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I’m going to Appeal! What that really means

Tuesday / February 20, 2018

A few years ago, the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer swept across the United States. The documentary followed the trial and ultimate conviction of two people, Steven Avery in Brendan Dassey, for the murder of a woman in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.  Since the airing of the documentary many people have become invested in whether or not the two individuals are actually guilty.  Recently a Wisconsin appellate court ruled that Brendan Dassie would not receive a new trial and that his conviction would stand. So what is an appellate courts purpose and how does it function?


Appellate Courts

In the state of Arizona, judgments and convictions from the Superior Court go to the Arizona Court of Appeals for review. The Court of Appeals reviews the trial record to determine if there any legal errors that occurred.  The record includes trial transcripts and filings made with the trial court. The purpose of the Appellate Court is to determine whether an individual received a fair trial and the all of the trial court’s rulings were based on sound legal ground.


Requirements to Appeal

The first requirement of an appeal is to ensure that you have a final judgment and conviction. In the context of a criminal case, it means that an individual must have been found guilty after trial and have been sentenced before they are allowed to an appeal. The rules of criminal procedure dictate how long an individual has to file a Notice of Appeal, which informs the trial court of their intention to appeal the conviction.  If the deadline to file the Notice of Appeal is missed, an individual may lose the right to appeal.


Appellate Process

Following the filing of the Notice of Appeal, the trial court begins preparing the record which gets transferred to the appellate court for review. After the record has been prepared, the Appellant filed his or her Opening Brief.  After the filing of the Opening Brief the Appellee files an Answering Brief, arguing its side of the case. The Appellant then has an opportunity to file a Reply Brief offering counterpoints to the Answering Brief. Following the filings of all the briefs, the appellate court issues a decision.


Arizona Supreme Court

If an appellate court rules against the defendant, they have the opportunity to petition to the Arizona Supreme Court to ask them to review the case.  However, the Supreme Court does not have to hear the appeal and can decline to hear a case for any reason.  If the Supreme Court decides not to hear an individual’s case, the only other option is to appeal to the federal court system and pursue relief through that system.


Once in individual is convicted all hope is not lost. Numerous cases get it overturned on appeal each year. If you are a loved one has been convicted of a criminal offense and wishes to appeal that conviction do not hesitate to call me at 480-331-7568 to discuss what options you have moving forward.

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