The phrase “fair trial” is embedded in our judicial system. It’s a basic and respected cornerstone of it. But what particulars and protections does it actually involve? Can you appeal a conviction if your right to a fair trial was compromised in some way?
Early in our nation’s history, trials were conducted in a haphazard fashion as compared to how they are held today. They happened at breakneck speed and often resembled “shouting matches.” Each side did not usually engage lawyers. Plea bargaining had not yet evolved. There weren’t clearly-spelled-out rules intended to make the proceedings orderly and fair.
Now, of course, all that has drastically changed. The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution assures people of “a cluster of rights designed to make criminal prosecutions more accurate, fair, and legitimate.” Those fundamental rights include the following:
- An unbiased jury of one’s peers
- The opportunity to testify on your own behalf
- Face witnesses in court
- A “speedy and public trial”
- The right to be informed of the charges against you
- Legal representation
In addition, a defendant’s guilt needs to be established “beyond a reasonable doubt” by a jury that returns a unanimous verdict.
Were you denied a fair trial?
To appeal a conviction, you have to have demonstrable grounds. Maybe the jury did not approach your trial objectively. Perhaps your legal representation was inadequate or made consequential missteps. There may have been juror misconduct. Evidence you felt was crucial to your defense may have been ruled inadmissible.
You have the right to appeal
Don’t accept a verdict that changes your life permanently if you think you did not get a fair trial. It takes an experienced legal eye to marshal all the evidence and make the appropriate arguments in favor of an appeal.