5 Strategies Appeals Attorneys Use to Win a Criminal Court Appeal

how to win an appeal in court

When the gavel strikes and the verdict is read, it can feel like the end of the road. But for those who believe justice has not been served, the appeals process offers a glimmer of hope.

However, the appellant will face a series of challenges and roadblocks, including complicated legal procedures, strict deadlines, and a strong opponent in the form of the legal system itself.

At Whalen Law Office, we understand the weight of this journey and the gravity of the stakes involved. Our team of seasoned attorneys has honed their skills and collected a wealth of knowledge that can help tilt the scales in your favor.

#1 Identifying Legal Errors

One of the most common grounds for appeal is the presence of legal errors committed by the trial court. These errors can take many forms, such as:

  • Improper admission
  • Exclusion of evidence
  • Flawed jury instructions
  • Legal misconduct.

In the State of Texas, the rules of evidence are strictly followed to ensure that the legal process remains fair and integrity. If a trial court fails to follow these rules, it can lead to an appeal.

For example, if a judge lets in evidence that should have been excluded under the Texas Rules of Evidence Rule 402, the appellant may argue that this mistake made the jury decide unfairly, and they might ask for a new trial.

#2 Challenging the Verdict’s Foundation

Another common basis for appeal is saying that the evidence presented at trial was not strong enough to support the verdict. In criminal cases, the burden of proof rests squarely on the prosecution, who must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

If the evidence fails to reach this high bar, the appellant can argue that the conviction should be canceled.

On the other hand, in civil cases, the plaintiff (person suing) must prove their case based on a larger amount of evidence. If the trial court’s decision is not supported by enough evidence, the appellant may have grounds to challenge the verdict on appeal.

#3 Revealing Possible Issues

One of the first steps in preparing an appeal is to carefully review the trial record, which includes the transcript of the proceedings, exhibits, and any other relevant materials.

By carefully looking at the record, the appellant can reveal possible issues that may have been ignored or not handled properly during the trial. This detailed review lays the foundation for a strong and convincing appeal.

#4 Creating a Convincing Brief

Once the possible issues have been found, the next challenge is to use them to create a strong and convincing legal brief. This document presents the facts, legal arguments, and case law in a way that will make sense to the court of appeals.

A poorly written brief may cause judges to miss or misunderstand important points. However, a well-constructed brief can clearly and compellingly highlight the strengths of your legal arguments and facts.

Since appeals cases are decided solely on these written briefs, with no new testimony or evidence, excellent legal writing is essential to effectively advocate for the outcome you want. Whalen Law Office attorneys are skilled in legal writing and the art of creating stories that are powerful and attention-grabbing.

#5 Gathering Evidence and Expert Testimony

In some situations, the appellant might have to gather additional evidence or expert testimony to strengthen their case. This includes:

  • Gathering affidavits
  • Filing amicus briefs
  • Getting the support of respected experts in different fields

These experts help the appellant by sharing their knowledge and strengthening the case. Their testimony can shed new light on the case, showing important things that might have been missed or not understood during the trial.

Understanding the Appellate Court’s Procedures

As the appeal hearing gets closer, our attorneys will carefully prepare you for the procedures and protocols of the appellate court. We will work to make sure you know everything about the appellate court’s special customs and expectations.

Whalen Law Office attorneys have honed our communication skills through strict training and years of courtroom experience. We know how to get the attention of the appellate panel, creating a story that makes the judges emotional and convinces them to reconsider the trial court’s decision.

Alternative Avenues Beyond the Appeals Process

While the criminal appeals process provides an important avenue to challenge convictions and sentences through the court system, there are some alternative paths that may be pursued after regular appeals have been exhausted.

Executive Clemency

In cases where the appeals process has been exhausted or the situation calls for a more extreme approach, the appellant may ask for executive clemency in the form of a pardon or sentence reduction from the Governor of Texas.

This option is often used in special cases, where quick action needs to be taken in order to get justice.

Post-Conviction Relief

For those who have been wrongfully convicted, trying to get post-conviction relief may be the last remaining option. Proceedings such as habeas corpus petitions or claims of ineffective counsel are a last opportunity to challenge and potentially overturn a conviction or sentence after regular appeals have been exhausted.

Possible Results of a Criminal Appeal

When pursuing a criminal appeal, there are several potential outcomes that can occur. The appeals court will review the trial court record and legal briefs from both sides before rendering their decision.

The main possible results include:

  1. Affirming the Trial Court’s Decision: In some cases, the appellate court may choose to confirm the trial court’s decision, basically supporting the original verdict. While this result may be disappointing, it does not necessarily mean the end of the road.
  2. Reversing the Trial Court’s Decision: If the appellate court finds value in the appellant’s arguments, they may reverse the trial court’s decision. They may grant a new trial or, in some cases, they may simply declare the appellant innocent. When a decision is reversed, the case may be sent back to the trial court for further proceedings that would follow the appellate court’s ruling.
  3. Remand for New Proceedings: In some cases, the appeals court may remand or send the case back to the trial court for new proceedings consistent with the appeals court’s instructions. This could mean a new trial with revised procedures or a re-sentencing by the trial court.
  4. Modification of Sentence: While upholding the underlying conviction, the appeals court has the option to modify the sentence imposed if they deem the original sentence excessive, illegal, or an abuse of discretion by the trial court judge.

The stakes are high in criminal appeals, as a successful outcome could mean the reversal of a conviction, reduction of a sentence, or the order for an entirely new trial under different circumstances. Having appellate counsel is crucial to effectively argue the legal merits of the appeal.

Seeking Fair Resolution Through Appeals? Whalen Law Lights the Way

The journey through the appeals process is one of perseverance, resolve, and an unwavering belief in the principles of justice and fairness. It is a quest that demands endless dedication, a keen legal mind, and the ability to navigate the complexities of the judicial system.

At Whalen Law Office, our criminal defense attorneys embody these qualities, serving as guides and champions for those who embark on this path. We understand the weight of the stakes involved and the profound impact our efforts can have on the lives of our clients and their families.

If you find yourself at the crossroads of appealing a court decision, do not hesitate to reach out to us for a consultation.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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