Would Have Been Flipped on Appeal

by Rick Wetzel on July 22, 2011

Even though I am a Texas criminal appeals lawyer, I have more than a passing interest in the Casey Anthony trial in Florida. Now that she has been acquitted on the most serious charges against her, it has been revealed the State of Florida relied on false evidence in an effort to secure her conviction and a possible death sentence. This is a serious claim and one which certainly generates interest in the mind of a criminal appeals lawyer and habeas corpus lawyer.

84 or 1?

During the course of trial, the prosecution presented evidence from a computer forensics expert that someone using Anthony’s computer had searched the word “chloroform” on 84 occasions. While the trial was still ongoing, the expert discovered his analysis was flawed and that rather than 84 times, the word had actually been searched on a single occasion. He made the prosecution aware of his error. Anthony’s defense lawyers now maintain the prosecution never told them of the error or sought to correct the false testimony during trial.

A Duty to See Justice Done

The primary duty of a prosecutor is not simply to convict, but to see that justice is done. TEX. CRIM. PROC. CODE art. 2.01 The prosecution’s use of perjured or false testimony violates a defendant’s right to due process of law. U.S. CONST. amend. XIV; Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U.S. 103, 112 (1935). A new trial is required when there is a reasonable likelihood the false testimony affected the judgment of the jury. Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972); Ex parte Adams, 768 S.W.2d 281, 292 (Tex. Crim. App. 1989).

A Remedy

A prosecutor’s failure to correct false evidence or failure to reveal exculpatory evidence can be addressed multiple ways. If discovered during trial, the matter can be addressed at that time. Most of the time such errors are not discovered until the trial is complete, a conviction secured, and a criminal appeals lawyer becomes involved. The matter may then be presented in a motion for new trial, during the course of criminal appeals or by a habeas corpus lawyer. The jury’s decision in Anthony’s trial avoided the need to explore possible misconduct by her prosecutors.

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  1. Review of Erroneous Admission of Expert Testimony
  2. Was The Witness An Accomplice? Maybe Not.

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