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APPELLATE LITIGATION

Speak to the Experts

It's essential to remember that the end of a trial resulting in a conviction is not the end of the road for you. The Tennessee and United States Constitutions Guarantee citizens additional rights following convictions in many circumstances which may apply to a state or federal conviction. Call us today to discuss the facts of your case.

TENNESSEE APPEALS PROCESS

Direct Appeal 

Following a trial and guilty verdict, citizens are entitled to a Direct Appeal of their conviction to an appellate court. This appeal will be to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, and is referred to as an appeal "as of right" because every convicted person is entitled to this appeal. This appeal may raise questions challenging the conviction or sentence imposed at the trial court level. Each party, the defendant appealing conviction and the state of Tennessee, must file a legal brief of their arguments to the Criminal Court of Appeals.

 

  A three-judge panel of the Court of Criminal Appeals will issue an opinion on the case where they may agree with the trial court's actions or disagree and remand the case back to the trial court for additional steps. If a party disagrees with the opinion of the panel, they may  request the appeal be heard by the full panel of the Criminal Court of Appeals. 

If a party is dissatisfied at this point, the next step is to request permission to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court. This appeal is discretionary, meaning that the Court may refuse to hear the case if they choose. If the case is accepted by the court, parties again file legal briefs and may have oral arguments before the court. If the court refuses to take the case, the opinion of the Criminal Court of Appeals becomes final and direct appeal has been exhausted. 

Post-Conviction Petition

Within one year of the final order in a case, typically the exhaustion of the direct appeal process explained above, a defendant may file a petition for post-conviction relief. This petition is filed in the trial court of conviction, and requests that the conviction be overturned based on some violation of constitutional rights. 

If a defendant makes a showing that there are colorable claims within the petition, a hearing will be granted before the trial court to present evidence on this argument. If the hearing is successful, a new trial will be granted. If the petition is denied, the defendant may appeal the trial court's finding to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The process mirrors that of direct appeals, only as it relates to the issues in the post-conviction petition. If these methods are exhausted, the defendant has no other state appeals available unless it is a capital case. 

Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

Upon exhaustion of available state appeals, a defendant may file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court. The primary function of the writ of habeas corpus is not to determine guilt or innocence but to petition for release from unlawful imprisonment.

The threshold for obtaining federal habeas relief is very high, and requires that the defendant make a showing that a constitutional right was violated. Within this process, all appeals are discretionary, meaning a defendant is not entitled to them as a matter of law. If the United States District Court denies a Petition, the decision may be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit which is located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Finally, if the appeal is granted and affirmed by the Court of Appeals, a petitioner may petition the United States Supreme Court for certiorari to hear the case. Review by the United States Supreme Court is rarely granted. 

Clemency Requests

Executive Clemency is an act of mercy or leniency providing relief from certain consequence of a criminal conviction. The power to grant clemency lies with the Governor of Tennessee. Methods include commutation, pardon, exoneration, and reprieves. Each of these have significant and differing legal definitions and implications, however it is important to realize that they are rarely granted. The authority to grant or deny clemency rests solely with the governor under the Tennessee Constitution.