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Post-Conviction Relief Lawyer

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The failure of an appeal to alter a criminal conviction or sentence is not necessarily the last word on the matter. Although an appeal represents the first step in the post-conviction relief process, appeals have their limitations. Post-conviction motions go beyond what an appeal can do and have the potential to prove innocence or correct sentencing errors. U.S. federal law allows for convicted people to challenge injustice and bring human errors to the attention of the criminal justice system. To pursue this right, the assistance of a post-conviction relief lawyer in West Palm Beach, Florida will be necessary.

Shortcomings of appeals

After a court determines that a defendant is guilty, that person has a legal right to ask the system to fix errors or violations of rights that led to the conviction or unjust sentence. However, the appeal process does not allow for the introduction of new evidence. An appeals court only looks for prejudicial legal errors within the existing court records. As a result, an appeal cannot remedy an injustice when consideration of new evidence is absolutely necessary.

Once a direct appeal has proved fruitless, a person may now present new evidence and seek exoneration or sentence modification through a federal habeas corpus proceeding.

Seeking post-conviction relief?
Let attorney David Joffe review your case.

Habeas corpus proceedings

The Latin phrase habeas corpus translates roughly to “show the body.” What this means in the criminal justice system is that the person must be removed from detention and brought before a court to review whether or not the person is lawfully imprisoned. In the U.S. justice system, habeas corpus is considered a powerful tool for helping those who have been wrongfully convicted or suffered illegal sentences. A motion based on a writ of habeas corpus can lead to the introduction of new evidence.

Problems frequently cited in habeas corpus proceedings are:

  • prosecutorial misconduct, such as making false promises during plea bargaining
  • ineffective assistance of counsel during plea bargaining, trial, or appeal
  • judicial misconduct, such as discriminating against a defendant
  • unreliable DNA evidence
  • need to consider new evidence about the crime

Should a writ of habeas corpus succeed in bringing the person back before a court, the post-conviction attorney now has the opportunity to shine a light on crucial new information. These days, older convictions have been known to be overturned due to the emergence of new DNA analysis technology not available at the time of the original trial. In other situations, an attorney might be able to prove that a prosecutor or judge mishandled a case or treated a defendant unfairly due to discriminatory attitudes or suppressing evidence that should have rightfully been introduced at trial.

Sometimes new witnesses might come forward who offer testimony that has a meaningful impact. Witnesses may also recant previous testimony that was used to convict.

Introduction of new evidence

New evidence can have a powerful effect and lead to exoneration as was the case in a Florida court in May 2022. A man who had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl in 1986 finally had his conviction erased after the Innocence Project intervened on his behalf. He had been convicted based mostly on the testimony of the young victim. As a grown woman, she recanted her original testimony at the man’s 2018 parole hearing and admitted that she could have misidentified him. At a subsequent interview conducted by the Innocence Project, she signed an affidavit stating her belief that another man who had access to her at the time of the assault could have been the guilty party.

The police investigation of the crime had not placed any scrutiny on the other men living in the house where the alleged attacker resided. Instead, investigators focused only on the man identified by the girl although she did not know his name. The defendant’s attorney had tried to have her testimony removed with a motion that explained she did not know who was who at her friend’s house. Despite this, the court determined that she was a competent witness. However, a friend of the girl who said in a deposition that a man other than the defendant was seen in bed with the girl was deemed incompetent to testify. The other man would later be convicted of child sexual assaults. He was also known to have a sexually transmitted disease that infected the young victim whereas the man who went to prison for 32 years never had that infection.

Due to a lack of any physical evidence and the witness’s recantation, a judge threw out the conviction, which not only granted him freedom but allowed him to remove his name from a sexual offender registry.

Illegal sentencing and disparity in sentencing

Cases that cannot feasibly overturn a conviction may still have potential for post-conviction relief if the sentence appears to have broken the law or violated rights. Criminal statutes provide sentencing guidelines for each type of criminal offense. Judges apply these rules to impose sentences legally appropriate for the conviction. When they deviate from the guidelines, then an opportunity exists to argue for sentence modification.

Additionally, evidence of sentencing disparity could open the door to modifying a sentence. Sentencing disparity describes judges who impose measurably different sentences on defendants for comparable crimes based on their race, ethnicity, or gender. Their actions clearly differ from the sentences delivered by their colleagues under similar circumstances.

Researchers continually find strong evidence that some judges discriminate when issuing sentences. One study of data from the Florida Department of Corrections concluded that blacks and Hispanics received harsher sentences than white people. In another university study, sentencing disparities were evident between male and female defendants for comparable offenses.

Learn more about post-conviction relief in West Palm Beach

Careful analysis by a lawyer adept at post-conviction strategies is necessary to determine the feasibility of going to court after an appeal. Joffe Law, P.A. has the resources and internal talent to evaluate wrongful convictions or excessive sentences. We will strive to force the criminal justice system to correct mistakes. To explore the possibilities for your situation, please contact our firm immediately.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.