be written in clear straight forward language that can be easily understood by all. Accessibility to more judges is another way to improve the appeal process. And lastly the appeals need to be more effective and completed in a timelier period.

There is also a project under way now by the Bureau of Justice that is aiming to obtain information on certain key case characteristics including the types of criminal cases appealed after trial to an intermediate appellate court or court of last resort, the impact of the appellate process on trial court outcomes, the extent that appellate claims are dismissed or withdrawn before being decided on the merits, the types of legal issues raised on appeal, the number of appeals ending in a full opinion, and the rate of judicial dissent at the appellate level.

This study should help us see where we can improve the appeals process. Case Example SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES JAVIER CAVAZOS, ACTING WARDEN v. SHIRLEYREE SMITH on petition for writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit No. 10–1115.? Decided October 31, 2011. This is a case where a grandmother was charged with Shaken Baby Syndrome in the death of her 7 week old grandson. In 1996, when he was seven weeks old, Etzel Glass died during the night. His mother, Tomeka, had put him to sleep on a sofa in a room with Shirleeree Smith, Etzel’s grandmother.

Smith was helping Tomeka raise Etzel and two other children, who were also sleeping in the room with her. There was no indication that she’d been anything but loving toward the kids at any time. When Smith woke up and found Etzel limp, she ran with him to his mother’s room next door, saying she thought he’d fallen off the sofa. At first, the doctors who examined Etzel said he’d died of sudden infant death syndrome—no one’s fault. But the coroner found the cause of death to be shaken-baby syndrome, and prosecutors decided that Shirleeree Smith had done the shaking. This was not a typical shaken-baby case.

The standard diagnosis for shaken-baby syndrome includes subdural bleeding, retinal bleeding, and brain swelling. In the cases that are easier to classify, there is also injury to the neck from shaking, or there are fractures, bruises, or cuts. In the harder cases, there are no external signs of injury. Etzel’s case involved only “minimal” subdural hemorrhaging. There was no retinal bleeding and no brain swelling, and no fractures or abrasions. But yet Shirleeree was found guilty by jury of her peers. So she appealed to the State of California of which refused to review the case.

So she turned to the federal courts for her appeal. At this point, the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act kicks in. This is perhaps my least-favorite law. AEDPA tells federal courts that they can’t overturn state courts except in a narrow set of circumstances: If a conviction is contrary to or unreasonably applies clearly established federal law, or if it’s based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. AEDPA is a straitjacket. The federal courts are supposed to put it on and quit worrying about whether innocent people have been put in prison.

On her appeal, she argued that there wasn’t enough evidence for a jury to find her guilty. But shaken-baby convictions aren’t easy to undo. Well a panel of judges for the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit refused to do that. They looked at the medical testimony against Shirleeree Smith and how badly it holds up to the light of current knowledge, and they said that Smith had spent enough years in prison. Last month, after twice sending the 9th Circuit pointed warnings about this case, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s decision.

The majority’s brief and unsigned opinion concedes that “doubts about whether Smith is in fact guilty are understandable. ” But according to six justices, it’s not the 9th Circuit’s job to do anything about that. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, with Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Ginsburg gives all the reasons to doubt the medical testimony against Smith. She does a great service by laying out the growing skepticism among a minority of doctors about the validity of diagnosing shaken-baby syndrome without any evidence at all of external injury.

“What is now known about the SBS hypotheses seems to me worthy of considerable weight in the discretionary decision whether to take up this tragic case,” Ginsburg writes. To me this case perfectly illustrates a serious problem in shaken-baby cases. There is not enough research on these cases at this point of time and I feel that a lot of innocent people have been convicted on this crime. As for Shirleeree Smith’s case. Justice Ginsburg concludes, “I would not ignore Smith’s plight and choose her case as a fit opportunity to teach the 9th Circuit a lesson. ” That’s exactly right, too.

There is only one lesson worth learning from this case, and it is about the power of mercy. California Gov. Jerry Brown has the authority to pardon Shirleeree Smith. She has suffered more than enough for the death of her grandson. Brown should do for her what no judge now can. Conclusion Very few criminal trial appeals are successful. That's why when a criminal appeal is granted, it makes headlines in the media because it is rare. In order for a conviction or a sentence to be overturned, the appeals court not only must find that an error occurred, but also that the error was clear and serious enough to affect the outcome of the trial.

A criminal conviction can be appealed on the basis that the strength of the evidence presented a trial did not support the verdict. This type of appeal is significantly more expensive and much lengthier than a legal error appeal and even more rarely successful. Appellate courts represent a key component of criminal case processing. References Wikipedia Criminal law appeals lawyer. com Bureau of Justice About. com Crime and punishment Legal Information Institute Slate Magazine.