Appealing a Criminal Case in Oklahoma
The various parts of a court case can leave anyone’s head spinning. Lawyers, evidence, juries, testimonies, and witnesses all have a say and a time limit to determine your future. This means that the judicial system is dependent on imperfect human judgment, and many factors can contribute to an unjust verdict.
An appeal is your chance and your right to have fresh eyes look at your case. If the judge and jury are different for the appeal, let a new appellate lawyer also take a fresh look at the elements that might have led to a wrongful conviction or sentencing.
Types of Appeals
In the state of Oklahoma, there are two types of appellate courts: civil and criminal. For criminal state offenses, an appeal must be presented to the highest court in Oklahoma, The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in Oklahoma City.
For federal criminal offenses, the appeal must be presented to the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth District, which handles most territories in the Southwest and certain territories in the Northwest.
When filing an appeal, make sure that the errors made in your case were not “harmless errors,” or errors that wouldn’t have had an effect on the overall ruling of your case.
When to Appeal
When discussing the possibility of an appeal with an appellate attorney, he or she will study your case for non-harmless errors that would justify the appeal. Non-harmless errors include the following:
- Legal errors, such as if evidence was not submitted properly or there was lack of evidence for a conviction, or if the jury was not instructed properly about your case
- Unreliable Jurors, such as ones who have spoken about the case with others outside of the deliberation room (other jurors, news, media, prosecutors, etc.), jurors who have received information outside of the case (by investigation or another source), jurors who did not give truthful information to the judge during the pre-trial interview, and jurors who were not sober during the trial/deliberation or did not pay attention to the trial
- False swaying of the jury by a witness/the prosecutor lying or withholding evidence/testimony
- Failure to properly process information during the trial by your lawyer, including not investigating, holding back, or objecting to evidence presented; not objecting to or investigating statements made by the other side; not interviewing witnesses or checking responses made in court; giving you the wrong advice or withholding a potential plea bargain
- New Evidence, discovered after the original conviction
- Based on the presented errors or new evidence, the appeals court can decide to keep the judgment of the original court, reverse the judgment of the original court, change the judgment or sentence of the original court, or send the case back to the original court for a new trial or a different sentence (in which case the Oklahoma Court of Appeals must send proper instructions to make sure that the same errors do not happen again.)
If the appeal of a case does not work or apply, it is still your right to apply for Post-Conviction Relief, challenging the original sentence.
You may challenge the sentencing if:
- The conviction or the sentence violates the Constitution or state laws
- The sentencing court did not have the power to give such a sentence
- The length/time of the sentence is more than the maximum for the law
- New evidence or testimonies are introduced that may hold off the conviction or sentencing for the sake of justice
- You have been illegally held in custody (i.e. the sentence is over or suspended or the probation/parole/conditional release is illegally retracted)
Also, if any other physical evidence has been presented illegally, the court MUST review the sentence of the crime if an appeal is presented in a timely manner.
Note that in Post-Conviction Relief appeals, issues that were already dismissed in the appeals process CANNOT be brought up again.