Post Conviction work is some of the most important work that an attorney can do for his or her client. Most people understand the first part of the criminal process. They have seen trials on television or they have watched enough shows to know how things work. A person gets his day in court and the attorneys argue in front of a jury. This is when a conviction takes place. The process extends much further than that, though. A post conviction advocate helps his clients in the process that follows the initial jury trial. These are the times when things are most dire. They are also the times when convicted people get their best relief.
The criminal appeals process
People who have been convicted of a crime still have several rights. They get a direct appeal on the merits of their case. A good post conviction attorney will help his or her client file this appeal. This is just the first step in the process. Most appeals will be denied by the higher court. There are times, however, when some major misstep in justice has happened in the trial court. In these instances, a person can earn a major win in the appeal stage. Following the appeal, a convicted person has a number of options, depending upon the severity of his sentence and the type of crime he has been convicted of.
Different states have their own rules for what a convicted person is allowed to do. Most states allow their convicted parties to file several writs. One form of writ is present in each state. These are Habeas Corpus writs and they are most common at the state level. These writs give the prisoner an opportunity to make an argument about the legitimacy of his imprisonment. Typically a prisoner will argue that his imprisonment is unconstitutional for one reason or another. The success of the writ will depend upon the specific facts of a prisoner's case and how well he is able to make his case in front of a court.
It is important to know that people who file these writs have the odds stacked against them. This is especially true when they file their own writs. It takes a tremendous amount of legal skill and experience to file a writ petition that will sway the court from its previously held position. This is where a very good post conviction attorney comes into play. These individuals understand the system. They understand what it takes to turn the tide in a post conviction setting.
The federal government allows inmates to file a writ of Habeas Corpus in the state's federal courts. This process is similar to the state writ process. There are some central differences, though. Most prisoners will exhaust all of their writs before finally moving on. This is an important part of the strategy, especially for those inmates who have legitimate claims.
Special petitions for capital cases
Cases that involve the death penalty are especially significant in the post conviction stage. These inmates will often file numerous appeals to courts at every level. In these cases, inmates can even file an appeal all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The court has the ability to stay the execution if some issue exists in the case. The Court does not often exercise this power. They do have the ability to intervene when something extraordinary comes around, though.
Inmates in this position can also file for something known as clemency. Different states have their own philosophies on this, as well. Some states have clemency hearings where inmates can make a case for why their sentences should be changed in some way. This is one of the last defenses for people who find themselves in the post conviction stage.
Even after the appeals and writs are exhausted, prisoners have some options at their disposal. They can still earn freedom if their legitimate innocence can be proven in some legitimate way. The most common method is by using DNA evidence to disprove some crime that happened before DNA testing was viable. Good attorneys can file a motion to introduce this new evidence into the equation. Other common innocence efforts will center on victim recantations if applicable. Innocence work is especially unsound. Overturning a conviction after dozens of appeals and petitions is notoriously difficult. With a good post conviction team working on an inmate's behalf, though, it is possible to see some change in the outcome.
A good post conviction attorney can help an inmate with all of these things. The criminal game is not over when the jury hands down its verdict. Good lawyers help clients prove their innocence or reduce their sentence each day in this stage.
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