Former House Majority Leader’s Conviction Overturned

In 2010, former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay was found guilty of illegally funneling money to Republican candidates.  The trial lasted three weeks.  He was sentenced to three years in prison.  However, his sentence was postponed pending his appeal.  According to WMBF News, Delay’s conviction has been reversed.  Agreeing with the argument that Delay’s appellate lawyer made, the Third Court of Appeals of Texas held that there was insufficient evidence at the trial.  Specifically, the appellate court stated that the State failed to prove that the laundered money was illegally obtained.  The State claimed that DeLay used $190,000 in corporate donations and supplied them to Texas House candidates.  Texas law prohibits corporate money to be given directly to political campaigns.  Prosecutors plan to pursue an appeal to the highest appellate court in Texas.

What this case illustrates is that the prosecution has the burden of proof in a criminal case.  It is their burden to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  If they fail to establish any element of the charge, then the defendant cannot be found guilty.  The appellate court found that the prosecution had failed to establish an element of the charge of money laundering.  What is important to remember is that the trial counsel for Delay had to preserve this argument for appeal.  If the argument is not set forth at trial and on the record, then the appellate court cannot consider it.  A good criminal defense attorney will be able to make sure that arguments are preserved in the event an appeal must be filed.

During the appeals process, appellate counsel has to identify the issues in the case that have merit.  This involves reviewing pretrial motions, transcripts, and orders from the lower court.  Appellate counsel is only able to address matters that are preserved on the record.  If key issues are not preserved, a 2255 motion could potentially be filed at a later time by the defendant which usually alleges that the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel.  After this stage, appellate counsel performs an extensive amount of legal research and begins to write the appellate brief.  The brief is presented to the appellate court and identifies the alleged errors made at the lower court level.  Opposing counsel has the opportunity to file an answer brief.  Once all the briefs have been filed, the appellate court may set the case for oral arguments or file an order with its decision.

The appellate process can be confusing because of the legal research involved.  To write an effective brief that addresses all issues, you must be experienced in this area of the law.  Specifically, you must know how to identify potential issues, research those issues to determine if they have merit, and draft the brief in a manner that clearly and concisely addresses each of those issues while following the appellate rules of procedure.  This can be difficult for a person that is not experienced in arguing before state and federal appellate courts because you are only given a short amount of time to prepare the brief (normally 30 days).  This is why it is in your best interests to contact an appellate lawyer if your are seeking to file an appeal.

Russell Mace & Associates, P.A. has appellate lawyers that have argued before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, South Carolina Court of Appeals, Supreme Court of South Carolina, and United States Supreme Court.  We know the time and effort that goes into the appellate process and we seek to provide the best representation possible for our clients.  In doing so, we ensure that every meritorious issue is addressed.  If you are seeking an appellate lawyer, contact our office for a free consultation at 1-800-94-TRIAL or contact us online.  We have appellate attorneys licensed in South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.

Comments on Pro Se Motions

Our leading South Carolina criminal defense attorney, Russell W. Mace III, was cited in the Sun News for his insight on pro se motions.  Kachef Spain pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a handgun.  Because of his prior record, Spain received five additional years under the Armed Career Criminal Act.  Under the Act, if a defendant has three violent felonies or serious drug offenses, he or she could potentially receive an enhanced sentence.

In a pro se motion to the district court, Spain argued that two of his previous felonies should only have counted as one given that they were part of the same crime.  Judge Bryan Harwell ordered Spain to resubmit his pro se motion as it was improperly filed.  Mr. Mace stated that Spain’s argument could potentially have merit if the two felonies were, in fact, part of the same criminal act.  On the other hand, Mr. Mace said that Spain could still be given an enhanced sentence if he has other felonies that qualify under the Act.

This situation shows the importance of hiring a good criminal defense lawyer.  The procedures involved with the judicial process can be difficult to understand.  There are a lot of rules and technicalities that must be followed before a court will even accept a motion.  Spain’s motion was dismissed because he did not follow proper procedure.  It would be best for him to consult with a South Carolina criminal defense attorney to determine whether his motion has merit and whether he has any other potential arguments to be made before the court.  It is unclear whether Spain has already exhausted his right to appeal or whether he waived it during his guilty plea.  In any event, it would be best for any defendant, whether charged or convicted of a crime, to consult with a criminal defense attorney to ensure all of their arguments are made before the court and preserved.

If you or loved one has been charged with a crime, contact our office for a free consultation at 1-800-94-TRIAL or contact us online.  We have criminal defense attorneys licensed in South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.