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First appellate victory!

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Back in April, the Public Defender hired me to write a brief appealing a juvenile conviction for damaging a restroom. (Since you might want to know, someone smeared feces on the restroom wall at a convenience store. Ick.) I was assigned the appeal because it wasn't considered to have a good chance of success (insert bad joke about it being a "crappy" case here), and thus it would be a good opportunity to give me practice at writing appeal briefs.

Well, I found out today that the Nebraska Court of Appeals agreed with me and reversed the conviction. I haven't read the opinion yet, but I'm told that the Court quoted some parts of my brief.

So I'm not a lawyer yet, but I've already got an appellate victory under my belt. Boo-ya. :ninja:

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Hehe, well I actually don't know whether this juvenile committed the crime or not. But either way, I was defending the requirement that the state prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.* I'd say that's a pretty valuable principle. :ninja:

*[Edit: More specifically, my argument on appeal was that the conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence.]

Edited by Groovenstein
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Thanks people. :D

Q, the Court disposed of the case by memorandum opinion, so it will not be reported. I do not know if the State intends to appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court, though even then it won't necessarily be reported, and there won't even necessarily be an opinion. As you might know by now, an appeals court sometimes affirms a lower court's opinion without offering one of its own.

My former boss is sending me a copy of the opinion by mail and it should be here within the next couple days. If he allows it, I will try to post it here. This will involve me finding a scanner I can use.

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Congratulations, dude. Now it's time to up the ante obnoxiously.

*[Edit: More specifically, my argument on appeal was that the conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence.]
As in what? Sanitized as is professionally appropriate. But still, for the case to have been brought to trial in the first case, there must have been evidence to support the claim (okay, I know we're talking about Nebraska, but still I think that totally baseless accusations are not grounds for conviction even in Nebraska). So that must mean that there was a concrete fact about the evidence (or, perhaps, the science surrounding the evidence) that concretely pointed to an alternative interpretation (for example, the guy had involuntary explosive diarrhea, or that some other person did the deed).

The very important underlying question is, what is "insufficient evidence"? What I find most troubling about the question is that juries are expected to distinguish between "sufficient evidence" and "insufficient evidence", not only with no actual (useful, explicit) instructions regarding the difference, but with large impediments existing to people actually gaining knowledge of the concrete facts regarding the two kinds of cases. Now in this case, I assume a judge srewed up and there was no jury, but still, it's kind of bothersome that a trained legal professional could fail to understand this basic centuries-old principle of law. Although, it is Nebraska. :D

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DO, I can always count on you to up the ante obnoxiously. :D

But seriously, apparently I'm allowed to post the opinion, and I will post it if I can find a scanner. I know your curiosity needs to be satiated, however, so for now I'll give you a quick synopsis.

The juvenile was in the store around 3 p.m. The restroom's condition was not accounted for from closing the night before until the juvenile entered. (The State's chief witness was a woman who began her shift at 2 p.m., did not check the restroom, and did not talk to anyone about the restroom's condition that day.)

The State's chief witness also admitted that there were other people in the store that day, and stated that they were only adults. Her big argument was that it had to be the juvenile because a grown man wouldn't have done such a thing as to foul up a restroom.

So basically, any of those other people could have done it = insufficient evidence to find that the State met its burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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So basically, any of those other people could have done it = insufficient evidence to find that the State met its burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hmm, based on my experience I'd have to ask, how did he get convicted in the first place? I'm guessing some of this information did not come out in his initial trial.

Were there specific facts that indicated he did it besides that he was the last one known to be in there before it was found (if that's even the case)? Any words or altercation with clerks or customers beforehand?

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Hmm, based on my experience I'd have to ask, how did he get convicted in the first place? I'm guessing some of this information did not come out in his initial trial.

The information did come out in his adjudication (which is the juvenile trial). If it were not in the record, I would not have been able to use it in the appeal.

As for how he got convicted in the first place, all I can really say (and I'm sorry it's not more helpful) is sometimes judges make mistakes. They hear lots of cases, and these hearings go really fast and they usually have to make a decision quickly.

Were there specific facts that indicated he did it besides that he was the last one known to be in there before it was found (if that's even the case)? Any words or altercation with clerks or customers beforehand?

I don't recall the record containing anything about altercations with anyone.

The only additional significant fact I see in my brief is that the clerk testified that she saw the juvenile enter the restroom and when he came out he had a grin on his face. I don't know how this is addressed in the opinion (I don't have it yet), but my boss told me that at oral argument one of the judges pointed out that the kid could have just been laughing at the feces being there, it doesn't mean he put it there. He was only 13, so it's easy to see how he would laugh at that.

As for other significant facts, I'll check the opinion when I get it.

This is interesting to me, all this interest in a pretty tiny case. :D

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