Execution of Inmates

In June 2003 Governor George Ryan of Illinois stirred controversy when he commuted the death sentences of 167 inmates to life imprisonment. Ryan said he had concluded the state’s capital punishment system was “haunted by the demon of error.” His action came three years after he ordered a moratorium on executions after evidence proved that 13 inmates on death row had been wrongly convicted. Ryan, a Republican, had sought office with a platform that supported capital punishment. Washington and most other States have slowly abolished the death penalty.

In a 1989 case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the execution of inmates who had serious mental health issues. In the years following, however, many states enacted legislation to prohibit such executions. In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 that the execution of mentally ill persons is prohibited under the Eighth Amendment as cruel and unusual punishment.

Despite his role in a landmark court decision, Daryl Atkins currently resides on Virginia’s death row. When the Supreme Court reversed the lower court ruling, it also remanded Atkins’ case so that he could be resentenced. After the decision in Atkins, the Virginia legislature passed legislation to define mental illness. A jury then heard evidence only on the issue of his mental ability. After deliberating 13 hours, and weighing conflicting testimony, the jury concluded that Atkins was not mentally ill and could, therefore, be sentenced to death. Attorneys for Atkins filed an appeal in October 2005.

In 2005, in another historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court barred the execution of persons who are under the age of 18 when they commit capital crimes. The ruling in Roper v. Simmons followed the same reasoning used by the Court in Atkins. In a 5-4 decision, the majority found that “evolving standards of decency” and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment required the banning of juvenile executions. In its reasoning, the court gave credence to the fact that few nations in the world allow the execution of juveniles.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

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How Can I Reverse a Conviction?

Appeals judges generally defer to trial court findings, particularly findings of fact as opposed to matters of law. Courts rarely overturn lower court decisions and “perfect” trials are not guaranteed, although certain safeguards do exist in order to account for errors and oversights. An appellate court will overturn a guilty verdict only if the trial court erred in a way that significantly contributed to the outcome. While most errors are deemed “harmless,” there are, of course, some types of errors that are so serious that they are presumed harmful, such as the use of a coerced confession. Appellate courts rarely interfere with sentences handed down by the lower courts. But in some cases where the law specifies a particular sentence, the appellate court may send the case back for resentencing if the court gets it wrong.

If you have been convicted of a crime and believe the guilty verdict (or even plea) was in error, you will want to pursue the reversal of that conviction. Reversing a conviction generally happens through appeals or writs.

It is theoretically possible for two completely reasonable juries to rule differently on the agreed-upon facts of a case, and thus give different verdicts. And unless something goes wrong at the trial level, you can’t appeal a case simply because you believe the jury reached the wrong verdict. Having said that, convicted criminals do have the right to challenge the verdict, or appellate court’s ruling of a case if mistakes were made regarding the facts or matters of law, or if there were issues not readily apparent in the case record itself. These legal remedies are called appeals and writs, respectively.

If you and/or your attorney have discovered errors in the way your case was handled, and believe it materially affected your conviction or sentence, you may file an appeal. But the appeal must pinpoint a specific aspect (or aspects) of the case and make a convincing argument that there may have been serious mistakes. For example, let’s say the police exceeded the specified scope of a search warrant, leading to your arrest and eventual conviction. In such a case, you would appeal on the grounds that the evidence was obtained illegally and must be excluded from trial.

But even a successful appeal won’t always reverse your conviction. Using the example above, prosecutors may still be able to reach a guilty verdict without the illegally obtained evidence. So it’s important to understand that criminal appeals must focus on specifics of the case and not necessarily the outcome.

If all of your opportunities for an appeal have been exhausted or never available to begin with, but you still believe your trial was clouded by some kind of an injustice or mistake, you may look into filing a writ. A writ is an order from a higher court directing a lower court to take some kind of action, typically filed in extraordinary situations where an appeal isn’t an option. So while the trial court may not have erred, per se, a writ may be filed if the verdict was materially based on some other injustice or error beyond its immediate control.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

Classification of Criminal Cases

Criminal cases receive different classifications according to their severity. The mildest crimes are known as infractions, more serious crimes are known as misdemeanors, and the most serious crimes are known as felonies. The classification of a crime influences both the substance and procedure of a criminal charge, so it’s important to understand the differences between the classifications. This section describes each classification and examines how they differ from one another.

Felonies and misdemeanors are two classifications of crimes used in most states, with petty offenses (infractions) being the third. Misdemeanors are punishable by substantial fines and sometimes jail time, usually less than one year. Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are often classified by degrees, with a first degree felony being the most serious. They include terrorism, treason, arson, murder, rape, robbery, burglary, and kidnapping, among others.

Infractions are the least serious type of crime. Typically, a police officer will see someone doing something wrong, write a ticket and hand it to the person. The person then has to pay a fine. Infractions usually involve little to no time in court (much less jail), and include things like traffic tickets, jaywalking, and some minor drug possession charges in some states. However, if infractions remain unaddressed or unpaid, the law typically provides for an increasing range of fines and potential penalties. Common infractions are seatbelt violations, simple speeding tickets, littering citations, running a red light, and failure to stop properly at a stop sign.

Accomplice liability allows the court to find a person criminally liable for acts committed by a different person. If a person aids, assists, or encourages another in the commission of a crime, they are said to be an “accomplice” to the crime. The person who actually commits the act is called the “principal.” The crime for which an accomplice provides assistance is called the “target crime.”

Civil cases usually involve private disputes between persons or organizations. Criminal cases involve an action that is considered to be harmful to society as a whole. Criminal cases almost always allow for a trial by jury. Civil cases do allow juries in some instances, but many civil cases will be decided by a judge. he protections afforded to defendants under criminal law are considerable (such as the protection against illegal searches and seizures under the 4th Amendment). Many of these well known protections are not available to a defendant in a civil case.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.