We have handled over 50 appeals in both State and Federal court with outstanding results. We not only handle direct appeals of state and federal cases, but also habeas corpus petitions for individuals who are serving state and federal prison sentences. In the majority of these cases, we didn’t handle the trial but were retained specifically for the appeal.
Motion for New Trial
Generally, a motion for new trial must be filed within thirty days after conviction. In federal court, a motion for new trial must be filed within seven days after conviction. The rules provide an exception for motions based on newly discovered evidence. The motion is filed in the trial court. This is the first stage in the appeal process. Although a defendant is not required to file a motion for new trial in order to appeal his or her conviction to the Court of Appeals or the Georgia Supreme Court, this procedure has inherent advantages. First, by filing a motion in the trial court, we have the opportunity to convince the trial judge that a new trial is warranted. This means that we will have an additional person considering the case in the review process and, of course, a favorable ruling here eliminates the need to appeal to a higher court. Second, the motion allows the court to conduct an evidentiary hearing. In the event that evidence will need to be presented in order to establish any of our appeal issues, this will be the only opportunity to produce such evidence (as evidence may not be presented in the higher courts). Thus, if we have issues concerning the ineffective assistance of trial counsel, newly discovered evidence, juror misconduct, or any other issue that would require us to present evidence, a motion for new trial must be filed.
If the motion for new trial is denied, a notice of appeal must be filed within thirty days after the denial of the motion. Murder cases are reviewed only by the Georgia Supreme Court, while all other criminal cases are reviewed first by the Georgia Court of Appeals. After the notice of appeal is filed, we will file an appellate brief which outlines all of our issues for appeal. If our request for oral argument is granted, we will also have the opportunity to have a hearing before the appellate court. If the appeal is denied by the Georgia Court of Appeals, we will have the opportunity to petition the Georgia Supreme Court for review. Following the Supreme Court review, we are entitled to file a habeas corpus petition in both state and federal court. If either appellate court reverses the conviction, the case will generally be sent back to the trial court for a new trial. In some instances, double jeopardy will prevent the State from re-trying the case.
All appeals in federal court are heard by the Circuit Court of Appeals. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals handles all appeals from federal courts in Georgia, Alabama and Florida. The notice of appeal must be filed within ten days after the defendant is sentenced. This distinction is important since most defendants in federal court are not sentenced until months after their conviction. If the appeal is denied by the Circuit Court of Appeals, we will have the opportunity to petition the United States Supreme Court for review. Following the Supreme Court review, we are entitled to file a habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. If either appellate court reverses the conviction, the case will generally be sent back to the trial court for a new trial. In some instances, double jeopardy will prevent the Government from re-trying the case.
Habeas Corpus Petitions
In addition to the right to an appeal, any person who is convicted of a crime, whether by a plea of guilty or after a trial, has the right to challenge that conviction by petitioning for a “Writ of Habeas Corpus.” This procedure is generally designed to address any issues that were not raised in the person’s appeal. This procedure is also the only appeal method by which a conviction arising from a guilty plea may be challenged. Generally, a person must file the petition for a writ of habeas corpus within one year in the case of a misdemeanor, and within four years in the case of a felony, from the date that the conviction became final by the conclusion of direct appeal or the expiration of time for seeking such an appeal. The petition must be filed in the county in which the person is detained.
A habeas corpus proceeding is not regarded as a criminal action. It is a civil action in which the person detained is the plaintiff. The burden of proof is therefore on us to establish our claim by a preponderance of the evidence. A habeas corpus action is not to be thought of as a substitute for an appeal. The procedure is generally reserved for cases in which fundamental errors have been made. The habeas corpus procedure is intended to apply to cases where (1) the trial court did not have jurisdiction to try the offense; (2) the sentence was not authorized; (3) the defendant was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel; (4) the defendant’s guilty plea was not intelligently and voluntarily entered; (5) the defendant was convicted of violating a statute that has been found to be unconstitutional; (6) there is a substantive defect in the indictment on which the defendant was tried such that it failed to allege conduct which constituted a crime; and (7) where the defendant was denied a fundamental constitutional right.
In federal court, the rules regarding habeas corpus petitions are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and § 2255. § 2254 governs federal habeas petitions filed by defendants who have been sentenced by a state court. § 2255 governs petitions filed by defendants sentenced in federal court. In either case, the habeas petition must be filed no later than one year after the defendant’s conviction became final by the conclusion of direct appeal or the expiration of time for seeking such an appeal.