Aaron Hernandez, famed football player who was convicted of murder and later, committed suicide has, once again, been in the news. You may recall that before his death, his murder conviction was working its way through the stages of the Appeal’s Court. Aaron Hernandez died while his appeal was pending. After his death, the Court vacated Mr. Hernandez’s conviction. Massachusetts law prescribed that when a defendant dies before all appeals are exhausted, the conviction is then vacated. The Court followed the then-current law. However, that action taken by the Court did not seem just, or right, to the family of his victim or the Commonwealth. It did not seem right to others who are alive and still serving their sentence. The Commonwealth undertook an appeal of the Court’s decision and argued that the legislation, and the principal, was outdated and unfair. The Commonwealth argued for the Court to reinstate the conviction and do away with this principal entirely. Here, a law that has been on the books for many, many years was overturned. This illustrates the importance of an appeal.
The appeal must be narrowly tailored. It cannot be about the merits of the case or the factual determination made by a Court. It is not another bite at the apple where you went to trial but now feel like the “jury made the wrong decision” or that they “should have found me not guilty but they didn’t and that’s not fair.” The Court does not, and cannot, re-try the case. The Court analyzes the legal principals set forth by the appellant to determine whether there was a miscarriage of justice, prejudice and/or error. The bottom line is that it looks at the following things:
Was the defendant given a fair trial under the law?
Where there evidentiary issues – evidence that was excluded which the law allows; or evidence that was included which should have been held out?
Are there new witnesses which have come forth now that were unknown at the time of trial?
Is there new evidence that was unavailable, or unknown, at the time of trial?
Is there new testing available for evidence that was not possible at the time of trial?
As you can see, all of the above go to the essence of fairness and protecting the defendant’s constitutional rights during the trial process. To cover all of these items, and more, an appellate attorney looks at anything on the record.
If you feel that you have a case which needs to be reviewed for a possible appeal in Massachusetts, contact us. Christine is a seasoned trial attorney with years of courtroom experience who understands the time sensitive nature of the appeals process. You can reach us on our contact page by phone or email. We also have a form you can complete.
Interested in our other articles on appeals cases? Check out this article.