After a conviction, a defendant may be able to appeal the decision in a higher court. However, simply receiving a negative outcome is not grounds enough to file an appeal, and the appellate courts do not re-try the case. According to the American Bar Association, the purpose of an appeal is to ask the appellate judges to review the trial and see if there were errors. The judges do not hear new evidence at an appeal.
Louisiana’s Uniform Rules of the Courts of Appeal explains that a panel of three judges will undertake the review.
The appellant must create a brief that includes his or her written argument for reversing the verdict. The appellee may file an answering brief, and then the appellant may file a reply brief rebutting the appellee’s argument.
The trial court clerk will prepare the record of the case for the judges to review. This record will include:
- A copy of the minutes from the trial
- The names and other information about the people who were present, including the judge, jury members, attorneys, defendant, witnesses and others
- Copies of the documents presented as evidence and depositions in the order of filing
- Records of other evidence
- A transcript of the witnesses’ oral testimonies
- The verdict, judge’s ruling and sentence
Motions and pleadings must also be in the record. An appellant may request documentation regarding jury selection and examination of potential jurors.
The record will not include subpoenas, notices or returns, unless they are relevant to the appeal. If the appellant wishes to include these, he or she must show that they are material to the case. Unless the court orders it, there is no need to present any large documents, bulky exhibits or physical evidence.
Usually, the panel of judges conducts its review without hearing any oral statements. However, the court may grant permission to include oral arguments. The appellant must not write these down and read them, and the statements must not come from the briefs.
The court may order a new trial, modify the original verdict or order the lower court to do one or more of the following:
- Reconsider facts
- Accept further evidence
- Reconsider the case due to a recent appellate court decision
The court could also affirm the trial court’s decision, in which case the appellant may be able to appeal to a higher court.