Sufficiency of the Evidence
The prosecution’s role in a criminal trial is to present the evidence and argue to the jury that it is sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the charged crimes. If the jury determines that the prosecution met its burden, it convicts the defendant. However, this is not necessarily the end of the story – upon request from a convicted defendant, an appellate court will review the sufficiency of the evidence presented. If the appellate court determines the evidence was legally insufficient, it will reverse the conviction. At the Los Angeles criminal appeals law firm of Power Trial Lawyers, we represent men and women convicted of serious crimes, helping them obtain relief from lengthy prison sentences. Our attorneys understand the many ways to obtain post-conviction relief, including challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence, and strategically pursue the best claims in an effort to secure our client’s release.Proving a Clam of Insufficient Evidence to Convict
There is understandably a lot of confusion around claims of sufficiency of the evidence. However, a claim that the evidence is legally sufficient is premised on the idea that, even if all the prosecution’s evidence is assumed to be true (including physical evidence and witness testimony), the prosecution still failed to meet its burden.
In every criminal case in the country, the prosecution must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, taking a murder case as an example, the prosecution must prove the defendant committed an “unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” If you break a murder offense down into its separate elements, the prosecution must present evidence of the following:
- The defendant’s actions resulted in the death of another person;
- The defendant had the specific intent to kill; and
- The killing was premeditated and deliberate.
Essentially, when courts review the sufficiency of the evidence, they do not need to look at any defense evidence because the only relevant inquiry is whether the prosecution presented enough evidence to support the jury’s finding of guilt.
Adding to the confusion is the related concept of the weight of the evidence. A claim challenging the weight of the evidence essentially argues that the judge or jury that convicted the defendant got it wrong. When reviewing a weight of the evidence claim, the defense evidence is considered because it goes into the overall picture of whether the judge or jury, when weighing both sides’ evidence, came to the correct conclusion. Generally, appellate courts are very hesitant to overturn a conviction on grounds of the weight of the evidence; however, state and federal courts can do so upon a defendant’s petition for writ of habeas corpus.When to Raise a Challenge to the Sufficiency of the Evidence
After someone is convicted of a crime, they have the automatic right to file an appeal. In California, this entails filing a notice of appeal with the corresponding appellate district. On appeal, a defendant can then raise a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. In fact, technically speaking, you can only raise sufficiency of the evidence on direct appeal because California courts do not generally hear sufficiency of the evidence claims on habeas corpus.Were You Convicted of a Crime Based on Insufficient Evidence?
If you believe that you or a loved one was convicted of a crime based on insufficient evidence of guilt, contact the Los Angeles criminal appeals lawyers at Power Trial Lawyers At Power Trial Lawyers, Attorney Matthew Barhoma and his dedicated team of criminal defense lawyers aggressively advocate on behalf of clients convicted of serious crimes, helping them obtain relief. Over the past several years, Power Trial Lawyers has been responsible for securing the release of multiple clients through various post-conviction claims. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Barhoma today, call 213-800-7664. You can also reach us through our online contact form.