The National Registry of Exonerations is a joint project among the University of Michigan Law School, Michigan State University College of Law, and University of California Irvine Newkirk Center for Science and Society. In 2017, they reported 139 individuals were exonerated across the United States for crimes they did not commit. The National Registry of Exonerations further reports that approximately 96 other criminal defendants in Chicago and Baltimore were exonerated in “group exonerations” in 2017 after new evidence was discovered of systemic police misconduct in handling drug cases. As the concept of exoneration for wrongful convictions becomes more popular in the United States, it is important that criminal defendants know there are ways to challenge their convictions in the event that they are convicted of a crime that they did not commit. Before we explain the different ways in which to challenge a wrongful conviction, it is necessary to explain what the term “exoneration” means.
What Does The Term “Exoneration” Mean in Morristown, NJ?
Defined simply, exoneration is the act of officially absolving a person from blame. In the context of wrongful convictions, an exoneration occurs when a criminal defendant’s conviction is reversed or overturned, usually upon review by an appellate court. However, exonerations can also occur as a result of a trial court judge overturning a conviction.
Ways To Challenge A NJ Wrongful Conviction
In order to be exonerated for crimes they did not commit, criminal defendants can challenge the wrongfulness of their convictions in a variety of ways. Often, the ways in which they can assert challenges are fact dependent as every criminal defendant’s case is different. However, two of the most popular ways in which criminal defendants can challenge the wrongfulness of their convictions are through newly discovered DNA evidence or through prosecutors withholding evidence that could prove the defendant’s guilt.
Introducing Newly Discovered DNA Evidence Found On Evidence Admitted At Trial
DNA evidence is still relatively new. Introducing newly discovered DNA evidence found on evidence admitted at trial may enable those defendants with older criminal convictions to be exonerated for crimes they did not commit. Recently, a New Jersey Superior Court Judge overturned murder convictions of criminal defendants Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee for the 1993 killing of a video store clerk in Passaic County. DNA testing was conducted on a purple baseball cap found at the crime scene near the victim’s body. The results of the DNA test indicated that another person’s DNA, not Kelley’s or Lee’s, was found on the baseball cap. Accordingly, the judge ruled that this new evidence raised reasonable doubt as to Kelley’s and Lee’s guilt for the store clerk’s murder. Kelley and Lee were then exonerated for the murder of the store clerk.
Evidence of Brady Violations from Prosecutors in NJ
In addition to introducing new DNA evidence linking another person to a crime, criminal defendants can also challenge their convictions be asserting the prosecution committed a Brady violation and that this violation resulted in their conviction. A Brady violation is named after the United States Supreme Court Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). A Brady violation occurs when the prosecution obtains evidence that tends to show that the defendant is innocent and does not disclose this evidence to the defendant. The defendant must further establish that introduction of such exculpatory evidence could have resulted in a different verdict at trial, then the criminal defendant’s conviction will be overturned.
Contact an Experienced Morristown Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Wrongful Conviction in New Jersey
Were you wrongfully convicted of a crime in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at Hanlon Dunn Robertson Schwartz have successfully represented clients wrongfully convicted in Parsippany, Morristown, Edison, Morris Township, and throughout New Jersey. Call (973) 267-8895 or email us to schedule a consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 33 Market Street, Morristown, NJ 07960, as well as offices in New Brunswick.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.