Exonеration, in thе field of criminal law, rеfеrs to thе official act of absolving you, as a dеfеndant, from any blamе or lеgal fault. If you’vе bееn wrongly convictеd, especially of a felony offense, understanding thе path to еxonеration is еssеntial. It’s also helpful to understand why wrongful convictions occur, so dеfеndants can takе all steps possible to try to mitigate this travesty when possiblе.
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Why Do Wrongful Convictions Occur?
There are several reasons that wrongful convictions occur, including both systemic issues and human error. These are some of the key common causes:
When a crime takes place, memories may not always be as precise or reliable as we would hope. Victims and witnesses can often misidentify people because certain factors can cloud their recollection, such as fear, stress, or lighting conditions.
Forensic Science Errors
Sometimes evidence gathered from a crime scene is unintentionally mishandled, leading to inaccuracies in test results. For example, fingerprint evidence that isn’t handled appropriately.
Occasionally, due to high stress, lengthy interrogations, or misconduct by law enforcement officers, someone might confess to a crime they didn’t commit. This can happen out of desperation, fear, or even mental incapacity. It could also occur if there’s a compulsion to protect another party who is actually guilty.
Inadequate Legal Defense
If your attorney fails to effectively represent you because they’re either unskilled or overburdened with work, you might receive inadequate legal counsel, leading to a wrongful conviction.
This occurs when those prosecuting criminal cases abuse their position to ensure a guilty verdict against you. It could include withholding or manipulating evidence that would have been exculpatory—a fundamental violation of a person’s rights.
No matter the cause of the wrongful conviction, one of the most important things to understand is how to obtain exoneration.
Paths to Exoneration
The road to exoneration — having a wrongful conviction overturned, which absolves you entirely of the criminal charges against you — often involves an intricate, demanding legal process. In Ohio, there are a few paths you can take to try to get exonerated.
A direct appeal is a common legal recourse for seeking exoneration. After a conviction, you have the right to appeal directly to a higher court, such as the state supreme court.
This process challenges the existing judgment based solely on what’s within the formal record from your trial. Typically, arguments revolve around assertions that a significant legal error occurred. You cannot present new evidence.
Potential outcomes of winning an appeal can vary. The court can sometimes order your release from custody if they believe keeping you incarcerated would be unjustified, considering the findings during your appeal process.
Alternatively, winning an appeal might result in a reduction of your sentence and resentencing you to one that better aligns with justice and fairness.
Motion for a New Trial
Filing a motion for a new trial is another legal strategy towards exoneration. This might be considered if mistakes during the initial trial seriously jeopardized your right to a fair proceeding.
The judge can grant this motion after a conviction on several grounds. Those include, but are not limited to:
Existing Legal Error
This could involve an erroneous guilty verdict due to misapplication of the law or excluding evidence that should have been part of proceedings in your original trial.
Examples include bias expressed by members of the jury, like discriminatory or racist comments that make it clear that they were not objective.
Newly Discovered Evidence
Newly discovered evidence can also lead to exoneration. This refers to uncovering significant new facts that were unknown or could not have reasonably been uncovered by you or your defense team at the time of your original trial.
If you could have or should have known about the evidence already, they won’t grant you a new trial based on this new evidence.
Writ of Habeas Corpus
A writ of habeas corpus is a significant legal tool in your path to exoneration.
This allows you to challenge the legality of your detention; you are arguing that certain constitutional rights were breached during the trial or sentencing process, causing unjust imprisonment.
Potential Outcomes of a Writ of Habeas Corpus
The court’s decision following a habeas corpus petition can have varied outcomes. On review of your case, they may decide that certain conditions of your confinement need modification.
The court could find grounds for reducing your initial sentence as well, for example. In particularly compelling cases, a defendant could achieve an outright release from custody.
Always contact a Lexington Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help
As you can see, exoneration is a critical legal remedy that can restore justice to those wrongfully convicted. Navigating the complex process of achieving exoneration demands expert legal guidance.
If you or someone you know is seeking exoneration, it’s critical to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can provide the necessary expertise, support, and representation to pursue your case effectively. For more information, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC give us a call today at (859) 569-4014 or visit us at our Lexington law office.