Grounds For Appealing Sex Crime Convictions
An Overview Of Appealing Sex Crime Convictions In Michigan
Sex crimes, given their factually intensive nature and emotional components, often present multiple road blocks and hurdles in filing a successful appeal. In order to win an appeal, cases frequently most reviewed for both legal and factual issues. The emotional resonance of these cases, particularly in the current era of social movements like #MeToo and #NeverAgain, is a factor not to be underestimated. Successful appeals in sex crimes most often require the appellate lawyer to demonstrate one of two things: (A) that there is a high probability of a wrongful conviction because the defendant is factually innocent; or (B) there was a fundamental flaw in the trial process that was so significant that it calls into question the integrity of the verdict itself period.
Common Grounds For Appeal
Among the most common grounds for appeal in sex crime convictions are:
- The Improper Use of Expert Testimony: Prosecutors frequently bolster their case in chief using medical and psychological expert testimony, which is frequently unsupported “junk science.”
- Instances of Prosecutorial Misconduct: The emotional nature of sex crimes can sometimes lead to unfair practices in prosecution.
- Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: A failure by the defense attorney to consult with experts or properly prepare a defense could lead to an appeal on the grounds of ineffective counsel.
- Legal errors by the Judge: judges make several legal and evidentiary rulings in every criminal trial. But in sex crimes, due to their factually intensive nature, judges will make even more difficult evidentiary rulings than usual. Prosecutors will frequently push the envelope in trial and attempt to bring questionable evidence, hearsay, and other out of court statements that cannot be cross examined by a defendant’s attorney as part of their case. Such rulings are frequent subjects for appellate review.
Remember that this list is not exhaustive; there are numerous other potential grounds for an appeal.
The Challenge Of Insufficient Evidence Issues
Insufficiency of the evidence is a difficult issue in any appeal. However, when appealing sex crimes, it becomes an even higher hurdle to clear.
There are other ways to bring the equivalent of a sufficiency of evidence challenge to a sex crime conviction. First, in any criminal conviction, a defense lawyer can motion for a directed verdict at the end of the prosecutor’s case due to insufficient evidence. However, this carries a high standard of proof – the judge must believe no reasonable juror could be convinced of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Post-conviction, a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (or “JNOV”) can be made. This motion is not an opportunity for the judge to replace the jury’s decision with their own, which is also knows the judge not acting as a 13th juror. In a JNOV, the judge is required to examine the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution. The standard of proof to win a JNOV motion is even higher than that of a directed verdict.
Finally, while not technically a direct insufficiency of evidence issue, one effective method for challenging the facts or evidence supporting a conviction is to couch it as a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Such a claim can be made in either a motion for a new trial (filed before the trial court), or a motion for remand presented to the Court of Appeals. Bringing an ineffective assistance of counsel challenge can be an effective way to argue that the conviction was based on insufficient evidence.
Appealing a sex crime conviction based on insufficiency of evidence is possible, but it is generally considered a challenging avenue. For more information on Grounds For Appealing Sex Crime Convictions, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (248) 509-0056 today.