We’re all quite familiar with the criminal trial process as we see it on television and portrayed in the media. As a result, we hear mention of defense attorneys making motions for filing an appeal and often make the assumption that this is a common component of the criminal justice system, based simply on the fact that the defendant disagrees with the verdict or sentencing of their case.
The appeals process is a critical element of the criminal justice system in the United States. It’s much more complex than is commonly understood, however. For example, for there to be sufficient grounds for an appeal, the defense or appellate attorney must be able to establish that legal error occurred at some point during the proceedings and that the error was significant enough that it likely had an impact on the outcome of the case. Juror errors are one example of legal error that may establish legal grounds for an appeal.
Juror Errors and the Appeals Process
Jurors play a pivotal role in our criminal justice system. The judicial system in the United States is based on the foundational principle that no individual should be punished for a criminal act until a group of peers has had the opportunity to review the facts, evidence, and testimony in a case, and as a result, decide unanimously that the defendant is guilty beyond any and all reasonable doubt. The weight of responsibility on the jury is significant, and there are times when juror errors occur and risk compromising the integrity of the judicial process.
When a motion for an appeal is filed with a Texas District Court of Appeals, it first comes up for a review and it is at this point that the appellate justices will determine whether the request warrants further investigation. It can be incredibly difficult to establish that legal error played a role in the outcome of a case, sometimes even more so when it comes to establishing legal error with one or more of the jurors assigned to the case.
Common Juror Errors That May Result in an Appeal
When a juror is selected to sit on a case, they are required to follow a very well-defined set of guidelines. This ensures that the defendant is treated fairly and that that there is no risk of any juror accidentally or maliciously compromising the case. Juror misconduct or errors that occur and disrupt the balance and integrity of the judicial system may establish reasonable grounds for an appeal. A few common juror errors that may result in an appeal include:
- Talking about the case to others who are not part of the jury about the case, including disclosing evidence or insights into private jury discussions.
- Speaking with other jurors about the case, when there are members of the jury who are not present for the discussion.
- Speaking with other jurors about the case outside of time designated as official case deliberations.
- Engaging in an independent or outside investigation of the case.
- Considering any facts or evidence that were obtained from outside sources and not admitted as evidence or testimony in the case.
- Refusing to engage in deliberation of the case.
- Concealing information or biases during jury selection.
There are occasions when other situations arise that may present grounds for an appeal, although these scenarios are less common. For instance, if it is established that a juror fell asleep during a point in the trial when critical evidence or testimony was presented in court.
If it is determined that one or more of these areas of misconduct or error occurred, the first step is to bring the issue to court’s attention. The goal being to receive a declaration of a mistrial, or depending on the circumstances, have the case dismissed. However, if the error has been brought to the court’s attention and no action is taken, then there is justifiable reason to file an appeal in response to an unfavorable verdict or sentence.
Seeking the Advice of an Appellate Attorney in Dallas you’ve received a guilty verdict or what you believe to be an unfair sentence in response to a conviction, there may be the possibility to file for an appeal. The first step is to contact an appellate attorney in Dallas who has a breadth of expertise in appellate law. A successful appeal can be the second chance you need to reclaim your freedom. Contact an appellate attorney in Dallas for a consultation today.