Calvin Bryant was incarcerated in 2008 for selling ecstasy out of his apartment. The Nashville man received a 17-year sentence, which is sentence typically given to those convicted of second-degree murder or rape.
It was Bryant’s first criminal charge. However, since Bryant lived within 1,000 feet of a school, that bumped up the potential punishment for his crime.
School zone laws were created to protect children from drug use and related crimes. Some argue that what these laws do is punish people of color, many of whom live in densely populated urban areas of cities like Nashville.
Many called for his release
After spending more than ten years in prison, Bryant’s sentence had caused widespread criticism. City council members wrote a letter in support for his release. The original prosecutor and a former federal judge also spoke out on his behalf.
Deal finally prompted his release
However, Bryant kept running into problems when trying to appeal his case though the federal courts and appellate system. Then at the end of October, his attorney was finally able to make a deal with the district attorney. The deal allowed the man to plead to a lesser drug charge that carried a 10-year sentence.
Since Bryant had already served more than ten years, the deal finally prompted Bryant’s released from the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison.
No jury, witnesses or evidence presented during an appeal
Appealing a conviction works much differently than a trial. During an appeal, there is no jury, no witnesses presented or typically, no evidence shared. Rather, an appeal is a review of how the trial court applied the law during a defendant’s court case.
Success hinges on an attorney’s appellate brief
The main way to argue an appeal case is through an appellate brief. The defendant’s attorney drafts a brief that demonstrates how the court incorrectly applied the law during the original case. Errors could include ineffective attorney representation, bad instructions given to the jury or many other factors that could have resulted in an unjust conviction.
Several judges preside over an appellate hearing, and they may ask questions about the appellate briefs. Attorneys may also have a short time to make an oral argument. Generally though, the success of an appeal lies in a criminal defense attorney’s ability to craft a convincing argument in his or her appellate brief.