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Angiulo: Motions for New Trial- Not Just for the Rich and Famous

Monday, November 25, 2013

 

Michael Skakel reportedly walked out of a Connecticut Courthouse after posting bail on Thursday November 21, 2013. This matters because earlier that day he was residing in the same prison system where he had spent more than ten years for a murder conviction. If you've been in New England long enough to remember Y2K fears, you probably also remember the 2002 trial of Mr. Skakel. This was an especially big deal because of the lurid details; the wealthy community where the alleged acts occurred and the fact that the defendant was a cousin of the Kennedys. You know, the family with the omnipresent political dynasty. In the end, it was the way the trial occurred that ultimately resulted in Mr. Skakel's release.

While every state has its own laws and criminal courts, one of the traditions shared by Connecticut and Massachusetts is a defendant's ability to file a motion for a new trial. At the center of the analysis is whether, or not, justice was served when the defendant's original trial occurred. In Massachusetts precedent, two popular motions are those filed for new trial based on factual issues and motions made for constitutional error.

When a defendant claims some newly discovered evidence mandates a new trial, the court will assess several factors from the filings before even holding a hearing on the matter. The case of Commonwealth v. Grace lays out those considerations as both the quality of the new evidence and whether, or not, there’s a good reason the evidence didn't get presented at the original trial. Regarding quality, the court must find it to have been material, credible and “carry a measure of strength in support of the defendant's position.” That is to say, the new evidence offered must be meaningful.

One group that specializes in meaningful evidence casting doubt on the propriety of some convictions is the non-profit Innocence Project. Their website presents stories and concrete examples of how people have been convicted, incarcerated and later released because subsequent DNA testing reveals they could not have been the perpetrator.

Of course, sometimes it isn't new facts so much as how the original facts were presented that serve as the basis for a motion for new trial. As we saw in the case of Mr. Skakel, a person is guaranteed the right to “the Assistance of Counsel for his defense” when facing criminal charges by the Sixth Amendment. If upon review trial counsel fails to meet the legal standard for effectiveness, then a defendant's conviction must be vacated.

Whether a person is incarcerated because of bad lawyering or not is a question ultimately answered by the particular judge hearing the motion for review. In making that decision the judges of Massachusetts are guided by cases like Commonwealth v. Saferian. In Saferian, the court highlighted that such motions require evidence that the behavior of trial counsel was both “measurably below that . . . expected from an ordinary fallible lawyer” and that it deprived the defendant of an “otherwise available, substantial ground of defense.”

It is no coincidence that our country's history is full of cases that both prosecutors and defendants ultimately come to learn should be overturned. And for every conviction vacated there are others that are upheld. The important part is that both defendants and victims know that the criminal justice system operates by particular rules for a good reason: so that justice will be done at trial.

Leonardo Angiulo is an Attorney with the firm of Glickman, Sugarman, Kneeland & Gribouski in Worcester handling legal matters across the Commonwealth. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

 

Related Slideshow: Selections from Boycott: The Art of Economic Activism

Prev Next

Ernesto Yerena

Title: Alto Arizona (2010)

Origin: Los Angeles, CA

Medium:Offset

Description: Alto Arizona/Stop Arizona is a national boycott and protest movement opposing Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which its opponents allege, targets immigrants and encourages racial profiling.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Zan Studio

Title: Boycott Israel, Free Palestine (2005)

Origin: Palestine

Medium: Offset

Description: This is the first poster produced by the Palestinian Boycott National Committee to promote their call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Chandranandan

Title: Boycott Killer Carbide (1984)

Origin: Sivakasi, India

Medium: Offset

Description: This boycott was instituted in response to the world’s worst industrial disaster, which  took place on December 2, 1984, at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. The accident caused 93,000 pounds of toxic gases to sweep through the surrounding community, exposing 700,000 men, women, and children to nerve agents, carcinogens, and other toxic chemicals.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Xavier Viramontes

Title: Boycott Grapes (1973)

Origin: San Francisco, CA

Medium: Offset

Description: In September 1965, 1500 Filipino grape pickers in Delano, California, members of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) went out on strike to protest years of poor pay and conditions.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Artist Unknown

Title: The Largest Rainforest Destroyer Mitsubishi (1993)

Origin: San Francisco, CA

Medium: Silkscreen

Description: In 1993, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), an environmental advocacy group, declared Mitsubishi to be the leading destroyer of rainforests in the world, and began a five-year campaign against the company.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Kyle Goen

Title: Obama Apartheid Is Real (2010)

Origin: New York, NY

Medium: Silkscreen

Description: This poster was initially designed during the 2008 elections to stimulate a conversation with Obama about apartheid in Israel and Palestine, and to play off his involvement in the South African anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s. Two years later the poster was screen-printed by the artist and Existence is Resistance for the 2010 World Social Forum in Detroit, adding information in support of BDS.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Melanie Cervantes

Title: Boycott Walmart (2011)

Origin: Oakland, CA

Medium: Digital Print

Description: OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart), an organization of Walmart workers, formed in June 2011 to demand better hours and conditions at Walmart retail stores and warehouses throughout the United States.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Christine Ecarius

Title: Montgomery Honor Roll (2006)

Origin: Ann Arbor, MI

Medium: Offset

Description: In February 1956, 89 boycott leaders were arrested, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Rosa Parks. The Montgomery Honor Roll poster shows some of the arrested boycott organizers and participants holding their booking numbers.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Rachael Romero

Origin: San Francisco, CA

Medium: Offset

Description: The Del Monte Corporation, one of the largest producers, distributors, and marketers of food and pet products in the U.S., was the target of a boycott campaign during the 1970s and 80s because of its involvement in the Namibian fishing industry. The Del Monte boycott campaign was initiated in response to a call by the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), which was the liberation movement pushing for Namibian independence from South African control.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Mary Sutton

Title: Divest (2001)

Origin: Minneapolis, MN

Medium: Silkscreen

Description: Divest is the opposite of invest. First implemented on a significant scale in the 1980s during the anti-apartheid campaign the divestment strategy encouraged individuals and institutions to sell their holdings in companies doing business in South Africa. This poster proposes using the same tactic against corporations making huge profits from the prison industry.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Doug Minkler

Title: Boycott Divestment Sanctions (2010)

Origin: Berkeley, CA

Medium: Digital Print

Description: In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Melanie Cervantes

Title: Dump the Prison Stock! (2012)

Origin: Oakland, CA

Medium: Digital Print

Description: Melanie Cervantes created this poster for Enlace, a coalition of low-wage worker centers, unions, and community organizations in Mexico and the U.S. working to hold transnational corporations accountable for the treatment of their workers.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Lincoln Cushing

Title: End Apartheid (1985)

Origin: Berkeley, CA

Medium: Offset

Description: In 1986, the U.S Congress passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act over President Ronald Reagan’s veto, forbidding all new U.S. trade with South Africa or new investments in the country. The background of this poster contains names of companies doing business with South Africa.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Eric Lindroth

Title: The Grim Sneaker (2006)

Origin: Thousand Oaks, CA

Medium: Offset

Description: Nike is a major American supplier of athletic shoes, apparel, and sports equipment and was subject to a boycott during the 1990s and early 2000s because of labor abuses at its produc- tion facilities.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Ricardo Levins Morales

Title: Liberation (2001)

Origin: Minneapolis, MN

Medium: Laser Print

Description: This statement is often attributed to Lilla Watson, Australian aboriginal elder, Murri visual artist, activist, writer, poet, and academic.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Rachael Romero

Title: Boycott Nestlé (1978)

Origin: San Francisco, CA

Medium: Offset

Description: From 1977 to 1984, an international boycott was conducted against Nestlé products to protest the company’s promotion and sale of infant baby formula in developing nations. The Nestlé boycott was the largest non union consumer boycott in history.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Common Threads Artist Grp

Title: Nobody Should Be a Slave to Fashion (1996)

Origin: Los Angeles, CA

Medium: Offset

Description: GUESS was on of the first companies to create designer jeans and was a popular brand during the 1980s, but began a downturn during the 1990s as a result of increasing competition, and growing criticism of their use of sweat- shops and sexist ads.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Frank Rowe

Title: Democratize Yellow Cab (1955)

Origin: San Francisco, CA

Medium: Linocut

Description: In 1955, the San Francisco chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) launched a boycott against the Yellow Cab Company for refusing
to hire African American drivers. This boycott, lasting two years with periodic picketing and demonstrations, was one of the NAACP’s Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work campaigns against employment discrimination.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Donnely/Colt

Title: Rosa Parks (1990)

Origin: Hampton, CT

Medium: Offset

Description: The day after Parks’ arrest, the Montgomery Women’s Political Council responded by calling for a one-day boycott of city buses. The boycott lasted more than a year and is regarded as the first large-scale demonstration against segregation in the U.S.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

Prev Next

Danny Lyon

Title: Now (1963)

Origin: United States

Medium: Offset

Description: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded in 1960 by young people on the campus of Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina–primarily black college students involved in the lunch counter sit-ins that were sweeping the South. Advocating nonviolent direct action, SNCC quickly became one of the most important organizations of the Civil Rights Movement.

Note: some images are details of larger works.

 
 

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