Not the End of the Road: Appealing a Conviction in Illinois
The trial has ended and the jury has just returned from its deliberations. The foreperson tells the judge that the jury has reached a unanimous decision. The jury’s signed verdict is handed from the bailiff to the clerk. As the clerk reads the verdict, your heart dropped and the world seemed to stand still. The words coming from the clerk’s mouth seem like they are in slow motion. What the clerk actually said was a blur all that you remember is your family in disbelief. Even after the jury has left the courtroom, you are still not sure what just happened. Despite all your hopes and the prayers of your friends and family, the verdict was not what you expected. However, it’s not over, far from it. Even though a jury found you guilty, your fight has not ended and your real fight has just begun. Even after a criminal conviction you still have options to get the justice that you deserve. But your time to fight is short and you must act immediately to ensure that your rights to appeal your case are preserved.
Despite the many flaws that our criminal justice system may have it does have a mechanism to rectify mistakes and to right wrongs that were made in the trial courts. A highly specialized subset of law within criminal defense that focuses upon correcting these wrongs is known as appellate law. Appellate law includes direct appeals, post-conviction petitions, habeas corpus petitions, writs of mandamus, and 2-1401 petitions just to name a few options available to someone suffering from a wrongful conviction or unjust sentence.
Wrongful convictions are not only convictions where an innocent person was found guilty of a crime that he or she did not commit but it also includes convictions that resulted from trial errors. For example, wrongful convictions include convictions that resulted from due process violations, prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, or other constitutional violations. In fact, the vast majority of appeals that are successful are based upon some violation other than whether the prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The exact method of attacking a conviction is case specific and must be tailored to individual needs but general rules do apply. For example, direct appeals are limited to the evidence that was admitted at trial, post-conviction petitions focus on constitutional deprivations that are not contained within the trial record, habeas corpus petitions can only be filed in federal court when you have exhausted all your options in state court, and 2-1401 petitions are a means to vacate judgments that are older than 30 days. Only a trained and experienced attorney will know which method is best for you and your particular situation.
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Generally, a direct appeal is the first-step that is taken to overturn a conviction. The right to file a direct appeal is guaranteed by the 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. However, the Illinois Supreme Court Rules governing appeals to the appellate court and appeals to the Illinois Supreme Court must be followed exactly; otherwise, you run the risk that the reviewing court will dismiss the appeal for not complying with the Illinois Supreme Court Rules. The rules governing direct appeals include what motions must be filed in the trial court to preserve your right to appeal; how and when a direct appeal must be filed; what must be contained within the direct appeal; the documents that must be filed to support your appeal; to minor rules such as the number of pages allowed, the size and type of font used, the number of copies that must be filed with the appellate court, the page margins and the color of the first page of the appellate briefs.
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The Appeals Process Explained
- The Appeals Process: Motion for A new Trial
- The Appeals Process: The Notice of An Appeal
- The Appeals Process: The Appellate Record
- The Appeals Process: The Appellate Brief
- The Appeals Process: The Oral Arguments
- The Appeals Process:After the Appellate Court Decision and Supreme court Review