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Convicted robber finally wins appeal with 9th Circuit Court

Nearly everyone in the state of California knows how important good defense is in any criminal trial. Many times, being able to present fully both sides of the case is what allows jurors to make the most informed decision about a case. In the end, this can mean the difference between a harsh sentence and leniency.

But what if you were denied the right to present your full defense to a jury? It’s a scenario some of our readers might not believe could happen but it did in a case that went before the 9th Circuit Court. And even though this wasn’t the first court to hear the case, it does appear to be the first court to have realized that someone’s constitutional rights were violated during the course of the trial.

The case of which we speak involves a man who was sentenced to 55 years in prison for his involvement in a string of robberies that took place between April 9 and April 17 of 2003. After his arrest, the man told police that he had only joined in on the robberies because the other robbers had threatened to kill him and his family. Because he committed the crimes under duress, he argued that “there was little evidence to prove that he had been a willing accomplice in the crime spree.”

But because of a lower court’s decision regarding the man’s defense, the burden of proof was shifted and jurors did not hear the man’s full defense. Despite three courts affirming the conviction, the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco reversed last month saying that the trial court had infringed on the man’s Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The violation of the man’s constitutional rights requires a retrial, the court wrote, pointing out that the court still has the burden of proof to prove the man guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “9th Circuit Finds Flaws in Robbery Conviction,” Tim Hull, April 29, 2014

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results