The conviction of an innocent person is a tragedy for the person, for the person’s family and loved ones, and for the criminal justice system itself. It is often followed by years, even decades, of imprisonment, and literally destroys that person’s life. And the perpetrator remains free to victimize others.
As criminal defense lawyers with decades of experience, we have seen first-hand how and why wrongful convictions happen, and over the past 20 years we have specialized in litigating these cases to secure some measure of justice and reparations for those victimized by the system.
When a criminal defendant has been convicted and sentenced, he or she is entitled to a direct appeal challenging the legal errors committed during the trial. This requires a thorough knowledge of the rules of evidence, the rules of criminal procedure, and the elements of the crime. We have taught trial advocacy, evidence and criminal law to law students, young lawyers, and experienced advocates seeking to enhance their skills. And we use our knowledge to enhance our clients’ chances on appeal.
When a person is convicted of a crime and their appeal is denied, the next step is to file a petition for post-conviction relief. But the lawyer must be aware of all the procedural roadblocks that exist and know how to effectively navigate around these roadblocks to present the grounds for vacating the conviction to the reviewing judge. The lawyers in our office have done this successfully for decades.
As lawyers who believe in exposing the abuse of power by those in positions of authority in the criminal justice system, we know that this must occur not just in the courtrooms, but in the public at large. We have therefore produced an award-winning podcast, Abuse of Power, written articles and a book published by HarperCollins, American Injustice, and spoken at numerous public events, often about the abuses that took place in the Michael Peterson murder trial, as shown in the Netflix documentary, The Staircase. We also speak about the underlying causes of wrongful convictions, how all citizens can have an impact on the criminal legal system to insure social and legal justice, and the importance of trial advocacy at all stages of both criminal and civil proceedings.
Being prepared to deal with reporters and media coverage in an ethical and professional manner is a requirement to effective representation of your client today. We live in a time where news travels quickly across multiple platforms, where the public can comment and share and make court cases go viral, and where the description of a reporter no longer fits in a traditional box.