What Is Prosecutorial Misconduct?Published on November 21, 2022
Prosecutorial misconduct can result in a criminal conviction being overturned. I’m a criminal appeals lawyer and I handle these types of cases. Essentially, prosecutorial misconduct is when the prosecutor commits misconduct, and what that means is when the prosecutor violates one of the rules about how there are certain rights defendants have. There are rules about what prosecutors are supposed to do and the rights that defendants have in a criminal case.
Some common examples of prosecutorial misconduct, things that have happened in prior cases and have resulted in convictions being overturned: One example is if the prosecutor is personally vouching for the truth of certain witnesses, trying to convince the jury that the prosecutor somehow knows who’s telling the truth and who isn’t telling the truth. Another example of prosecutorial misconduct that could overturn a conviction is what’s called a “Brady violation”, which means not turning over important evidence to the defense, evidence of innocence, evidence of how a witness has a criminal record or has a record showing that they are untrustworthy. That is considered a Brady violation. Another example of prosecutorial misconduct is when the prosecutor asks improper questions during cross-examination. For example, when cross-examining the defendant, ask questions to the defendant that are irrelevant to the case and would prejudice the jury. For example, asking questions about the defendant’s religious status if it has nothing to do with the case and it is solely to inflame the passions of the jury. Another example is if the prosecutor misstates the facts deliberately in front of the jury in an effort to sway them and get a guilty verdict in a way that is inconsistent with the facts. There are many, many other ways that prosecutors can commit misconduct.
Prosecutors are supposed to be agents of the court. They are supposed to be trustworthy, reliable. Our Criminal Justice System relies on their honesty and them doing the right thing. And so, in the cases that I’ve cited where the prosecutors have done the wrong thing, in any case where the prosecutor commits misconduct, that could be a basis for overturning the conviction. There are different types of appeals for trying to challenge prosecutorial misconduct. One common type of appeal is a direct appeal after a trial and conviction about what happened on the record. Another common type of appeal is called a writ of habeas corpus which is often about things that are not on the record. There is also a federal writ of habeas corpus about violations of federal rights. Many different types of appeals, but essentially prosecutors have a duty to uphold the law and to follow the law and make sure the defendants’ rights are protected.
If you have any questions about prosecutorial misconduct on a case that you’ve been following, you’re welcome to call me. I’d be happy to speak with you or have another member of my firm speak with you. Thank you. Take care.
What Is Oral Argument in an Appeal?Published on
Oral argument is an element of many different types of appeals. I’m criminal appeals lawyer. I’ve done oral arguments many times and I’ll explain to you what they involve. Essentially, an oral argument is the opportunity near the end of an appeal to explain and answer questions that judges might have about the case. Now, to understand more about oral arguments, it is helpful to understand how appeals usually progress.
Appeals are almost all written documents. The defense counsel, the appeals defense lawyer, will argue how a person’s rights have been violated in the criminal case for example. Then the government may respond with their own written document, and often, then the defense has a chance to respond again. So, it’s almost all written but at the very end, here’s an opportunity for this oral argument.
Now, there are a few key points about oral argument. Number one is, you’re not allowed to bring up new arguments that you had not already raised in the written documents. You can’t bring up new arguments. The second thing that’s important to know is that this is often an opportunity for judges to ask questions about the case. Sometimes, judges are on the fence about how they want to rule, and if that’s the case, they will ask hard questions to both sides about hypothetical situations, about other case law to help the judges to make their decision.
But the third piece of information about oral argument is very important, which is that often it is not needed and not particularly helpful. In many cases, all of the arguments are clearly laid out in the written documents. Now sometimes, judges will ask for oral argument because they have particular questions, but oftentimes the written documents themselves, that’s enough. It explains the issue, it explains the arguments, it gives the examples, it cites the law, it cites the facts of the case. So, oral argument doesn’t need to happen in every single case.
Do You Get a Free Lawyer for a Criminal Appeal?Published on November 20, 2022
You are entitled to a lawyer when you appeal a criminal case, but the question is, are you entitled to the government to pay for your lawyer? There are certain types of appeals where the government will pay for a lawyer to represent you. The most common example is after you’ve been convicted after a trial, typically, the government will then select and appoint a lawyer to represent you. Either the court will select a lawyer or there will be a list of eligible lawyers for the government to pay to represent you during an appeal. Those types of appeals, you do get a free lawyer.
You’re also welcome to hire a private lawyer. I actually do private criminal appeals for clients all over the country, all over the state. So, you’re entitled to a free lawyer in that type of case. There are other cases where you’re, generally speaking, not entitled to a lawyer. For example, if you plead guilty and then decide you want to appeal for some reason, maybe there was a problem with the guilty plea. Typically, you’re not automatically entitled to a lawyer in that case, only in rare circumstances. Other types of appeals, you’re not entitled to a free government-paid lawyer, although you could get your own private lawyer. For example, a writ of habeas corpus. That’s a type of appeal where the government will only choose to give you a lawyer for free, so to speak, if you make out certain arguments, if it looks like your writ of habeas corpus is likely to be granted or has very strong arguments.
So, it’s almost like a catch-22. You have to do a great job in articulating why you have a strong case and only then, would the government agree to provide you with a lawyer. Many people therefore choose to hire a private lawyer for a writ of habeas corpus. There are other types of appeals, really, “post-conviction relief” that aren’t technically appeals where you are not entitled to a lawyer paid for by the government, but you could get your own private lawyer. An example is an “application for commutation of sentence”. That’s an application to the governor’s office or it could be to the president’s office asking for a sentence to be cut short.
There are other types of character-based applications where typically, you do not have a lawyer provided for you by the government. You have to hire your own if you want a lawyer or you can just do something yourself if you want to represent yourself. Hope that answers your question. Many times, you are entitled to a free government lawyer, not of your own choosing, but of the court’s choosing or the government’s choosing, and generally speaking in all appeals, you are entitled to choose your own private lawyer if you do want to hire private lawyer.
What Is an Opening Brief in an Appeal?Published on
What is an opening brief? An opening brief is generally speaking, the first document explaining why an appeal is appropriate, and why a conviction should be overturned, or a lower court’s decision should be overturned. The opening brief is usually created after the record from the court is created. So first, the record is created in the court and then whoever is appealing will file an opening brief; a document essentially, saying here is how the judge made an improper decision or here is how my client’s rights were violated. An opening brief will describe all that.
After that, the government will have an opportunity or the opposing party will have an opportunity to reply, usually a respondent’s brief, and then there was often a reply where the person who is appealing has the last word and can say, well, the respondents brief was wrong, and here is why. So, the opening brief though, is the first primary document explaining why an appeal is appropriate, why a lower court’s decision should be overturned.
What Is a Medical Reprieve of Sentence?Published on November 18, 2022
What is a medical reprieve of sentence? A medical reprieve of sentence is essentially a cutting short of a person’s sentence for medical reasons. I’m an appeals lawyer. I handle all types of executive clemency applications, and this is essentially what it is: You’re applying to the governor. You’re saying, this person has this medical condition, or this person is in danger because of their medical condition, or this person otherwise needs to be released from prison because of some medical-related circumstance.
Maybe they had a compromised immune system, maybe they’re very old and are diagnosed with some ailment, maybe they are an increased medical risk because of whatever medical condition they have due to the confined quarters of the prison. So, a medical reprieve of sentence is asking for the governor to cut short a person’s sentence based on their medical condition.
Now, generally speaking, it’s also helpful if they have good behavior in the prison, and if somebody is stabbing guards left and right, they’re not going to get any help from the governor. But it’s primarily focused on their medical condition and how it is fair and appropriate for them to get out of prison earlier than they would normally get out of prison in order for them to receive the medical treatment that they need or to be in a safer condition.
If you have any further questions about a medical reprieve of sentence, or anything else about criminal appeals, I’d be happy to speak with you. You’re welcome to call me or call one of the other lawyers at my firm. Thank you. Take care.
What Is a Commutation of Sentence? How to Win?Published on November 9, 2022
What is a commutation? A commutation of sentence? Well, I’m an appeals lawyer, a criminal appeals lawyer and I apply for commutations of sentence all the time for my clients. I’ll tell you what it is and I’ll tell you how to try to win them. What it is? It is a shortening of sentence from the governor or from the president. Every State’s Governor has certain executive privileges, and in most states the governor has the power to commute or cut short a person’s sentence. The United States President also has the power to commute or cut short a person’s sentence. Now, state governors have the power to commute sentences on state crimes. The president has the power to commute sentences on federal crimes. Most crimes are state crimes. Murder, robbery, attempted murder, shoplifting, all sorts of things, most of them are state crimes, and so, if someone’s been convicted of a crime, usually it’s a state rime. So, a commutation of sentence is a cutting short of that sentence so the person can get out of prison earlier.
The second question is how to win? How to win a commutation of sentence? And the main way to win is to show good character, show that the person deserves a commutation, deserves a shorter sentence. Most people who are commuted admit that they did the crime, and so, it’s not a question of whether they’re innocent or there’s a problem with their conviction, but rather they show good character, they show that they’re a person who deserves to be released early. They’ve done well, in the prison, they’ve been in programs in the prison, educational programs, rehab programs, they’ve helped other inmates and very importantly, often that they have a game plan for when they get out of prison. They can support what they’re saying, I want to work in a certain place and I have a job offer letter. I’ve family who say they’re going to house me, so I’m not going to be homeless in the streets. So, showing that the person morally deserves this and we’ll be able to reintegrate in society, that is really how to win a commutation application.
I hope this has been helpful if you have any questions about commutations or executive clemency or any other type of appeal, call me, I’d be happy to chat with you or have another lawyer in my firm speak with you. Thank you.