Missoula, MT asked in Appeals / Appellate Law and Criminal Law for Montana

Q: What to include in a letter to appellate court to review a case?

My husband was given a public defender when this whole criminal case started and then that public defender had to leave due to medical issues so he was issued another. She was informed of the first public defenders evidence that he believed could have had the case dismissed. It proved that the cops were being dishonest about what my husband was wearing when he was arrested. The cops said we do not want the video evidence because it does not support our claim and there is nothing incriminating. We asked her ever single time we met with her to please follow up on that and she never did. She made him sign a no contest saying that he would get max sentence if he didnt and they would sue him for hundres of thousands of dollars. That if he didnt sign it they were not going in and he would be in contempt. Please let me know!

1 Lawyer Answer
John Michael Frick
John Michael Frick
  • Appeals & Appellate Lawyer
  • Frisco, TX

A: The key to any appeal is proving through the appellate record that a court made an error, that you “preserved” your right to complain about that error by timely and properly bringing the error to the attention of the trial judge, and that the error was “harmful” probably causing a different outcome in your case.

When a person affirmatively pleads no contest, it is usually very difficult to show that he preserved his right to complain or that any error was harmful. Instead the person must show that his plea of no contest was involuntary.

In your appeal, you need to focus on every single time you told the trial judge on the record that your public defender was not following up on the video evidence and point out exactly where in the record the video evidence is so that the appellate court can review it to determine if it is in fact important enough that it would exculpate your husband.

Remember that the appellate court is limited to reviewing only what is in the record of the proceedings before the trial judge. It cannot speculate on what the video shows or does not show.

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