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Wrongly convicted - right to appeal?

 
 
Reply Fri 4 Aug, 2006 09:17 am
I read in today's Chicago Tribune that

Quote:


Chicago Tribune, 04.08.2006, Section 1, page 6; online version

How is such handled generally, in state and federal law, resp. at county/municipal courts?

(Since we have only one criminal law in Germany, we've got only one Criminal Procedure Code [Strafproze├čordnung, StPO].
There, Part Four regulates the reopenings of a proceeding. [NB: a verdict of not guilty can't be changed at all.])
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Fri 4 Aug, 2006 11:52 am
Re: Wrongly convicted - right to appeal?
Walter Hinteler wrote:
How is such handled generally, in state and federal law, resp. at county/municipal courts?

The vast majority of criminal cases in the US are heard in state courts. Most states have an intermediate appellate court and all states have a supreme court (although it's not always called "supreme"). A criminal appeal would, therefore, typically go from the trial court to the appellate court to the supreme court. Once a defendant's state court appeals have been exhausted, he might be able to file a habeas corpus petition in federal court, asserting that some federal right (almost always under the fourteenth amendment) has been violated. The federal system also has three levels: district (trial) courts, circuit (appellate) courts, and the supreme court. So a criminal appeal can go all the way to the top of the state judicial system, and then go all the way to the top of the federal judicial system. That's what happens with a lot of death penalty appeals.

With specific reference to appeals based on the actual innocence of a defendant, courts are usually reluctant to hear any evidence of innocence if it wasn't introduced in the original trial. Indeed, in Herrera v. Collins, the supreme court suggested that it would not be cruel and unusual punishment to execute a prisoner who is actually innocent of the crime of which he was convicted.

Walter Hinteler wrote:
(Since we have only one criminal law in Germany, we've got only one Criminal Procedure Code [Strafproze├čordnung, StPO].
There, Part Four regulates the reopenings of a proceeding. [NB: a verdict of not guilty can't be changed at all.])

A not guilty verdict can't be challenged on appeal in the US either.
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Walter Hinteler
 
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Reply Fri 4 Aug, 2006 11:56 am
Thanks, joe!

But what, when new evidence is found, like a different DNA or some evidence, which was neglected or unknown at the time of the trial?

Or if someone says: no, it wasn't him but me, .... and s.o. has been in prison for a couple of years already?
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Fri 4 Aug, 2006 12:12 pm
Walter Hinteler wrote:
But what, when new evidence is found, like a different DNA or some evidence, which was neglected or unknown at the time of the trial?

Or if someone says: no, it wasn't him but me, .... and s.o. has been in prison for a couple of years already?

Under normal circumstances, such evidence cannot be considered by an appellate court. On the other hand, when the new evidence is overwhelmingly convincing, courts often find reasons to order a new trial (or else the governor will issue a pardon).
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Aug, 2006 12:29 pm
I see - as said, our Criminal Procedure Code deals with such.

Thanks!
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NickFun
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Aug, 2006 12:51 pm
I know of a young man who was convicted of rape based entirely on the screaming, teary-eyed accusation of a 13-year-old girl who had a vendetta against him. There was NO physical evidence AT ALL! No semen, no bruises, nothing. Nonetheless, he was an 18-year-old black male with a public defender who had never participated in a rape case before. He served 10 years and now has to register as a sex offender eveywhere he goes. Personally, I think he is innocent.
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