If your trial did not go as you expected, you may find yourself facing an uncertain future. You may now be facing years or even decades behind bars. As well prepared as you thought you were to present your case, the verdict did not go your way. Now, you wonder where things went wrong and whether there is anything you can do to continue fighting for your freedom.
Fortunately, you may have reason to file an appeal. A successful appeal of your verdict may provide a chance at a more positive outcome. However, it is important that you understand the process and the limitations with the appellate courts.
Four grounds for appeal
Appealing a verdict is not the same as retrying your case. In fact, the appellate process is quite different from a criminal trial. You will not present new evidence or call witnesses before a judge and jury. Instead, a panel of judges will review briefs of the case that both you and the prosecutor present. In this brief, your attorney will explain one or more of the four grounds for appealing a verdict:
- Error of law: The law is complex, and it is common for mistakes to occur during trial, such as a judge allowing evidence that police illegally obtained or the prosecutor violating your rights. Ideally, your attorney objected to these errors.
- Insufficient evidence: You may feel your guilty verdict is not reasonable based on the weight of the evidence against you.
- Abuse of discretion: In any of the many areas where a judge has some discretion in making rulings, you may feel the judge made a decision based on a misinterpretation of the law, and this resulted in a bad verdict for you.
- Ineffective counsel: The U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to have adequate representation when facing criminal charges. If your attorney did not defend you effectively, it may have affected the outcome of your case.
Winning an appeal is not easy, partly because appellate courts prefer to uphold the rulings of lower courts to preserve the integrity of the criminal justice system. However, if you have a skilled Missouri attorney who has the experience and commitment to exploring every option for your appeal, you may have a fighting chance for obtaining a more favorable decision from the appellate court.