“Actual Innocence” Appeals

Federal appeal lawyer discusses actual innocence.  Last week, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to give another chance to prisoners who have strong, new evidence that they are innocent, but failed to file an appeal within the proper time frame.  The Supreme Court justices ruled to lift the one-year time limit for filing these appeals in federal court.  However, it has been stated that only in rare cases will this new leniency be a benefit.

To benefit from the Supreme Court’s decision, “a prisoner must make a convincing showing of actual innocence. The new evidence must be strong enough to persuade a judge that ‘no juror, acting reasonably, would have voted to find him guilty’ at his trial had the jury known of it.”

This new ruling has come after years and years of hundreds of prisoners being found innocent due to the availability of new DNA tests.  Under the old decision, the new evidence and potential new statements would run up against the appeals time limit.  In fact, in 1996, “Congress set the one-year deadline for state inmates to lodge federal appeals, partly because some prisoners had filed endless appeals that had prevented state officials from carrying out executions.”

Ten years later in 2006, a Tennessee murderer was allowed a new appeal by the Supreme Court right before he was to be executed for his crime.  Three years following this allowance, the murderer was released from prison because new DNA tests on the victim showed that someone else had committed the crime.  The Supreme Court cited this case in its decision because it “helped establish the principle that claims of actual innocence sometimes call for relaxing the rules that limit appeals.”

More recently, a Michigan prisoner serving a life term for murder came forward with sworn statements from three witnesses who pointed to another man as the killer. But the defendant, Floyd Perkins, had waited five years to reopen his appeal in federal court, well beyond the one-year limit for such claims.  It is not yet clear whether this defendant will benefit from the new Supreme Court decision because the new evidence may not be strong enough to prove his innocence.  It is clear that this decision will not affect a ton of cases, but for the cases it will affect, it will have a great impact.

There are those who do not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision, saying that it “dealt a body blow to the state’s role in the criminal justice system and the victims’ interest in finality for criminal convictions.”

If you or someone you know would like to file a federal criminal appeal in the Federal appeals court or state appeal, they should speak to an experienced federal appeal lawyer.  Please call a federal appeal lawyer at The Mace Firm for a free consultation today.