Overturning A Guilty Verdict In A Federal Criminal Appeal

Video Transcript:

Often if someone's convicted at trial in a federal criminal case, what they want on appeal is to be able to challenge that jury finding. They want to be able to say, “The jury got it wrong, I'm not guilty.” And they want to ask the court of appeals to say, to agree with them, to say the jury got it wrong, to say I'm not guilty, that the persons not guilty, to take care of the case that way.

This make sense. You can understand how anyone in that situation wants to assert their innocence, but these are very difficult appeals to bring. They're difficult for two reasons.

First, because the standard courts use when they look at whether jury verdict should be upset is a difficult standard to meet. The standard is whether there's any person on the jury who is reasonable, who looked at the evidence that was introduced, and came up with the conclusion that the person is guilty. If there's any reasonable interpretation of the evidence that's consistent with guilt looking at what that the government, what prosecutor introduced, and also looking at what that person who's on trial introduced, then the courts of appeals will say, we’re not going to overturn this verdict, we’re not going to take away the conviction.

The second reason is often I find when I talk to people who want to bring this kind of challenge to a conviction, what they want to argue is to say, “..but that the jury didn't hear from this witness,” or, “the jury didn't see this document and if they had seen this document or they had heard from this witness the conclusion they would would've have reached, the conclusion they would have had to have reach, would have been to be different.”

Unfortunately in an appeal in a federal criminal case you're stuck with what came in during the trial. So, if there's some great evidence out there that didn't make it in front of the jury, you're not going to be able to bring that to the court of appeals’ attention when you’re making your appeal in the criminal case.

Often where you see these kinds of challenges work, where you see this kind of a an argument work on appeal is if there’s some technical element of the statute that the government's not very good about introducing. If something needed to cross a state line and the government just forgot to show that the gun crossed the state line, if the bank had to have been FDIC insured and the government neglected to introduce evidence that the bank was FDIC insured, then that can be a nice snap rifle shot way to win an appeal. But those are rare, these can be hard appeals to bring if you if you want to try to use a court of appeals to overturn the jury's verdict.