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Wrongfully Convicted? – An Appeal May Offer Hope

Each year, thousands of individuals across the nation, including those in Lafayette, Louisiana, are wrongfully convicted of a crime.

Despite its best efforts, the Louisiana justice system doesn’t always get it right.

If you or a family member have been wrongfully convicted, our appeals attorney and appellate legal team may be able to help you get the justice you deserve, clearing your good name and giving you back your life.


Appealing for a Criminal Conviction

There are several reasons why it may be important to consider appealing a criminal conviction.

  1. To Overturn an Unjust or Wrongful Conviction

    White thin venous hands in handcuffs close-up against the background of the lattice. Punishment for a crime and violation of the law

    If you believe that you have been wrongly convicted of a crime, appealing the conviction may be the best way to try to clear your name and achieve justice.

    A successful appeal can result in the overturning of the conviction and may result in your release from custody or a new trial.

  2. To Reduce the Severity of Your Sentence

    Even if you believe that you are guilty of the crime for which you were convicted, you may still be able to appeal your sentence if you feel that it is too severe.

    A successful appeal can result in a reduction in your sentence, which may allow you to serve a shorter prison term or pay lower fines.

  3. To Protect Your Rights

    If you believe that your rights were violated during the trial or that the trial was otherwise conducted unfairly, appealing the conviction may be the best way to protect your rights and seek justice.

  4. To Set a Legal Precedent

    In some cases, appealing a criminal conviction may be important for setting a legal precedent or establishing a new interpretation of the law. A successful appeal may have broader implications and may help to shape future legal decisions. It’s important to note that the chances of success on appeal vary depending on the specific facts of the criminal case and the grounds for the appeal.


How Can a Criminal Appeals Attorney Help

A criminal appeals attorney can help you in several ways if you are considering appealing a criminal conviction.

  • Review the Facts of Your Case

    A criminal appeals attorney can review the facts of your case and the legal proceedings to determine if there were any errors or mistakes made that may have impacted the outcome of your case.

  • Advise You on Your Appeal Options

    A criminal appeals attorney from our team can advise you on your appeal options and help you understand the specific grounds for appeal that may be available in your case. They can also help you understand the chances of success on appeal and the potential risks and benefits of pursuing an appeal.

  • File the Necessary Paperwork

    Your criminal appeals attorney can handle the paperwork and other legal requirements involved in filing an appeal. This includes preparing and filing the notice of appeal, briefs, and other documents required by the appellate court.

  • Represent You in Court

    A criminal appeals attorney can represent you in court and present your case to the appellate court. They can present oral and written arguments, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and make legal arguments to support your appeal.

    Overall, a criminal appeals attorney can provide you with the knowledge, skills, and representation you need to navigate the appeals process and achieve the best possible outcome for your case.


What Are the Most Common Grounds for a Criminal Appeal?

Supreme Court of the United StatesThe most common grounds for a criminal appeal are errors or mistakes made by the trial court that may have impacted the outcome of the case.

Specific grounds for appeal may include:

  • Insufficient evidence
  • Juror misconduct
  • Improper jury instructions
  • Prosecutorial misconduct
  • Ineffective assistance of counsel

Insufficient Evidence

If the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to support a conviction, the defendant may be able to appeal the decision on the grounds that the evidence was not strong enough to support the verdict.

Juror Misconduct

If a juror engaged in misconduct during the trial, such as failing to follow the judge’s instructions or conducting their own independent research, the defendant may be able to appeal the decision on the grounds of juror misconduct.

Improper Jury Instructions

If the judge gave improper or confusing instructions to the jury, the defendant may be able to appeal the decision on the grounds that the instructions may have misled the jury or impacted their ability to make a fair decision.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

If the prosecution engaged in misconduct during the trial, such as presenting false or misleading evidence, the defendant may be able to appeal the decision on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

If the defendant’s lawyer provided inadequate representation during the trial, the defendant may be able to appeal the decision on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel.


Types of Criminal Appeals

  • Direct Appeals

    Direct appeals are a type of appeal that is made after a criminal conviction. In a direct appeal, the appellant (usually the defendant) argues that there were errors or mistakes made during the trial that impacted the outcome of the case.

    Direct appeals are typically made to an appellate court, which is a higher court that reviews the decisions of lower courts. The appellate court will typically review the transcript of the trial and the briefs (written arguments) filed by the appellant and the prosecution.

    The appellate court may also hear oral arguments from both sides, in which the attorneys present their arguments to the court in person.

    The purpose of a direct appeal is to determine if there were any errors or mistakes made during the trial that may have impacted the outcome of the case.

    If the appellate court finds that there were errors or mistakes made, it may overturn the conviction or order a new trial. If the appellate court does not find any errors or mistakes, it will typically affirm (uphold) the conviction.


What Percentage of Appeals are Successful?

It’s difficult to accurately estimate what percentage of appeals are successful, as the success rate can vary depending on several factors, including the jurisdiction, the specific grounds for appeal, and the strength of the evidence.

In general, the success rate for criminal appeals is relatively low compared to other types of appeals, with some estimates based on legal data showing up to a 20% success rate.

This is because the standards for overturning a conviction on appeal are generally high, and the appellate court will typically give deference to the decision of the trial court.

However, it’s important to note that every case is different, and there is no guarantee of success on appeal.

It’s important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand your options and the chances of success on appeal in your particular case.

At the Ikerd Law Firm, we can help you determine whether or not an appeal is the right path forward and can leverage our extensive expertise and knowledge in the appellate court to position your case for success.


How Long Do Criminal Appeals Take?

The length of time it takes for a criminal appeal to be resolved can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the complexity of the case, the workload of the appellate court, and the availability of legal counsel.

In general, the appeals process can take several months to a few years to complete. The length of time can also vary depending on the specific stage of the appeals process.

For example, the initial filing of an appeal may take several weeks to several months, while the actual appeal hearing and decision may take several months to a year or more.

It’s important to note that the length of time for a criminal appeal can vary greatly and may depend on the specific circumstances of the case.

It’s a good idea to discuss the expected timeline with our criminal defense attorneys so that you can have an idea of what to expect during the appeals process.


Connect with a Results-Oriented Criminal Appeals Attorney at the Ikerd Law Firm

Do not let a wrongful conviction stand in the way of the rest of your life.

Reach out today for a consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

An “appeal” is when you formally seek review from a higher court for legal errors after a final judgment. Therefore, only a criminal defendant who has been subject to a “final judgment” can file for an appeal with the intermediate courts of appeal. A final criminal judgment is when someone has been convicted of a crime and sentenced.

If someone files for review with the courts of appeal prior to a final judgment, they must apply for a supervisory writ, not an “appeal.” The main difference is that a court of appeal must accept and consider a properly filed appeal and the issues raised in that appeal.

However, an appellate court has “discretionary jurisdiction” regarding supervisory writs, which means the court does not have to grant the writ application and consider its contents if the court decides to deny the writ. Sometimes, the appellate court will grant the writ and still deny the relief sought by the applying party.

The Louisiana Constitution expressly states, “In criminal cases [a Court of Appeal’s] appellate jurisdiction extends only to questions of law.” La. Const. art. V, § 10 (emphasis added). This means that in Louisiana the Courts of Appeal and Supreme Court cannot second guess “questions of fact.”

What is the difference between questions of law and questions of fact?

The credibility of a witness is a crucial fact to consider. Whether a jury should believe a witness, even if you think they are lying, is exclusively the right of the jury or fact-finder to decide. In other words, how much “weight” to give one witness’ testimony over another is a fact-determining factor. Thus, a Court of Appeals judge who did not get to sit and watch a witness testify CANNOT reverse a reasonable jury’s determination to believe a witness’ testimony. This occurs often in the common “he said, she said” scenario. If Witness 1 is saying one thing and Witness 2 is saying something different, a jury’s determination to believe Witness 1 and not Witness 2 cannot be overturned on appeal.

A question of law, however, CAN be reviewed. This means that if a judge makes a wrong ruling on a legal issue (motion to suppress, objection for hearsay, jury instruction, etc.), the appellate court can review that issue and overrule the judge. Depending on the impact that ruling had on the overall outcome of the case, this could lead to a reversal of a conviction and a new trial being granted.

Think: Is the issue being reviewed asking to overturn the judge’s legal ruling or a jury’s finding of guilt or credibility? If you are asking to overturn a jury’s finding of fact, then that is not an appealable issue.

Somewhat confusing for laypersons is the caveat to this, which is a ruling on the sufficiency of the evidence. If a jury finds someone guilty, they have implicitly found there was sufficient evidence of guilt. However, “sufficiency of evidence” is technically not a fact question but instead a legal question governed by the Jackson Standard.

The Jackson Standard, which comes from Jackson v. Virginia 443 U.S. 307 (1979), and has been adopted in Louisiana, states that when viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, could a reasonable jury have returned a guilty verdict?

In essence, what this is really asking is: did the state offer ANY evidence for every element of the crime? If no, then a reasonable jury could not find someone guilty (example: no evidence of a dangerous weapon used in an aggravated battery case, even though there is clear evidence of battery). If yes, then the conviction will be upheld.

The Jackson Standard is a very high bar to justice for a criminal defendant. It only asks for the “sufficiency” of the evidence, not the “weight” of the evidence, which is a fact issue.

Once a criminal appeal is filed, it takes time to be resolved. Below are the general steps, each taking significant time to complete:

  1. After a final judgment, defense counsel must file a Notice of Appeal and Designation of the Record
  2. The court reporter must transcribe all hearings listed in the Designation of the Record
  3. The clerk of court for the trial court will compile the official appellate record, which will include the transcripts, written motions, exhibits, clerk of court minutes, etc.
  4. The appellate record will “lodge” with the Court of Appeals
  5. The Court of Appeal will send out a notice of lodging to all counsel of record and issue a due date for the appellant and appellee briefs.
  6. The attorney for the appellant (defendant) will review the record and draft a brief raising all legal issues for review that are relevant to the case
  7. The attorney for the appellee (State) will review the record and answer the appellant’s brief
  8. Clerk of Court for the Court of Appeals will assign the case to a three-judge panel, which is randomly selected
  9. If the case is set for Oral Argument, the judges and attorneys will prepare to discuss the case at oral argument
  10. If the case is not set for Oral Argument, the case will be “submitted on the briefs” to the three-judge panel for review
  11. A panel of judges will meet in conference and discuss the case, review the law, vote on an outcome, and assign one of the judges to write the majority opinion, which must have at least 2 votes in support of that position. If one judge disagrees with the majority, they may draft a “dissenting opinion.” Any judge is free to agree in part with the majority, or for different reasons, and draft a “concurring opinion” expressing where they agree and differ from the majority opinion.
  12. Clerk of Court for the Court of Appeals will release the decision on its website and send hard copies to the parties

If a criminal defendant/appellant loses their direct appeal of right to the Court of Appeals, they must decide how to proceed. There are several options:

  • Do nothing – the appeal will become final 30 days after the opinion is officially released. All appeal rights are over.
  • File an Application for Rehearing – within 15 days of the opinion, the losing party may file an application for rehearing, which should be used sparingly and mainly when it is obvious the Court ignored a key fact or misconstrued a party’s position.
  • File an Application for Supervisory Writs with Louisiana Supreme Court – within 30 days of the Court of Appeal’s decision (either the original appeal, denial of rehearing, or ruling on the merits of rehearing), a party may seek review with the Louisiana Supreme Court. Its jurisdiction is discretionary as well, and the Court only grants review in exceptional circumstances.

There may be other procedural filings that are possible, including a motion for rehearing of the Louisiana Supreme Court’s ruling (only if they grant the writ and issue a ruling on the merits) or a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.

Each step in this process takes time. It takes many weeks for the court reporter to type up the transcripts, for the clerk to put the record together, for the attorneys to read and research the record and write a brief, and for the appellate judges to draft an opinion. Expect this process to take up to a year, and possibly longer.

There are several possible outcomes to a criminal appeal, and they depend on the relief being sought by the parties.

In general, the possible outcomes are:

  1. Reversed Conviction and Acquittal – Almost all criminal appeals will raise at least one issue on the “sufficiency of the evidence,” which essentially claims the State failed to prove each element of the crime. In the rare case where this argument is successful, the outcome is to reverse the conviction(s) and enter an acquittal instead.
  2. Reversed Conviction and Remand for New Trial – If the appellate court finds a legal error that was not harmless and substantially affected the outcome of the case, the court may reverse the conviction and remand the case back to the trial court for a new trial. The logic is that “but for” the erroneous legal ruling by the trial court (i.e., ruling on a motion, objection, etc.), the outcome of the trial could have been different. Thus, the case is remanded for a new trial to be conducted without the bad legal ruling.
  3. Change or Remand for a New Sentence – Sometimes the parties will argue that a sentence is excessive or legally incorrect (i.e. longer than statutorily allowed, does not offer probation or parole when it should, etc.). Depending on the particular issue, the court may have the power to change or correct a sentence. However, in most cases, the appellate court will only note the legal error and remand the case to the trial court for a new sentence to be imposed, but one that avoids the same legal error.
  4. Remand for a Factual Hearing – In rare occasions, an issue is raised on appeal where the appellate record is incomplete. Depending on the issue, some courts will remand the case for a narrow hearing on a legal issue so the court of appeals can fully understand what happened before issuing a ruling. Again, this is very rare.

There may be other possible outcomes of a criminal appeal, but they are highly fact-specific.

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