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How is an appeal different from a criminal trial?


How is an appeal different from a criminal trial?

On behalf of Patrick T. McNally, Attorney at Law | 
July 2, 2020

You refused a plea deal and took your criminal case to court, confident that a jury would acquit you — but that’s not what happened. The best way to manage your expectations moving forward is to understand what happens during an appeal. Perhaps the biggest thing you need to know is that an appeal is nothing like a trial.

Trial attorneys spend a great deal of time organizing the evidence for maximum impact on the jury, interviewing and questioning witnesses about their recollections of events and putting together a narrative that the jury can use to understand your side of the case. During the trial, the judge serves as the rule keeper, the person who makes sure that the law is followed, while the jury is the finder of facts.

An appeal focuses only on the process that was used. With rare exceptions, it’s not a chance to introduce new evidence, bring in new witnesses or experts or retry the case, hoping for a new verdict.

The appeals court is not even concerned about whether the jury got the verdict right or wrong. The appeals court will usually only consider things like:

  • Whether there were mistakes in the trial procedure material enough to affect the outcome of your trial
  • Whether the trial judge’s interpretation of the law was correct and their rulings were fair
  • Whether you were denied the effective use of counsel in your defense or some other important civil right

Appeals are mostly accomplished through written briefs that explain your justification for asking for a reversal of the verdict and a new trial, although oral arguments are possible.

A conviction doesn’t have to be the end of the road for your case, but your success may depend a lot on the skill of the advocate you choose for this process, so weigh your options carefully.

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