Step Eleven: The Motion for New Trial

If you are considering filing a Motion for New Trial, then things clearly did not go well at the trial of your case. Motions for New Trial must be filed within 30 days of the return of a guilty verdict at trial and it is the beginning of the appellate process. As the name suggests, the basis of the Motion is to ask the judge to grant the defendant a new trial because significant errors were made in the trial of the case. It is almost always the best practice to have a lawyer other than the one who tried the case handle the Motion for New Trial and subsequent appeal because the new lawyer can review the trial lawyer’s performance to determine whether an ineffective assistance of counsel claim can be made.

Judges Issue Warrants

Judges Decide Motions for New Trials

 INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL

Over the years, I’ve handled many Motions for New Trials and appeals from criminal convictions. A common misperception by defendants and their families is that any perceived mistake made by their lawyer or the judge should result in a new trial. I’ve had more than one defendant complain that their lawyer didn’t ask certain questions of a witness that they felt were important or that they didn’t file certain motions or call certain witnesses. Such claims are really claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and the standard for finding that a lawyer was ineffective is fairly high. Many decisions made by trial attorneys in the heat of battle (such as what questions to ask or what witnesses to call) are considered judgment calls and will not be held against them unless the mistakes are truly egregious and had the lawyer performed ‘competently’ there is a reasonable probability that a different verdict would have been reached by the jury.

 REVERSIBLE ERROR BY TRIAL COURT

Another basis for granting a new trial is if the trial judge committed some type of reversible error. If he/she failed to properly instruct the jury on a particular area of law or ruled improperly on a critical evidentiary ruling or objection, it can be the basis for a reversal of the verdict. Unfortunately, it is usually the trial judge who heard the case who is also sitting in judgment of the Motion for New Trial and may be loath to admit he made a mistake. However, the issue won’t end there because if the judge denies the Motion for New Trial, the defense/appellate lawyer will file an appeal and a higher court will review the trial court’s decision for error.

For an example of a successful appeal, please click on the Case Studies tab at the bottom of my website and review the Keathley case.

If you or someone you know has been convicted of a crime and needs appellate help, please give me a call today for a free and confidential discussion about the matter. My office number is 404-474-2531.

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