The North Carolina Court of Appeals Overturns a Murder Conviction

Many of our clients ask us how often appeals of criminal convictions are successful. The Court of Appeals does not overturn a large number of North Carolina criminal convictions. On the contrary, in many cases, the Court of Appeals affirms the trial court’s conviction of the criminal. Nonetheless, the Court of Appeals can, and does, overturn the most serious criminal conviction, murder.

In 2015, a North Carolina court found a woman and her father guilty of second-degree murder of the woman’s husband. Prosecutors alleged that the woman and her father beat the victim to death with a baseball bat and a brick paver. The woman and her father alleged that her husband tried to strangle her, and they killed him in self-defense. In February 2020, the Court of Appeals overturned this murder conviction.

The Court of Appeals Overturned the Murder Conviction Due to Trial Court Errors

The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the trial was “so prejudicial and as such the defendants were not able to have a full and meaningful defense.” The ruling stated that the errors at the trial court level warranted a new trial in the case. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court made errors when instructing the jury and evidentiary errors. They ruled that the errors were prevalent and continuous throughout the entire trial.

Other issues included jury misconduct. Also, the victim’s children had stated that he had been emotionally and physically abusive to them. These statements were ultimately excluded at trial. Eventually, the children recanted their statements. The opinion from the Court of Appeals was lengthy, at 169 pages long, and pointed to many errors at the trial court level.

What Happens Now?

One of the three appellate judges on the reviewing panel opposed the ruling. The Attorney General of North Carolina has appealed the decision of the North Carolina Appeals Court. The Attorney General stated that the defendants should not receive a retrial and that the trial court judge did not exclude critical evidence in their case.

Grounds for Appeal in North Carolina

In the case mentioned above, the defendants appealed their murder convictions on evidentiary grounds. The defendants’ defense lawyers argued that the trial court judge excluded evidence that would have helped the defendant secure a not guilty verdict. The man’s children gave evidence to social workers that demonstrated the defendant’s violent nature. This evidence would help the defendants by showing that their claim that the victim had tried to strangle the woman was true. The defendant successfully argued on appeal that the judge should have included this evidence.

The defendant also successfully argued that the jury disobeyed jury instructions from the judge. Specifically, they argued that the jury had conversations among themselves regarding the case. Jury members violated the judge’s instructions and in doing so removed the defendants’ rights to a fair and impartial trial.

Have You Been Convicted of a Crime? You May Have a Right to Appeal

Many people assume that a criminal trial is the end of the story. However, in real life, the jury trial is often just one step in the process. As evidenced by the murder convictions that the Court of Appeals just overturned, a court can overturn guilty convictions. If you have gone through a grueling criminal trial in North Carolina and you disagree with the guilty verdict, you may have a right to appeal your criminal conviction.

Contact Our Charlotte Appeals Lawyers Today

Ultimately, a criminal appeal is a request for a higher court to review the lower court’s decision in your criminal case. An appeal is not just another trial. Instead, the Court of Appeals will review the record of the original trial. As a defendant, you will not be able to add any new evidence, but you will be able to point out errors that the trial court judge made in your case.

At Arnold & Smith Attorneys, PLLC we offer our criminal appeals clients a unique advantage. With decades of experience at the trial court and appellate court level, we have the knowledge it takes to bring effective criminal appeals. Contact us today to schedule your case evaluation and learn how we can zealously help fight for you.

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