For some, a criminal conviction might feel like the end of the road. But
there is a system in place for defendants to continue their fight if they
believe that they didn't receive a fair trial. Recently, a
New Jersey drug crimes defendant had success in a court of appeals. He gets another shot at fighting
various drug-related charges.
The 55-year-old defendant was arrested back in 2008 after he allegedly
sold cocaine to an undercover officer. A previous trial led to convictions
of drug possession, distribution and more. That trial, however, has been
Every criminal defendant is owed a fair trial by a jury of his peers --
unbiased peers. The defendant filed an appeal because he believes that
the jury that convicted him was biased as a result of unethical conduct
by the prosecution. He claims that the prosecution brought up issues unrelated
to the drug charges that the trial was about.
The defendant's financial status and supposed gang affiliation, for
example, don't have any bearing on the offenses he is charged with.
Members of a jury don't have legal backgrounds. They, therefore, likely
wouldn't understand that prosecutors aren't supposed to bring
up unrelated information that creates bias within the jury.
According to the appeals court's decision in favor of the defendant,
the jury was likely misled to believe that the defendant was some sort
of violent criminal. That perception is false, unrelated to the specific
charges and sets jurors up to dislike the defendant and, therefore, convict him.
Trials aren't supposed to work that way, and hopefully the next try
for the New Jersey defendant will reflect that.
Source: South Jersey Times, "Drug conviction reversed for Salem City man due to errors in trial," Michael Williams, Nov. 11, 2012