Most people wrongly equate an appeal to a fresh trial, given the possibility of a different verdict. However, appealing a verdict is nothing like a retrial.
First, an appeal comes after a trial court or jury has already made its decision. Therefore, the legal proceedings are quite different when appealing a verdict compared to a trial. Here are a few things to know:
The court will not consider new evidence or witnesses
A federal appeal centers on legal or procedural errors by the trial court when arriving at a verdict. As such, the appellate court does not look at new evidence or hear new witness testimony when deciding an appeal.
That said, the appellate court may order a retrial if there is new evidence that is significant enough to change the outcome of your case.
There is no jury to convince, only a judge (or judges)
Appeals are often heard and determined by a panel of judges, not a jury. The panel will review the appellant’s submissions (written briefs or oral arguments) before making their decision which can be unanimous or based on a majority vote.
The burden of proof shifts to the defense
During a trial, the prosecution bears the burden of proof when proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, upon appeal, it is up to the appellant to show that the trial court made a legal error that affected its decision.
Preparing for your appeal
The paperwork and legal procedure of filing an appeal can be complex. Every detail matters and even simple errors can delay the entire process or send your appeal on the wrong path.
Given what is at stake, you cannot take any chances with your appeal. It is advisable to have experienced and knowledgeable counsel by your side to increase the chances of a successful outcome.