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.
A Guide to Understanding Your Case Status UpdatesPublished on September 26, 2021
|Case Status Details||What This Means||Next Steps|
Requested — extension of time
Granted — extension of time
Updates on requested extensions of time are important to pay attention to as they adhere to strict timelines.
“Requested – extension of time” does not impact when the extension starts. Once the update says “Granted,” your attorney will be notified.
The clock for the given number of days of the extension starts when the extension is granted.
|Tentative Opinion memo||
Tentative opinion memos are used as a way to streamline oral arguments by determining in advance if an oral argument is needed.
If the court finds the legal arguments and facts to have been adequately presented in the briefs and record, then a Tentative Opinion memo would be filed to indicate the majority of the justices on the appeals panel agree on a tentative opinion.
Some tentative opinion memos will indicate what to focus on in oral argument, while others might express that oral argument would not significantly impact the decisional process.
The judges may change their mind on the ruling following oral argument, but it is rare that they do.
After a Tentative Opinion memo, the next step in the appeals process is typically oral argument.
If the majority of the justices on the appeals panel agree on a tentative opinion, then you have a choice of what your next steps are:
1. Counsel may notify the court to waive oral argument. Failure to waive oral argument is deemed as waiving it as well.
2. Counsel can reconfirm their original decision to request oral argument.
2.a. In this case, each party’s oral argument is limited to 15 minutes. Due to the fact that the judges are already briefed on the case and have made a tentative opinion, you are not permitted to repeat the arguments stated in your brief.
|Disputed Issue memo||
A Disputed Issue memo is a type of Tentative Opinion memo where the majority of justices on the panel do not concur on the tentative opinion. In this case, the court’s ruling depends on an issue to be discussed in oral argument.
Disputed Issue memos give both parties notice about what is going to happen at oral argument, and what issues to focus on to speed up the process.
If your case is met with a non-majority panel, you will receive the memo containing the main issues that were disputed by the panel members.
For the next steps, you and your attorney should go over what the Disputed Issue memo says to focus on to prepare for oral argument.
|Notice of appeal lodged/received||
Here the Court of Appeals is acknowledging they received the notice form the superior court.
After receiving this notice, attorneys don’t always check in, as it’s not a duty, so be sure to do so.
This start to the appeals process sets off a cascade of events that your attorney should be aware of.
|Oral argument waiver notice sent||
Oral argument is the time to emphasize the key issues of the case and make sure the court understands what is most important in your case. This can also be a time to ask the judges if they have any questions you can answer for them.
Happens if the court sends you a notice to ask if you want an oral argument and you do not respond.
The court assumes you are waiving your oral argument.
If the notice given by the court does not ask explicitly if you want to participate in oral argument, you can notify the appellate court that you would like to waive oral argument.
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)
Don’t count the days, just let them tick.
I don’t want drugs, not anymore.
Grant my appeal, I’ll be glad.
It was so long, it took him a while.
I said, “really, I see parole in twenty-five.”
And how Christians built prisons for people’s penance.
The law-library has solutions, in a combination of books.
The Judge said what, what was her ruling?
Than to incarcerate one innocent, and hand him a hoe.”
Slave to the State, no longer a man.
Justice is served, nope, nobody listened.
Furious are those prosecutors, who shed no tears.
Therefore somebody, anybody, needs to do this time.”
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.
Death Sentence of Texas’ Longest-Serving Death Row Inmate OverturnedPublished on August 15, 2021
In Austin, TX on April 14th, 2021, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the death sentence of the state’s longest-serving death row inmate. Raymond Riles, now 70, was sent to death row 45 years ago following a conviction for murder and attempted robbery that took place in 1974. The court recently ruled that Riles’ death sentence “can no longer stand,” because the jurors in his trial were not instructed to properly consider his mental illness as a possible mitigating factor.
Raymond Riles has spent more than 45 years wrapped up in Texas’ criminal justice system, starting with his initial death sentence in 1976. Riles spent the next few decades on death row after numerous execution dates would be set and then canceled as he was repeatedly deemed too mentally incompetent to be executed. Thea Posel, one of Riles’ attorneys, noted, “the first time they found him incompetent was in 1987 and 1988 and he has never been restored.”
Riles’ 1976 conviction was overturned shortly after he was sentenced. Riles claimed an insanity defense at his retrial in 1978 and had a number of experts testify that he had schizophrenia with paranoid delusions and psychosis. Relatives also cited a family history of severe mental illness and testified about his own history of “odd and often violent behavior” that persisted throughout most of his life. Despite these well-supported claims, doctors for the prosecution argued that Riles was faking a mental illness. As a result, the jury rejected Riles’ insanity defense. When jurors were later deliberating the sentence, they were only to decide if the murder was deliberate and if Riles is likely to be a danger to society in the future, in accordance with Texas law at that time. Once again, the jury voted to convict Riles of capital murder in 1978.
Things changed in Texas in 1989 when it was ruled that death penalty juries are required to consider mitigating evidence, including a mental illness, that may influence juries to decide for a lesser punishment. In their ruling, the judges for Riles’ case explain that the evidence of mental illness that Riles presented at trial “is the type of evidence that both [the Court of Criminal Appeals] and the Supreme Court have come to regard as the kind of ‘two-edged’ mitigating evidence calling for a separate, mitigation focused jury instruction.” Since the jury in Riles’ trial did not receive this instruction, the Court said his death sentence can no longer stand.
Herbert Washington, Riles’ co-defendant, was also sentenced to death on related charges, but his death sentence was commuted in 1978 to 50–25 years after he pleaded guilty.
Riles’ case has now been sent back to Harris County, where it was originally tried, to again determine his punishment now with an informed and properly instructed jury. While the Harris County DA’s office supported tossing the death sentence, they have not yet shared whether or not the office would seek the death penalty again. Riles’ capital murder conviction remains unchanged.
Client travels around the country visiting family after Spolin Law gets wrongful murder charges dismissed.Published on June 22, 2021
A former Spolin Law client visited the firm’s main office and shared with his lawyers what he has been doing since his release. The client had been wrongfully charged with a gang-related murder and held in custody for nearly a year. (For more details about his case, read the original article written the day after his case was dismissed.) Last week the client met with five of the firm’s lawyers as well as some members of the firm’s administrative team.
After walking out of custody a free man, the client visited family all over the country to reconnect, celebrate his release, and begin the exciting next phase of his life. Much of his time was spent in Chicago and Los Angeles, where many of his family and friends live. And of course, he has not forgotten to spend a great deal of time with his mother, who probably spent even more time than the Spolin Law lawyers in fighting to secure her son’s release.
In recounting his travels and celebrating his newfound freedom, the client met with the lawyers who had directly represented him, including Aaron Spolin, and Jeremy Cutcher. Two other attorneys on his legal defense team were not present: Caitlin Dukes and Matt Delgado (of counsel). Attorneys Don Nguyen, Arlene Binder, and Dan DeMaria had not represented him but were present for the happy occasion. Also present was law firm manager Dionne Parker; one of the firm’s case managers, Hemi Tann; and the mailroom manager Michael Alfi. The Spolin Law attorneys and staff were excited to hear about further travel and life plans in the client’s future.
To speak with Aaron Spolin or any of the firm’s attorneys about your case, call us at (866) 716-2805.
How long does a California appeal take?Published on June 12, 2021
Filing a criminal appeal in California is oftentimes a drawn-out and complicated process. If you plan on taking appellate action, knowing the basics of how it functions is crucial. The length of this appeals process varies from case to case, ranging anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. Nevertheless, while some cases may take longer than others to resolve, it is important that all appeals are filed quickly after a conviction sentencing.
Before filing, you must first confirm that you have a case that warrants an appeal. It is important that you reach out to an appellate attorney, who will look through the details of your case to identify any legal errors and advise you on what the next steps may be.
If the attorney confirms you are eligible, and you decide to proceed with an appeal, you will start the appellate process by filing a Notice of Appeal in the superior court. For misdemeanor cases, the deadline to file is 30 days from the date of judgement. Felony offenses, on the other hand, hold a 60-day deadline.
While direct appeals must be filed within this 30- and 60-day window, there are other types of post-conviction relief that may be submitted after this deadline has passed. Common examples include a California Writ of Habeas Corpus and an Application for Commutation of Sentence.
Can I file a late appeal?
In some cases, extensions may be granted for defendants who miss the designated deadline. In compliance with the 2018 California Rules of Court, in instances of public emergency, defendants will receive a longer time window to appeal.
Additionally, in the event that your attorney fails to provide proper assistance during the appeals filing process, the traditional 30- or 60-day deadline no longer applies. For example, if your attorney does not inform you of your right to appeal or provides misinformation about the deadline of your appeal, you may be eligible for an extension.
Furthermore, cases of constructive filing also serve as proper grounds for an appellate extension. This occurs when the appeal does not make it to the courthouse on time despite genuine efforts from the defendant. Filing the appeal with the wrong court or mailing delays that are out of your control are just some instances in which a constructive filing extension may be offered.
Certificate of Probable Cause
In addition to submitting a Notice of Appeal, you must file a Certificate of Probable Cause (CPC) which legitimizes the basis of the appeal. The court then receives 20 days to review the submission and either grant or deny the CPC.
Notice of Designation Record on Appeal
Within 10 days of filing your Notice of Appeal, you must also file a Notice of Designation Record on Appeal. Doing so will notify the involved parties (including the court clerk, court report, etc.) and facilitate the collecting of trial records and transcripts which will be used in the appellate proceedings.
Once the primary paperwork has been completed and all the trial records have been compiled, the next step in the appellate process is the preparation of the opening brief. In an opening brief, your appeals attorney provides a summary of your trial, presents their argument, and requests a certain outcome.
The opening brief is expected to be submitted within 40 days of when the Notice of Designation Record on Appeal was filed. This is followed by the respondent’s brief which is filled by the opposing counsel within 30 days of the opening brief. Lastly, once the respondent’s brief is filed, the appellant is given 20 days to counter the respondent’s brief what is called the reply brief.
The next steps in the appellate process are the oral arguments, during which attorneys will be given the chance to argue their case in person and answer any lingering questions the presiding judge may have. You can expect these oral arguments to take place a few weeks after the filing of the briefs.
Contact Spolin Law P.C. About an Appeal in California
If you or a loved one plan on appealing a criminal conviction or have questions about your eligibility for an appeal or extension, don’t hesitate to reach out to Spolin Law P.C. today.
Governor Grants Commutation for Yet Another Spolin Law ClientPublished on June 3, 2021
The Firm’s Clients Have Now Been Included in 66% of All Commutation Batches Carried Out by Governor Gavin Newsom.
For the second time in a row, a Spolin Law client was included in Governor Gavin Newsom’s summer commutation batch, which occurred last Friday. The client and his family were beyond excited to learn that the client’s life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentence had been removed by the governor. The client is now eligible to re-enter society through the parole process.
Historically, some governors have waited until the end of their terms to issue commutations and pardons. However, Governor Gavin Newsom has been issuing large batches of commutations every summer throughout his term. This has included a batch in August of 2019, June of 2020, and May of 2021. Spolin Law is proud to note that the firm’s clients have been included in the last two of these three batches issued by Governor Newsom.
In publicly announcing the commutation, Governor Newsom had the following words to say about the client:
- In 1995, Omar Walker and his crime partner committed a robbery. The crime partner shot and killed the victim. On November 25, 1997, the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, sentenced Mr. Walker to life without the possibility of parole for murder and three years for three counts of robbery, plus 16 years and eight months of sentence enhancements.
- … While serving a sentence with no hope of release, Mr. Walker has devoted himself to his self-improvement. Mr. Walker completed vocational training and has engaged in extensive self-help programming. He is currently assigned to the Delancey Street Honors Unit, a program that teaches job and life skills in preparation for release…
- Mr. Walker participated in a serious crime that took the victim’s life. Since then, Mr. Walker has dedicated himself to his rehabilitation and becoming a productive citizen. I have carefully considered and weighed the evidence of Mr. Walker’s positive conduct in prison, the fact that he was a youthful offender, and his good prospects for successful community reentry…
- This act of clemency for Mr. Walker does not minimize or forgive his conduct or the harm it caused. It does recognize the work he has done since to transform himself.
Commuting a sentence is one of the Governor’s most powerful abilities. State governors (like Governor Newsom) are able to commute sentences or pardon convicts for individuals convicted of state crimes. The President of the United States is able to commute and pardon federal crimes.
To learn more about commutations and other types of post-conviction relief, call one of the lawyers at Spolin Law P.C. We are available at (310) 424-5816.
What Happens If You Lose an AppealPublished on May 22, 2021
With the recent introduction of new laws and the revision of old ones, the chances of winning a criminal appeal in the state of California have slowly been on the rise. Reaching a record 20% success rate, now is as good a time as ever to pursue appellate action and achieve the fair result you deserve.
Despite this hopeful incline, however, the reality of it is that many appeals are not granted. But losing an appeal doesn’t mean you have to give up your fight for justice. As you will see below, there are many different pathways you can take after a failed appellate petition.
Option 1) Petition for Rehearing: By petitioning for a rehearing, you are asking the court to review the appellate court’s ruling in the search for large legal irregularities such as a major misstatement of fact or error of law. If you wish to petition for a rehearing, you must do so within 15 days of the official appellate court’s decision. This is a very strict window so it is important that you act fast and enlist the help of a proper legal team.
Option 2) Petition for Review by Supreme Court: While not as common, if you lose your appeal, you do have the option to challenge the decision in hopes of taking your case to the Supreme Court. However, it is important to recognize that the Supreme Court has the authority to turn away any cases they do not want to review. Furthermore, the granting of such review is typically reserved for cases regarding legal issues that are of great importance or those that have never come before the courts.
Because an appellate court decision becomes final within 30 days of its release, the state enforces a strict 10-day deadline to submit this request for review by the Supreme Court.
Option 3) Pursue other types of Post Conviction Relief: A Writ of Habeas Corpus, for instance, is a common type of post-conviction relief that is available to those who have exhausted all other appeal options, and may offer hope to someone who just received an undesired appellate decision. Furthermore, unlike the other two options, writs of habeas corpus do not come with a strict submission deadline and you have a little more leeway in terms of when you want to file.
However, before you proceed with a Writ of Habeas Corpus, you must make sure you are eligible for this type of post-conviction relief. Some common grounds for such an appeal include ineffective assistance of counsel, jury misconduct, judicial misconduct, violation of due process, prison conditions that violate civil rights, or lack of speedy and public trial. Additionally, with a Writ of Habeas Corpus, new evidence may be introduced if discovered.
However, successfully arguing Habeas Corpus relief is no easy feat and it can be extremely difficult if you don’t have a strong team of appellate lawyers on your side. We recognize that this may be your last chance at relief and are prepared to treat your case with care and passion. Aaron Spolin has filled countless Writs of Habeas Corpus and has been consistently recognized for his work in this area of law. With the guidance of Aaron and his experienced legal staff, fighting an unsuccessful appeal isn’t as daunting as it may seem.
How do you find a case in the Texas Court of Appeals?Published on May 14, 2021
In most cases, civil and criminal court proceedings are public record. Whether you are a defendant checking the status of your case, an appeals attorney researching the details of a trial, or simply someone looking to browse, all the information you need is at the touch of your fingertips.
On March 2, Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas would reopen 100%, effective immediately. Now, as state courts start to reopen and postponed trials are finally receiving court dates, knowing how to find cases in the Texas Court of Appeals will become an ever-important skill that can help you stay up to date with the details of a case.
The first step in searching for a case is locating the docket number that has been assigned to that case. Defendants can find this number on their case documents.
Those who don’t have access to these documents can find the docket number by reaching out to the local court clerk. As long as you can provide the party’s name and the county where the case is being heard, a court clerk can quickly access the number for you.
Once you have identified the correct docket number, you can use it to search for the case on the Texas Court of Appeals’ website. To complete the search, input the number into the section titled “appellate case #” at the top of the screen and press the button that says “find my case.” The website will then prompt you to fill out a page of case information, including the county, type of offense, the filing date, etc., to help narrow the search.
After you have this completed, the site will compile a list of cases that fit the criteria. Once you find your case, you will be able to click on it and find the basic details of the case such as the parties and attorneys involved as well as any important dates related to the case. Additionally, you will have access to all court materials involved in the case, including hearings, filings, decisions, etc.
What are some alternative ways to search for Texas appellate cases?
While using a docket number is the easiest way to find a case, there are other ways to access such information. Many websites, like Findlaw or Justia, offer free, online access to all Texas Appellate Court decisions. When using these sites, a docket number is not required to locate a case. All you need are the names of the parties involved or the name of the county court.
You can also use case law databases to find case information. Programs like Google Scholar allow you to browse for cases by subject, location, or year.
Making use of these available resources to track down cases will allow you to stay organized and well informed on the details of a case. Doing so will ease the appellate process and may help produce a more favorable outcome.
“How It Feels To Be Set Free” — Lawyer Monthly Interviews Former Spolin Law ClientPublished on May 13, 2021
On April 30, 2021 Lawyer Monthly published a full-length interview with a former Spolin Law client whose case the firm had won. The interview provides an insight into the life of an inmate and the powerful impact winning a case for freedom can have in rekindling the dreams and hopes of an individual. The following is a transcript of that interview with the client’s name removed.
How It Feels To Be Set Free
Six months ago, Mr. C’s life was very different from what it is now. He was a state inmate serving a potential life sentence for a murder conviction. Now, thanks to the help from his lawyer, Aaron Spolin, and Mr. C’s own persistence, he is a free man. In this exclusive interview for Lawyer Monthly, he discusses how he dealt with prison life, the problems in the criminal justice system, and how it feels to finally be set free.
The Impact of Being Prosecuted and Sentenced
What was your reaction when you heard your original sentence of 39 years to life?
I felt nothing. I was 21 years old and had already been inside since I was 19. I don’t know, I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel anything until I was locked up for 10 years, and then I started to feel like, “Oh wow, you’re locked up for life, bro.”
What effect did your imprisonment have on your family?
I’m just now seeing the effects of it. A lot of missed time, a lot of pain that I put them through. I couldn’t see my daughter. I lost a lot of family members while I was in prison. The most recent one was my uncle a few years ago.
I’m sorry to hear that. How did your fiancée T help you get through all this?
She’s my backbone, my everything. She’s the one that keeps me sane, keeps me going. She never gave up; the one that never lost hope. She came into my life and gave me that hope and gave me that push when I didn’t have it. I felt like it was over with.
Life in Prison
How would you describe your life and conditions in prison?
Well, I mean, I did what I had to do to survive.
How were the conditions? Were they acceptable for what they were? Do they need to be improved on?
Oh yeah, it needs to be improved on.
If you could become the warden for the day, what would you change?
A lot of the rules. A lot of the rules are double-edged swords and it doesn’t matter what you do, you lose no matter what. Even if you are in the right, it doesn’t matter as they try to make you lose.
Is there a specific time or instance that you’re thinking of?
Yes, they put a whole year on my sentence that the judge took off, but I ended up doing it, and they basically swept it under the rug like, “Hey, it was just a typo”, but I actually did the time, even though I proved to them I didn’t have to.
Did life in prison ever become “normal” for you?
Yes, for 15 years, that was my life. I grew up in there, so it was similar to how a teenager may grow up in the street, I grew up in prison. I learned things the same way you learn things out on the street — I was just in prison.
You mentioned that 15-year mark. Did something happen at that 15-year mark?
I went down to a lower level, and when I did…it was different, I’ll say that. It was unlike what I was used to. Once I got there, and I had seen how different it was, my outlook changed. At a higher level, you become a victim if you have feelings, but when I got to a lower level, it was different. I could have feelings. I could start living my life.
When you got to a lower level, did it seem like you could get released sooner?
Exactly. When I first got to a lower level, the first person I saw go home, I was confused and asked, “Where you goin’?”. They said, “I goin’ home.” I replied, “You goin’ home? People go home?” I had never actually seen anyone leave prison.
What are your main concerns and issues with the prison system?
The way they treat us, the food, the healthcare, the living… it’s filthy. People are willing to clean up, but at the same time, they don’t give you anything to do it with. Just like with Coronavirus, they don’t give you what you need to sanitise and that is why everyone caught it. It shows it’s falling apart. It is super cold in the winter and with no ventilation, it’s super hot in the summer.
Do you have suggestions for new programs that would help people integrate into society better after being released from prison?
One thing they don’t set us up for is the reality of easing back into ‘normal’ life; they try to set you up for jobs and reentry to your family, but they really don’t regard or let you know how it’s not as easy as you think it will be. After all those years, going home and trying to introduce yourself back into your family… Your family still sees you as the 19-year-old boy that went in. If I didn’t do a life skills class or any of the classes that prepared me for family issues, I would never have asked myself “What do I need to do to make this transition better? They may not understand it, so what can I do to help?”. But there’s some stuff they can’t teach you. Maybe someone who has been out and experienced it could come back and teach you. In there, everybody helps you out. If you need to eat, someone will help you eat. Out here, it’s more, “It’s not my mess, so why would I pick it up for?”
So, it’s more individualistic outside of prison?
Yes. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out here more so than it is in prison, which is the opposite of what most people may think. If you feel like you can do it and deal with the consequences, then that’s fine. A few years ago, I just started living my life like chess. I calculated every move, and that’s what keeps me out of trouble. If a move isn’t worth it, I’m not going to do it.
And you felt that was a view you accumulated while in prison?
I didn’t have that view before. When I was 19, I was spontaneous. If someone said, “Let’s go beat someone up”, without too much thought, I would say, “OK.”
That community feeling in prison — did that go for both the higher and lower levels? The feeling that everyone had everyone’s back.
Same all the way through. It may not be the same amount of respect on every level… the higher levels have more respect and more structure and that’s what I grew up on — the higher level structure. When I got to a lower level, it helped me detour from that life. I think everything worked according to God’s plan. It all fell into line.
What motivated you each day to keep fighting for your release even after 25 years of imprisonment?
My daughter. I saw her almost every weekend.
Life After Prison
Has prison changed you? How?
Yes, but not for the worse. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it weren’t for prison.
How would you describe yourself now?
Generous, life of the party, always willing to help.
Do you see anything positive about your time in custody?
I ended up going to a prison ministry retreat that they call “Kairos”, and once I went there, I started seeing a different way of living, which I had known when I was younger but didn’t accept. But I finally tried it, and everything turned around after that. I did what I had to do to get out. I let the old me go. My goal was to give back instead of taking. That’s how I ended up getting an education. I became a tutor, I helped people get an education, helped them get their GED, helped people who were struggling with their life in prison get their lives together.
How did it feel to learn you won your case?
I didn’t know what to feel. My whole body was tensed up. Every muscle was tense. My body was in one big cramp. I didn’t know how to feel or what to think. I was just thinking, “Wow. Finally… Finally.”
Did you feel justice had been done despite your lengthy incarceration?
Of course, it wasn’t their fault. It was my fault. I put myself in that situation. Nobody else put me in that situation.
What was the first thing you did after being released from prison?
Two of my nieces, my oldest brother, and my oldest niece’s boyfriend came to pick me up, and the first thing they did was hand me the phone, as there were people already on the line wanting to talk to me. I was finally walking through the gate not to get on a bus and go to another prison, but walking through it to go home.
What were you most excited about with your newfound freedom?
Being able to see my mom and dad on the other side, without restrictions on contact and how long a visit is, or what food we have to eat. Also, being able to spend time with my daughter for the first time outside of prison. She was born after I went in. Some of the things that are tough to you, you don’t see them as being tough anymore. They just are what they are.
What were you most nervous about upon being released?
A lot of things. I think the most prominent thing I was probably worried about was people thinking that I was weird because of the things that I became used to, because I know the things I was accustomed to doing while I was in prison, is not normal in everyday life.
Do you have a specific example of that?
Mainly just how I’d been living. It is a different living style in prison than it is out here, especially in relation to respect levels and socialising. I felt more love in prison than I do on the streets. You have to be a family in prison. Everybody greets everyone with a “good morning” in prison. Out here if you do that, they swear up and down that something is wrong with you.
What were your job opportunities when released?
I had so many job opportunities. If people say there are no job opportunities when you get out of prison, it’s a lie. I worked one job for two weeks, but they were treating us badly, so I left. Two weeks later, I got another job that I’m still working now.
Is this a testament to your work ethic?
I learned when I was in prison. I took every class I could in order to prepare me for life upon my release. The Employment Prep class showed us how to find jobs outside of prison; they taught me parts and T helped me with the stuff I didn’t know. I also always had a job in prison. If they wouldn’t give me a job, I was going to find a job.
Did these jobs in prison help you find jobs on the outside?
Of course they did. Without that experience, I wouldn’t feel comfortable having an interview with somebody or anything like that. When I did my first practice interview, I was so nervous I was sweating.
Do you get value out of your work?
I love my job, even if, like most people, I don’t love going on some days. I try to do so much on my days off, and work just as hard on my workdays. I feel like work gets in the way sometimes, but I like making money and you know what they say: you work hard, you can play hard.
What would you tell the people who think you should still be in prison?
They are one step away from being in there themselves. Everyone has something that could cause them to be where I sat. You accuse somebody, that’s a life sentence. I have a best friend named L who has a life sentence because he hit somebody and kept going, not realising the extent of his actions, and he’s been in there for 22 years now. Everyone is a step away from being in that place if you don’t make the right choice. I made the wrong choice. I hung with the wrong person. Everyone is going to have that feeling that people shouldn’t get out. Somebody in there could save your life. People in prison change and teach other people in prison to change. Lots of people feel that those who go in there should never come out. A lot of those people call themselves Christians, but if you aren’t willing to forgive someone in prison, what kind of Christian are you?
How do you feel about the criminal justice system in California in general?
It’s screwed up, really screwed up. All you have to do is look at the population of the prison, where they grew up, where they lived, and then look at the justice system. Who are they locking up? You know they’re not locking up people who stole a billion dollars; they’re locking up someone who stole bread to feed his family, or somebody who stole because they couldn’t get a job because of their history. That’s the plus side for me is that they don’t see a record because I’ve been gone for over 20 years, but for someone who has been gone five or six years, they will see their history and won’t give them a job. They’ll simply say they’ve already hired this many felons this year.
Is it a numbers game to them?
Yes, they don’t want to hire too many ex-convicts. They don’t want their company full of felons, but that’s who they should hire, because they would never steal from you. After all, they don’t want to go back to prison.
When you referred to who they’re locking up, who were you referring to specifically?
Minorities. You don’t find someone in the upper or middle class — that’s 1 out of 100 people. They also then want to lock you up forever. A lot of people in there with life sentences are 60 to 70 years old and have been in there for 40 years. What are they going to do out there, when they are barely moving in prison! But that’s what they want. They want you decrepit. They hate to let you out when you still got youth in you. People have been clean for 20 years that are still in there, but if you go to the board they will just knock you down.
What do you know now that you wish you would have known when you were 19?
That life was easy then. Life was easier than I thought it was.
When you say life was easier, did you feel somewhat hopeless at 19? And is that what led you to commit crime?
At 19, I was trying to keep up with everyone else. I wanted the nice cars, the shoes, the clothes… but if I had known I could have gone and got a job and gotten money easier than the way I was getting it, I would have done it that way. I did not get my first job until after I was released.
What emotion did you experience most in prison?
What emotion have you experienced most since your release?
Joy, just joy. I wake up every morning looking forward to my day. What I can do, accomplish, learn…
If you wrote an autobiography about your life, what would it be called?
“Listen to What’s Been Said.”
C was represented by:
Spolin Law P.C.
11500 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 400
Los Angeles, CA 90064
To read the original article you can visit the Lawyer Monthly website.