Caitlin Dukes and Jeremy Cutcher Win Firm’s 2022 California Legal Service AwardPublished on December 30, 2022
Spolin Law is proud to announce the winner for the 2022 California Legal Service Award, and it’s a tie! The winners are attorneys Caitlin Dukes and Jeremy Cutcher.
The California Legal Service Award was created by Spolin Law P.C. to recognize outstanding work on California cases for the firm’s clients. The firm currently has five employee attorneys admitted to practice in California, as well as multiple independent contractor attorneys, so Ms. Dukes and Mr. Cutcher are standing out from the crowd.
Caitlin Dukes is receiving this award in recognition of her outstanding work on the Velasquez case (PA013483, Los Angeles County Superior Court), where she overturned the murder conviction of a client who had been serving what was effectively a life sentence in prison. Her work involved research, writing, regular communication with the client, and then winning the client’s freedom (along with two other attorneys who were involved in the case). When the client and his family came into the office after being released from prison, he made a note to ask about Ms. Dukes and pass along a heartfelt “Thank you!” for her incredible work on the case.
Jeremy Cutcher is receiving this award for his “above-and-beyond” July 5, 2022, oral argument in front of the Sixth Appellate District, where he responded to sharp judicial questioning with aplomb and presented the best possible advocacy for a client with a difficult case, eventually winning a remand and resentencing for the client from Justice Cynthia Lie (Justices Greenwood and Grover concurring). Mr. Cutcher has also gone above and beyond this past year by volunteering to train other employees on new aspects of the law, including trainings on federal writ deadlines, the major case People v. Christopher Strong, as well as a number of other topics. Mr. Cutcher’s trainings have been for both lawyer and nonlawyer employees of the firm. He has a reputation in the firm for this thoroughness and his ability to distill complex legal concepts into more understandable form.
The California Legal Service Award comes with a price of $500 per winner. Spolin Law P.C. congratulates both Ms. Dukes and Mr. Cutcher on their outstanding work.
Spolin Law P.C. Awards 2021 Civil Rights & Criminal Law Scholarship WinnerPublished on September 26, 2021
Spolin Law P.C. has the great pleasure of announcing the winner of our 2021 Civil Rights and Criminal Law Scholarship. This year, we have chosen Yumei Duan to receive our $1,000 scholarship that goes toward tuition and other educational expenses.
Spolin Law P.C. developed this scholarship to aid in their goal to raise awareness of criminal and civil rights issues. This scholarship enables us to support students who are passionate about these principles and strive to implement them in their careers.
Ms. Duan showcased outstanding academic achievements and produced a compelling essay expressing the need to maintain the principles of the US Constitution. Ms. Duan urges that failing to do so diminishes the document’s value and prevents us from realizing our constitutional rights.
Read Ms. Duan’s full essay here.
She is set to graduate from Sol Price School of USC in 2022 with her master’s degree. The Los Angeles criminal appeals attorneys at Spolin Law P.C. strive to encourage and support the next generation of civil rights leaders who are determined to safeguard the constitutional rights of US citizens.
We encourage students from different fields to apply.
2021 Prison Poetry Contest Winners Announced!Published on August 31, 2021
To Whom It May Concern,
I am happy to announce the winners of the 2021 Spolin Law Prison Poetry Contest.
We had over 700 submissions, so it was very difficult for our panel to determine the poems to honor. Of course, poetry is subjective, so a different group of judges could have selected a totally different set of poems.
Five judges (including lawyers, poetry professors, and a former inmate) voted for the poems they thought were the best. The single poem with the most votes in each prison was selected for the “Winner – Best in Prison” award, and the one poem with the most votes nationwide was selected for the “Winner – Best in Nation” award. I have attached a list of the “Best in Prison” and “Best in Nation” award recipients.
We are now accepting submissions for the 2022 Spolin Law Prison Poetry Contest (deadline of June 1, 2022)! Further information about the contest is viewable at spolinlaw.com/poetry.
Criminal Appeals and Writs Attorney
($500 Prize and “Winner – Best in Nation” Certificate)
Gregory Truitt (#01701265)
Darrington Unit (State Prison)
Caught up in a crime, that I didn’t commit;
Don’t count the days, just let them tick.
Reassigned to a unit, where there are drugs galore;
I don’t want drugs, not anymore.
In my thoughts, I’m very sad;
Grant my appeal, I’ll be glad.
My check-up began, the nurse read my file;
It was so long, it took him a while.
I looked up when he said, “you are lucky to be alive;”
I said, “really, I see parole in twenty-five.”
Now in church, talking about my sentence;
And how Christians built prisons for people’s penance.
Apprehended a Bible, taking more than a look;
The law-library has solutions, in a combination of books.
Love reading case-law, even though it is grueling;
The Judge said what, what was her ruling?
Another opined, “it’s better to let one thousand guilty go;
Than to incarcerate one innocent, and hand him a hoe.”
Persona non grata, tilling the ground by hand;
Slave to the State, no longer a man.
Pious opinion, by that Judge on a mission;
Justice is served, nope, nobody listened.
Every exoneration, takes many years;
Furious are those prosecutors, who shed no tears.
And yet they argue, “someone is guilty of the crime;
Therefore somebody, anybody, needs to do this time.”
Lastly, while cases are continuously overturned;
This story is finished, the lesson adjourned.
- Rodney Hollie (Former inmate)
- Aaron Spolin (Attorney)
- Dionne A. Parker (Attorney)
- Brittany Means (Professor)
- Adam Wright (Poet/Professor)
Rodney Hollie – Judge 1
Former inmate and former Spolin Law P.C. client
Rodney Hollie was wrongfully convicted of murder and served several years in prison before successfully overturning his conviction in 2020. He obtained his freedom in Superior Court on January 29, 2020, represented on that day by Spolin Law attorneys Aaron Spolin and Caitlin Dukes. Mr. Hollie now gives lectures on wrongful convictions, life in prison, and the value of never giving up.
He had the following to say about the winning poem by Gregory Truitt:
“This poem reminds me of my time when I was serving my sentence. I found myself in the law library and the opinions that were from other inmates regarding my case. This [poem] was very relatable, and it gives you an insight into what an inmate goes through. No matter if you’re guilty or innocent, the prosecutors want someone to be found guilty for their own personal status.”
Aaron Spolin – Judge 2
Criminal appeals attorney and former prosecutor
Aaron Spolin handles criminal appeals, writs of habeas corpus, and other post-conviction matters throughout the country. He worked as an Assistant District Attorney before becoming an appeals lawyer. He has a Juris Doctorate degree from U.C. Berkeley School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University. He is also the author of Witness Misidentification in Criminal Trials, which discusses the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States.
Dionne Parker – Judge 3
Maryland attorney admitted to United States Supreme Court Bar
Dionne A. Parker is a Maryland attorney who is admitted to the United States Supreme Court Bar. She is also an employee of Spolin Law P.C. who has graciously donated her time to assist the other judges in narrowing down the list of 700 poems. Ms. Parker has a Juris Doctorate degree from George Washington University Law School and a Bachelor of Arts degree (cum laude) from Washington Adventist University, where she majored in English.
Ms. Parker had the following to say regarding the winning poem:
“This poem resonated with me because it depicts a deliberate and prolific problem in this country – the prison industrial complex and the way that so many people, particularly those that are black and brown, are treated whether or not they are actually guilty of the crime charged. I felt the author’s quiet outrage at being trapped in a system that says one thing (about justice) but does another in the interest of having “someone” pay for the crime. The observation that slavery never really ended, it just morphed into a different type of servitude and bondage was also very astute, and is a view shared by many in communities of color. Last, I experienced a deep sense of sadness seeing the writer’s lack of hope cloaked in veiled optimism with the line “every exoneration, takes many years.” There are so few exonerations that take so many decades longer to occur than they should, that they are a very rare occurrence indeed.”
Brittany Means – Judge 4
Professor of English and Literary Critic
Brittany Means is a former professor and literary critic. She taught English at the University of Iowa and served as a judge for the Iowa Prize in Literary Nonfiction, a contest run by the University of Iowa Press. She has won over a dozen literary awards and accolades in the field of creative writing and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Ball State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa.
Adam Wright – Judge 5
Professional Poet and Humanities Professor
Adam Wright is a professor of humanities subjects, including creative writing, literature, English, rhetoric, and comparative religions. He is also a professional poet. He is currently serving as a lecturer at the University of Texas at Dallas. Mr. Wright has two Master of Fine Arts degrees, one from the University of North Texas and another from the University of Central Oklahoma, the latter of which is in creative writing and literature. He also has three Bachelor of Arts degrees, all from Oklahoma State University, in the subjects of English, history, and broadcast journalism.
All the judges were impressed with the level of literary skill demonstrated in the competition.
Top-Voted Poems at Each Prison1
($100 Prize and “Winner – Best in Prison” Certificate)
Avenal State Prison (ASP)
Kirk Donche (T37441)
California City Correctional Facility (CAC)
Anthony Herod (T98057)
California Correctional Institution (CCI)
Rollin Denem (V44249)
California Institution for Women (CIW)
Ahmana Jones (X36713)
California Men’s Colony (CMC)
Berry Denton (P96760)
California State Prison, Corcoran (COR)
Marquise Byrd (AG0882)
California State Prison, Los Angeles County (LAC)
Raymond Anglin (BE8886) (tie)
Eric Hawkins (AX3820) (tie)
California State Prison, Sacramento (SAC)
Domanic Brown (K87924) (tie)
Nathaniel Sapp (F14459) (tie)
California State Prison, Solano (SOL)
Shaylor Watson (E79573)
Calipatria State Prison (CAL)
Patrick Hernandez (V76823) (tie)
Michael Mauricio (AD9717) (tie)
California State Prison, Centinela (CEN)
Joel D. Robinson (T92090)
Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF)
Vershonda Sneed (WF5363)
Correctional Training Facility (CTF)
Miguel Angel Vargas (F94177)
Folsom State Prison (FSP)
Danny Lewis (C39915)
High Desert State Prison (HDSP)
Robert A. Clark (BL2173)
Ironwood State Prison (ISP)
Donte Revels (BJ7076) (tie)
Sean E. Walker (AA0936) (tie)
Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP)
Tony Douglas Baga II (AA3798) (tie)
Davione Wiley (BF7896) (tie)
Los Angeles County Sheriff Men’s Central Jail
Rafael Martirosyan (E54812)
Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP)
David Brinson (J09563)
Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP)
Rodney Ross (P62462) (tie)
Daniel Saavedera (BL4928) (tie)
Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD)
Robert Snyder (AC9136)
Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP)
Edward Iturralde (BK0922) (tie)
Henderson Johnson (V02639) (tie)
San Joaquin County Jail
Juan Zazueta (000386389)
San Quentin State Prison (SQ)
Anthony Marzett (E68792)
Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran (SATF-CSP, Corcoran)
Anthony McDaniel, Jr. (AE5936)
Wasco State Prison (WSP)
Jamie Avila (T25040)
Downstate Correctional Facility
Sheldon Arnold (13A0519)
Eastern NY Correctional Facility
Peter Anakwe (99A2717)
Elmira Correctional Facility
Antonio Jones (96B1330)
Mid-State Correctional Facility
Vincent Carmona (14A0979)
Shawangunk Correctional Facility
Rogelio Ferrer (14A3515)
Southport Correctional Facility
Stanny Vargas (17A5213)
A.M. “Mac” Stringfellow Unit
William Venable (02058841)
Alfred D. Hughes Unit
Jose Ramos (02176043)
Allan B. Polunsky Unit
James Wibi Jackson (01841911)
Barry B. Telford Unit
Aguilar Gilberto Gonzalez (01998446)
Beauford H. Jester III Unit
George R. Lopez (01465634)
Beauford H. Jester IV Unit
Eliseo Ruiz Mendez (01929729)
C.T. Terrell Unit
Derrick B. Johnson (01622794)
Christina Melton Crain Unit
Shanetha Coleman (01798193)
Clarence N. Stevenson Unit
Shannon D. Marshall (01007893)
Edward Lawrence (02171629)
Cleveland McDonald (02140873)
Daniel Webster Wallace Unit
Jamie Ash (02003564)
Aaron Ellis Osby (01957505)
Diboll Correctional Center
Curtis Collins (02159140)
Dolph Briscoe Unit
Gerry D. Williams (02062167)
Dr. Lane Murray Unit
Rebecca L. Dugas (02120794)
Hymon A. Walker (01014857)
Fort Stockton Unit
Alvino Ramos (02073005)
French Robertson Unit
Samuel Gonzalez Almazan (02121251)
George Beto Unit
Conrado Calderas III (01792384)
Gib Lewis Unit
Gonzalo Garcia (02057314)
H. H. Coffield Unit
Sammie Caston (02058587)
Nicholas Keys (02155630)
James “Jay” H. Byrd Unit
James B. Jones (02075024)
James Lynaugh Unit
Alfredo Coleman (02123604)
James V. Allred Unit
Greg Fonseca (01878692)
Jerry H. Hodge Unit
John Porter (02061132)
Jim Ferguson Unit
Larry Holloway (01899560)
Joe Ney Unit
Moses Cervantes (01982996)
John B. Connally Unit
Marcus Leslie (02001223)
John M. Wynne Unit
Angelo Baker (01731727)
John Montford Unit
Donald Haynes (01857411)
L.V. Hightower Unit
Jeremiah A. Griffin (02150534)
Louis C. Powledge Unit
Steven Kurt Baughman (02180609)
Mark W. Michael Unit
Santos Antonio (01883380)
Mark W. Stiles Unit
Kendrick Hill (02019313)
Mountain View Unit
Frances R. Ford (01916749)
O.B. Ellis Unit
Cenca A. King (01064695)
O.L. Luther Unit
Jon Miranda (01943242)
Oliver J. Bell Unit
Jose Luis Martinez (02133456)
Pam Lychner State Jail
Alejandro Zarate (02055033)
Preston E. Smith Unit
Daniel Ray (02067338)
Price Daniel Unit
Larry Bennett (01988215)
Richard P. LeBlanc Unit
Kurt Ray Kaspar, Jr. (01888794)
Ruben M. Torres Unit
Matthew Shipp (02162052)
Rufe Jordan Unit
Cameron Brown (02165650)
T.L. Roach Unit
Dillon Bevel (01893403)
Thomas Goree Unit
Bradley Jason Jordan (01505327)
W. F. Ramsey Unit
Patrick Denton (02176324) (tie)
Pablo Zuniga (00856129) (tie)
W. J. “Jim” Estelle Unit
Ryan Drake (01917718)
Wallace Pack Unit
David Taylor (01972889)
Wayne Scott Unit
Grady C. Nelson II (01463325)
Willacy County State Jail
Arthur Hill (01917765)
William G. McConnell Unit
Marcus A. Francis (01661135)
William P. Clements Unit
James E. Schad (01865444)
William P. Hobby Unit
Wendy Howeris (02285689)
William R. Boyd Unit
Syrjuan Benson (01922473)
United States Penitentiary, Lee
Manuel Hernandez (44584-112)
1 Note: Winners are listed under the prison facility that they identified on their submission form if identified; therefore, some individuals may no longer be at the listed facility.
Eligible Offenses Under Prop 47Published on March 19, 2021
California Proposition 47 is the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative. In 2014, California voters approved lowering the charge and penalties for certain offenses and allowing individuals convicted of these crimes to petition the court to reclassify their convictions and resentence them.
If you are currently imprisoned for a Prop 47 offense that was originally a felony, it is best to talk with a lawyer about resentencing. Your original sentence for a felony could be significantly reduced. You may have also completed your sentence for an eligible offense, in which case an attorney can help with reclassification.
Spolin Law Firm P.C., assists individuals with resentencing and reclassification. Aaron Spolin is an award-winning California appeals attorney and former prosecutor. He will carefully review your case to determine if you are eligible and guide you through the court process. Reach out online or call (310) 424-5816 to set up a free consultation.
Prop 47 Reduced Several Felonies
Prop 47 lowered specific non-violent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, unless they had a prior violent or sex crime conviction. This helps individuals in two ways.
Misdemeanors carry lighter sentences than felonies and, in many situations, fewer collateral consequences. A felony record can be extremely damaging to someone’s future.
Prop 47 Eligible Offenses
The offenses included in Prop 47 are:
- Shoplifting: Less than $950 worth of merchandise
- Petty theft: Property worth less than $950
- Receiving stolen property: Less than $950’s worth
- Forgery: Value of forged instrument must be less than $950
- Fraud: Less than $950’s worth
- Writing a bad check/insufficient funds: Less than $950’s worth
- Simple drug possession: Personal use of controlled substances
Some of these were felonies or wobblers, which means the prosecution has discretion in charging it as a misdemeanor or felony. Now, they are misdemeanors every time.
If you were convicted before November 2014, talk with us about resentencing or reclassification.
Resentencing – Are You or a Loved One Serving Time?
People currently serving time in California prisons, on probation, or parole for a Prop 47 offense can ask the court to reduce their sentence to what it would be as a misdemeanor. You must file a petition with the court that entered the original judgment against you.
If you are eligible, the judge recalls your previous sentence and resentences you under the new misdemeanor offenses. However, the court can refuse to resentence you if it finds you pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.
If you are resentenced, you will be given credit for time served. You are also subject to up to one year of parole. Therefore, you could be out of prison much sooner, even right away, if you served over a year.
If you are granted parole or probation, make sure to follow all the conditions. A probation or parole violation could send you back to court and then prison.
Reclassification – Did You Complete Your Sentence?
Have you completed your sentence for a past Prop 47 offense? If so, talk with a lawyer about getting your conviction reclassified as a misdemeanor.
The first step is making sure you are eligible. Your conviction has to be for one of the offenses listed above. You also cannot have certain other crimes on your record, such as rape, child molestation, murder, or identity theft. You are not eligible if you are a registered sex offender. Here is a full list of disqualifying convictions.
If attorney Aaron Spolin finds you are eligible, he will guide you through the paperwork and filing your petition in the court that handed down the original felony judgment. You also have to serve the district attorney’s office with the forms to show you are asking for a reclassification. If you are eligible, then the court must change the felony to a misdemeanor.
Deadline for Filing
The deadline for filing a resentencing and reclassification petition is Nov. 4, 2022, or a later date if you can show reasonable cause. Though you have about two years left to take advantage of these changes, there is no need to wait. Find out if you are eligible as soon as possible.
Let an Experienced Appeals Lawyer Help You
Resentencing and reclassification under Prop 47 are similar, but not the same thing. It is essential to have an attorney represent you throughout either process.
At Spolin Law Firm, P.C., we will thoroughly review your circumstances, and if you are eligible, we will guide you through the process. Call us right away at (310) 424-5816 or use our online form to set up a consultation.
Spolin Law Client Walks Free Hours After DA George Gascon Dismisses Murder ChargesPublished on February 2, 2021
Yesterday a Spolin Law client tearfully reunited with his mother after a long period of imprisonment for a murder he did not commit. The dismissal was formally handed down by Judge Shellie Samuels of Department 112 in Van Nuys Courthouse.
The murder dismissal came about in great part because of the newly-elected District Attorney, George Gascon. Mr. Gascon had campaigned on a promise of criminal justice reform, and he has been quick to implement a series of “special directives” that show increased compassion for inmates and criminal defendants.
Aaron Spolin was the lead attorney on the client’s case, and he was assisted by other attorneys at Spolin Law, including Caitlin Dukes, Matt Delgado (of counsel), and Jeremy Cutcher.
This case had already received significant media coverage for Judge Samuels’ earlier decision to reject the DA’s attempt to dismiss the gang enhancements. (See media coverage: Judge Opposes Gascon’s Reforms, Los Angeles Daily News, 12/17/20. Gascon Blacklists Judge for Policy Noncompliance, Fox 11 Los Angeles, 12/16/20.) The judge eventually gave in on the dismissal of the gang enhancements and then, yesterday, agreed to dismiss the entire case.
The client owes a great deal to his mother, who was an absolute fighter and never gave up on him. She had retained Spolin Law for her son’s case and encouraged the firm’s aggressive practice of filing extensive legal motions in court.
As attorney Jeremy Cutcher pointed out: “I’ve never seen a mother so involved in her adult son’s case. And in the end, she got what she was fighting for. It’s wonderful to see.”
To speak with Mr. Cutcher, Mr. Spolin, or an attorney or staff member at Spolin Law about your own case, call us at (310) 424-5816.
What is a Certificate of Rehabilitation?Published on December 14, 2020
A criminal record simply makes your life harder. It may prevent you from being hired, getting an apartment, obtaining a professional license, qualifying for government programs, and receiving student loans. Criminal records usually are publicly available and easily found.
There are some ways to improve your situation. If you are eligible, Spolin Law P.C. can assist you in obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation. It’s one of the few ways you can limit the harm caused by your criminal record in California, New York, or Texas. Call (310) 424-5816 or contact us online for a free consultation.
A Certificate of Rehabilitation Can Help You Get Your Life Back
A Certificate of Rehabilitation won’t expunge or seal your record, but it may be your best option if expungement or other post-conviction remedies aren’t available.
Under California law, it’s illegal for an employer with five or more employees to fail to hire someone because of their convictions if they have a certificate of rehabilitation. The certificate also functions as an automatic pardon application.
Under California law, the certificate is issued by a court and attests to your rehabilitation after a conviction. Texas and New York have their own versions. With this certificate, you can recover some of your legal rights. It should also be easier to find a job.
The process involves filling out a form, gathering evidence to support your application, and a court hearing. If you receive a certificate:
- Your civil rights are restored, except your 2nd Amendment rights concerning firearms
- You can’t be denied public licensing or employment (with some limits) due to your conviction
- Depending on the crime, you may no longer need to register as a sex offender
Do You Qualify for a Certificate of Rehabilitation?
The certificate won’t erase your felony conviction or seal the criminal record. If you served time in either state prison or county jail, you might qualify if you:
- Haven’t been re-incarcerated after your release
- Continuously lived in California for at least five years since your release. Some violent and sex-related crimes have longer waiting periods
- Have proof of your rehabilitation since your release
- Aren’t on probation for another felony
- Were convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison, another California state penal institution or agency, or
- Were convicted of a felony and sentenced to probation, and your conviction has been expunged, or
- Were convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense in Penal Code 290 (the Sex Offender Registration Act), and your conviction has been expunged
Proof of rehabilitation can be shown by:
- A record of consistent employment
- Getting drug, alcohol, or domestic abuse counseling
- Engaging in community events and affairs
- Volunteering for non-profit organizations
- Not having an arrest record
- Active involvement in your children’s lives
- Positive letters from employers, clergy, neighbors, community leaders, or volunteer agencies
After filing your application, a hearing is held. You or your attorney will make your case and evidence that you qualify for the certificate. If the court issues the certificate, it’s reviewed by the Board of Parole Hearings. It will later issue a recommendation as to whether the Governor should pardon you.
Take the Next Step. Contact Spolin Law P.C.
A Certificate of Rehabilitation can help get your life back after serving your sentence and successfully returning to society. To learn more about how you can obtain one or to get our help in the process, call Spolin Law P.C. at (310) 424-5816 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
New LA District Attorney George Gascon Promises to Re-Open Thousands of Old CasesPublished on December 9, 2020
The new Los Angeles District Attorney, George Gascon, has promised to re-open thousands of old cases for California prison inmates with Los Angeles County convictions.
George Gascon defeated the prior District Attorney (Jackey Lacey) in the November election last month. He was sworn into office this past Monday, December 7, 2020. Mr. Gascon then shocked the legal community by announcing a wide array of sweeping reforms and a retroactive application of most of these reforms.
“Retroactive” means that the many of the new changes will affect convictions in the past, whether they are from 25 years ago or from the day before Mr. Gascon took office.
This article was written by one of the criminal appeals lawyers at Spolin Law P.C. To find out more about how George Gascon’s election can affect your case, call our firm at (310) 424-5816.
Types of Cases Affected
The new policies issued by the Gascon administration are listed in a series of special directives that were published on December 7, 2020. They affect the following cases:
Cases with Sentence Enhancements
Special Directive 20-08 commands all prosecutors to abolish sentence enhancements (including gang enhancements, strikes, three-strike penalties).
Juveniles Tried in Adult Court
Special Directive 20-09 orders the abolition of the use of adult court for juveniles. Special Directive 20-14 also orders the re-opening and re-sentencing of “all cases where the defendant was a minor at the time of the offense.”
Writs of Habeas Corpus
Special Directive 20-10 stops the prior practice of automatically opposing all writs of habeas corpus. Now, the DA Habeas Unit “shall not simply oppose the petitioner’s claim” when the inmate’s claims are “supported by reasonably available evidence.”
Special Directive 20-13 completely changes the practices of the Conviction Integrity Unit so that the DA’s Office is tasked with helping prove the innocence of inmates where there are “avenues of investigation that have the potential to substantiate the applicant’s claim(s).”
Inmates with Overly-Long Sentences
As Mr. Gascon said himself: “the sentences we impose in this country, in this state, and in Los Angeles County are far too long … [and I] campaigned on stopping the practice of imposing excessive sentences.” (Special Directive 20-14, 12/7/2020, page 2, italics added). Special Directive 20-14 orders the DA’s Office to allow a review of old sentences and use all available legal methods to fairly resentence inmates who received overly-long sentences.
How an Inmate Can Benefit
The election of George Gascon is great news for California inmates with Los Angeles County cases. However, not every inmate will benefit from the new DA’s changes. Here are some steps that may help you in winning a reduced sentence for yourself or a loved one.
Find a Skilled Appeals Lawyer
While Mr. Gascon is clearly an ally in reducing inmate sentences, he is limited by the laws that currently exist. Spolin Law P.C. handles post-conviction matters for clients throughout California and has experience reaching out to the DA’s Office through some of the legal methods described below.
Learn About New Laws AB 2942 / PC 1170d1
One way to get Mr. Gascon’s DA Office to reconsider a case is to apply under the new law AB 2942, which went into effect in 2019. AB 2942 allows each District Attorney’s Office in California to recommend resentencing for old convictions that occurred in that county. The law, written into the Penal Code, is one way to seek the new DA’s help in reducing an overly long sentence.
As one local attorney recently said, “It’s like the DA’s Office is now being run by a true-believer defense attorney.” Nonetheless, there are tens of thousands of unfair sentences that have been handed down in Los Angeles County over the last several decades. In order to benefit from these new policy changes, you will have to take some type of action so that your case gets noticed. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Speak to your lawyer (or find a lawyer) so that you can begin this process. The appeals lawyers at Spolin Law P.C. are available to review cases and make recommendations.
To speak with a criminal law attorney or staff member at Spolin Law P.C., call us at (310) 424-5816.
Spolin Law P.C. Awards 2020 Civil Rights & Criminal Law Scholarship WinnerPublished on November 5, 2020
Spolin Law P.C. is proud to announce the winner of our 2020 Civil Rights and Criminal Law Scholarship. This year, Spolin Law P.C. has chosen Javier Nicholas Ordieres who will receive a $1,000 scholarship to use toward tuition and other educational expenses.
Created in 2017, the Spolin Law P.C. Civil Rights and Criminal Law Scholarship was developed to support students whose work brings awareness to civil rights issues. This falls in line with the firm’s overarching goals of representing individuals whose rights have been violated and protecting each person’s right to be treated with dignity.
Mr. Ordieres was selected based on his impressive scholastic achievements, combined with his essay, which spoke to the heart of the US Constitution, as more than words on a page. Mr. Ordieres not only captured the faults of our government, but the enduring hope the document imparts, to citizens and immigrants alike – our promised inheritance as Americans.
You can read Mr. Ordieres’ entire essay here.
Javier will be attending the University of Georgia in Athens in the fall, and our team of Los Angeles criminal appeals attorneys looks forward to seeing how leaders like him will preserve and advance the values of the Constitution and support human rights in coming years. We firmly believe that the future of America will be built by compassionate individuals and civil rights leaders.
The Spolin Law P.C. Civil Rights and Criminal Law Scholarship aims to encourage students from different fields to apply.
How to Appeal a Conviction Based on Jury Error?Published on September 7, 2020
America’s jury system is a wonderful thing. In the interest of a fair trial, a group of your fellow citizens gather to decide whether or not you are guilty as charged. Theoretically, it’s one of the best ways to reach a just verdict in a court of law.
That’s not to say that humans never make mistakes, and juries are no exception. Human error naturally extends to juries, as hundreds of wrongfully convicted individuals can tell you.
But a jury conviction is not necessarily the end of your case. If you or a loved one have been wrongfully convicted because of jury error, let an experienced and accomplished appeal lawyer from Spolin Law P.C. review the trial record and explain your options.
With our history of getting wrongful convictions overturned, uncovering jury mistakes, and securing the release for countless individuals, we have the knowledge and fierce commitment to helping help your case.
Call (310) 424-5816 today or contact us online for a free consultation.
How Are Juries Selected?
Different states have different means of selecting their jurors for trials. In California and Texas, for example, jury members may come from records provided by the DMV, or voter registration lists. Other states, like New York, may select jurors from income tax, unemployment or family assistance, or volunteer records.
Once the jury members are summoned to court, they are placed on panels for select trial juries.
How Should a Jury Decide on a Verdict?
Upon hearing the final arguments and receiving instructions from the judge, the jury members leave the courtroom to deliberate. Many states, including California, have a lead juror, or presiding juror, that heads the discussions, collects the jurors’ votes, and delivers the final verdict. The bailiff guards the jury room so that no one enters during deliberation.
Oftentimes, the court will provide the jurors with all possible verdicts in written form, so that the presiding juror only has to choose the correct verdict form after deliberation has ended.
In some cases, like those in federal court, the jury’s decision must be unanimous, with the exception of some civil cases.
The jurors may also be sequestered or secluded from all contact with other people, newspapers, and news reports, if they cannot reach a unanimous verdict by the end of the day. However, the jury will usually be allowed to go home at night in most cases. The judge instructs jury members not to view or read reports of the case in the news, nor are they allowed to discuss the case outside of the jury room.
If the jurors cannot reach a unanimous verdict, it is referred to as a hung jury, which will lead to a mistrial. Since the case is not decided at this point, it may be tried again at a later date before an entirely new jury. Another option is for the prosecutor or plaintiff to drop the case, which removed the need for a retrial.
What Is Reversible Juror Error?
While everyone makes mistakes, what happens when the error is made during a jury trial with consequences as serious as a criminal conviction or incarceration.
If the jury’s error was so significant that it is considered a reversible error, it could be grounds for appeal. The most common type of reversible jury error stems from poor jury instructions, but other possibilities include whether the evidence or testimonies were improperly introduced or there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction.
What’s the Next Step if You Suspect Juror Error?
It can be hard to identify when reversible juror error occurs, since deliberations happen behind closed doors and juries rely heavily on instructions for legal context. For instance, if the jury receives improper instructions, it’s highly unlikely they will reach a fair verdict.
If you or your trial attorney believe a reversible juror error occurred, it’s best to consult an experienced appeals attorney who can review the trial record, the judge’s instructions, and identify anything that may have resulted in an unfair result.
How Spolin Law, P.C. Can Assist You
At Spolin Law, P.C., we know how much damage a wrongful conviction from a jury’s error can inflict on someone’s life. But our understanding of how jury errors are made and what it takes to reverse these mistakes has exonerated many of our clients and helped them get their lives back.
Call us today at (310) 424-5816 or contact us online to learn more about how we can help you.
Criminal Appeals: What’s Abuse of Discretion?Published on August 27, 2020
When a case goes to trial, the court has some leeway in how they decide certain issues. If they fail to decide the matter in a legally valid way, this could be an abuse of its discretion and you may be able to get the court’s decision overturned.
A criminal appeal in California is challenging, as courts are generally very careful about their protocols. But mistakes happen, resulting in inappropriate evidence being admitted, overly harsh sentences, and wrongful convictions.
If you believe that a legal mistake led to your or a loved one’s current situation, you need an experienced appeals attorney with a history of success in the criminal appeal process. Let Aaron Spolin and the attorneys at Spolin Law, P.C. review your case file, find any errors, and fight to have incorrect decisions reversed.
Start your appeal today. Call (310) 424-5816 for a free consultation with Spolin Law, P.C.
Appeals: Defining Discretion
Discretion is the flexibility given to the court or judge in your case to make decisions based on circumstances, legal precedent, and their own judgment. This is a fairly vague legal concept, but it usually covers very specific decisions made by judges in criminal cases.
When judges act outside the scope of their authority, base decisions on biased views, or misinterpret the law, it can be considered an abuse of discretion.
Some common examples of abuse of discretion are:
- Not allowing a certain witness to testify
- Showing bias toward the accused
- Making flawed rulings on evidence that stifle one side’s rights
- Influencing the jury to reach a certain verdict
- Sentences that are far too harsh for the offense
When Abuse of Discretion Occurs
How do you know when abuse of discretion occurred?
This is a hard question to answer definitively since discretion is based on individual judgment. And like most appeals, proving that a legal error happened can be an uphill battle. However, the court does not have to prove that they were correct or fair in their judgment. Instead, you only have to establish that they abused their discretion.
For an appeal court to rule that a lower court abused its discretion, and subsequently denied you a fair trial, you must show that the judge’s decision was so obviously against the evidence and reason that it violated your right to a fair trial.
An appeal based on abuse of discretion can have several possible outcomes. If successful, the appeal court may reverse the trial court’s judgment. If you prove that an abuse of discretion occurred but not that it kept you from receiving a fair trial, the appeal court may comment on the error but not overturn the decision. In addition, if you fail to prove an abuse happened, the appeal court will uphold the trial court’s original decision.
Abuse of Discretion: Standard of Review
Standard of review refers to the grounds on which you request a review of your trial court decision. It is not enough to say that you disagree with the decision and ask for an appeal, nor is it enough to state that the trial was unfair or erroneous.
The appellate court is very limited in what it can look at in an appeal, which is why you and your attorney must choose the correct standard.
Other standards of review include the substantial evidence and de novo standards. Substantial evidence is when the trial court’s decision is not backed up by sufficient evidence. The de novo standard is appropriate when the issue stems from a legal issue, allowing the appellate court to evaluate the case as if the trial court had never ruled on it.
Contact Spolin Law for Help
The court is often slow to overturn decisions, and you have a demanding burden to prove an abuse of discretion occurred. But if you think there’s a chance that such an abuse happened in your case or that of a loved one, you should contact Spolin Law P.C. and speak to an experienced criminal appeals lawyer or staff member as soon as possible.
Working with an attorney with a background and history of success in appeals can give you clarity into your case and confidence in your argument. This could result in receiving a lighter sentence, a new trial, or even your freedom.
To find out more about appealing your case, call (310) 424-5816 or reach out online to schedule a free case evaluation.