When an innocent person is convicted of a crime they did not commit, they are usually so devastated that they have no idea what to do next. While the American criminal justice system was created to make sure that anyone accused of a crime receives a fair trial, in practice, that does not always happen. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but wrongful convictions do happen with too much frequency.
According to the Innocence Project, studies reveal that up to 5% of people who are convicted of crimes are innocent. That means well over 100,000 people in the United States could be behind bars even though they committed no crime. The greater tragedy in all of this is that even when a person is released, on average they will have already spent up to 13 years in prison for a crime they did not commit.
Overturning a wrongful conviction generally falls under Rule 35-c of the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure which provides guidelines for reducing or overturning a sentence handed down by the courts.
In a case that results in a wrongful conviction, there are obviously flaws that took place at some point along the way. This might include how evidence was gathered, the credibility and motivations of witnesses, how law enforcement works the case, jury selection and bias, having enough resources to mount an effective defense, and any other number of possible shortcomings that may lead to an inaccurate verdict.
Many witnesses may be traumatized by actually seeing a violent crime committed, and the resulting psychological stress could lead to false testimony. In some cases, being threatened or intimidated with a weapon causes a phenomenon known as “weapon focus” in which the witness is so focused on the weapon itself that their recall of the person’s appearance is partially or completely obscured.
Cross-racial identification can also adversely impact a witness’s perception. Psychological studies have established that people can have a difficult time accurately identifying those from other races. Some studies have even shown that when a white eye-witness is asked to describe an armed robber, an alarming number will describe a person of color as being in possession of the weapon when, in fact, the robber was actually white.
Law enforcement officials are also to blame in some cases as well. For example, to help build a case, they will cast a wide net and then rely on DNA testing to clear an innocent person. If DNA testing is not that relevant in your case, you can easily find yourself going up against eyewitnesses, an entire investigative unit and a certain amount of bias in the courtroom, despite admonishments for juries to remain impartial.
There are also cases where attorney incompetence leads to an inadequate defense that results in a wrongful conviction. Attorneys do not always do the best job either out of inexperience, laziness or insufficient budgets to mount a proper defense. Ineffective assistance of counsel and failing to investigate a matter are the most common reasons that convictions are overturned.
Some or all of these reasons for a wrongful conviction can easily overwhelm you if you are a defendant unfamiliar with the court system. However, just because you have been convicted, you are not out of options. But it will take the help of an attorney experienced in dealing with wrongful conviction cases to help you file an appeal that could have your conviction overturned.
At Decker & Jones, we seek to reveal the actual truth as part of an appeal process. When we file an appeal, we will work closely with a higher court to determine if the lower court committed a reversible error. It’s our job to convince the court that the errors are significant enough to warrant a reversal, if possible, or at the very least, agree to a new trial. We do everything in our power to expedite this process so that you do not spend any more time in jail than is necessary. And in the event that an appeal is denied, we can explore other avenues of relief, such as a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus.
If you feel the justice system has failed you or a loved one through a wrongful conviction, contact the skilled attorneys at Decker & Jones. We fight for the rights of clients who have been wronged by the legal system, providing them with options to overturn their cases and preserve their freedom. Because an appeal process can take a long time, we encourage people to contact us as soon as possible to begin exploring the best possible strategies to fight this kind of conviction. It’s also important to be prompt because there are strict time frames for filing appeal actions, usually within three years following the original conviction.
At Decker & Jones, we have nearly 30 years of combined legal experience and have provided people with compassionate and comprehensive legal services as they fight serious charges such as these. We will thoroughly evaluate your case and provide you with the best possible legal options for your situation.
Contact us today at our Golden or Denver offices at 303.279.1586 or by filling out our online contact form for a free consultation to see how we can put our skills and experience to work for you.