Individuals in Texas and around the country who are convicted of committing a crime cannot file an appeal just because they claim the jury made a mistake. For an appeal to be heard, a defendant must convince the appellate court that an error of some sort was made during his or her trial that materially or substantially affected the outcome. Appeals are commonly granted when the facts suggest that the judge made an error of law, the evidence presented was not sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant was not adequately represented or rulings were made that went beyond the bounds of judicial discretion.
The appeals process
Appeals courts rarely hear from witnesses, examine evidence, or listen to opening or closing arguments. This is because their primary concern is how the trial was conducted and not the facts of the case. Appeals judges study trial transcripts to determine whether the judge acted properly, evidence that should have been admitted was admitted and the defense attorney advocated on behalf of the defendant effectively.
Important facts are sometimes discovered in a criminal case after the jury has reached a verdict, and these discoveries can sometimes raise questions about a trial that appears to have been conducted correctly. Factors that could influence an appeals judge to overturn a conviction include proof that a witness lied in court, DNA evidence that establishes the defendant’s innocence, the prosecutor’s failure to turn over exculpatory material and bias in the jury.
Advocating on behalf of the wrongly convicted
Arguing before appeals judges is very different than doing so before a jury. This is why individuals who have been wrongfully convicted may be wise to seek out attorneys who are familiar with the criminal appeals process and can study trial transcripts for errors or abuses of judicial discretion.