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The Role Of The Court Of Appeals In Child Abuse Cases In Michigan

The Role Of The Court Of Appeals In Child Abuse Cases In Michigan

The Court of Appeals is primarily responsible for rectifying legal errors in criminal appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court is not meant to serve as an additional appellate court or to offer a defendant a second opportunity to file an appeal. Instead, its role is to ensure that all district courts, circuit courts, and courts of appeal are applying state and federal laws uniformly and consistently.

The Supreme Court typically only takes on cases where there’s a discrepancy in legal interpretations among lower courts. Therefore, the Court of Appeals is effectively the primary body for reviewing and correcting legal errors in criminal convictions, including those involving child abuse.

Introducing New Evidence In A Child Abuse Criminal Appeal

In theory, new evidence cannot be introduced during an appeal because the Courts of Appeal are designed to fix legal errors, not reassess the facts. They take the record or evidence as fixed at the trial court level and do not act as a ’13th juror’ that can overrule the jury or trial judge.

However, there is an important exception in criminal cases when alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The law allows the appellate lawyer to present evidence or a factual proffer supporting the argument that the trial lawyer committed an error that constituted ineffective assistance. This can be done by initially filing a motion for a new trial under Michigan Court Rule 7.208 at the trial court level, or at the Court of Appeals level by filing a motion for remand.

The primary aim of these motions is to demonstrate that the trial lawyer did not provide effective representation, allowing the appellate lawyer to expand the record and submit additional proof. While this new evidence can indirectly show the defendant’s factual innocence, its main purpose is to prove the ineffective assistance of the counsel. In effect, this is the only practical avenue through which new evidence can be introduced during an appeal, including child abuse appeals in Michigan.

Possible Outcomes Of A Child Abuse Criminal Appeal In Michigan

While the Court of Appeals has the theoretical power to reverse and overturn a criminal conviction entirely, this outcome is rare. More frequently, the court sets the conviction aside, and orders a new trial, especially in emotionally charged cases such as those involving child abuse. Even if an appeal is successful, the common result is a retrial with the legal error corrected, rather than a complete overturning of the conviction.

Evaluating The Sufficiency Of Evidence In Child Abuse Cases In Michigan

The standard of review used by the appellate court to evaluate the sufficiency of evidence in child abuse cases in Michigan is exceptionally high. The court assesses whether a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt when viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution. This standard of review is deferential to the trial court.

The Court of Appeals is mandated to draw all reasonable inferences and make credibility evaluations in support of the jury verdict. This means that circumstantial evidence and reasonable inferences from it must be interpreted in a manner that supports the jury’s verdict. As a result, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence is a difficult task, both theoretically and practically.

Despite being an issue that many clients are keen to contest, questioning the sufficiency of the evidence is not typically a strong avenue for appeal, except in the most unique circumstances.

For more information on the Role Of Appellate Court In A Child Abuse Appeal, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (248) 509-0056 today.

Mark Satawa

Call Today For Your Free Case Strategy Session
(248) 509-0056