November 4, 2014
A federal appeals court ruled last week that a Los Angeles judge’s one-word mistake deprived a defendant of his right to an impartial jury and the presumption of innocence.
The judge’s error occurred during the December 2006 voir dire in a sex-crime trial. The judge said that the man had pleaded guilty to the charges, but he meant to say the man had pleaded not guilty.
The judge’s mistake came out when jurors who had been deliberating for less than an hour sent the judge a note that read, “As a group, we the jury feel we heard the judge state the defendant pleaded guilty before the trial. Is this true?”
The judge reviewed the transcript, and did admit his mistake. He asked jurors if they were able to set aside the flawed statement and be fair. One juror was excused after writing a note to the judge confessing to believing the defendant to be guilty throughout the trial. The remaining jurors were questioned again, but all said they could be fair.
The defendant was convicted of false imprisonment and forcible sexual penetration by a foreign object and was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.
The 9th Circuit said the man must be released or retried as a result of the error despite the judge’s attempts to remedy the situation.
An effective criminal defense goes beyond the outcome of a trial. Those that have been convicted of a crime have appellate rights to further judicial review. An appeals court lawyer can thoroughly review a case and identify all errors made by the prosecutor and trial court in order to obtain a reversal on appeal. The appeals process is complex in Florida, but a Florida Sex Crimes Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help.
No matter the sex crime that you may have been convicted of committing, our legal team can look for any and all errors made by the trial court. As this case shows, if the appellate court finds that the case was wrongly handled, the sentence could be reversed.
Any individual convicted of a crime, no matter how serious, can have their conviction reversed if the Court of Appeals determines they were unfairly treated by the prosecution, judge or jury during their criminal trial. The appeals process can save an individual from a wrongful conviction. If you feel like you were the victim of an unfair trial, please call a Florida Sex Crimes Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton immediately at 866-608-5529 or contact us online.