In August of this year, law enforcement went to a Minnesota home and found four special-needs children living in an unkempt home. According to the Star Tribune, the children’s father, who is a registered sex offender, possessed child pornography. Law enforcement had conducted a search and found the material had been downloaded onto at least one of the home’s four computers.
If convicted, the man could face serious penalties including jail time and losing custody of his children. While appealing such convictions can be challenging, the battle is not impossible.
The appeals process
Trials, especially those that involve sex crimes, can be extremely complicated. It is highly likely that somewhere during the procedure, an attorney or a judge will make a mistake. However, as the Minnesota Judicial Branch points out, an appeal is not a “do-over,”; rather it is a chance for an appellate court to review the decisions made during the initial trial.
There are several common issues that defendants can raise during a child pornography appeal case, such as the following:
- The composition of the jury in the event that bias is suspected
- Inappropriate or unfair arguments brought by the prosecution
- A ruling to either allow or disallow pieces of evidence
- Rulings regarding pre-trial motions
- Any instructions given to a jury
In order to overturn a conviction, the defense must be able to prove that a mistake made during the trial affected the substantial right of a defendant. Therefore, if a prosecutor’s argument was found to be inappropriate and there is no other evidence implying guilt, then the appeal may very well be successful. However, if a judge rules there is other substantiated reasoning behind the conviction, it may not be overturned.
Outside an appeal is the option to pursue habeas corpus proceedings, which permit defendants to raise issues that are not admissible in appellate court. For example, if evidence of innocence arises or the defense believes there was juror misconduct, an attorney can file a writ of habeas corpus.
Why appeals matter
The penalties for sex crimes in Minnesota can be harsh, resulting in as many as 30 years in prison and hefty fines. Federal convictions regarding child pornography are even more serious, bringing with them a mandatory 10-year prison sentence. Someone convicted of child pornography charges will have to register as a sex offender, which can make finding housing and employment difficult. Building a strong defense and successfully appealing a conviction can protect a defendant’s freedom and ability to earn a living and reside in decent housing. Anyone with questions about appealing a sex crime should consult with a criminal defense attorney.