Lawyers in California recently argued before an appeals court there that potential jurors shouldn't be dismissed from duty based on their sexual orientation in a case that could have nationwide implications.
Criminal law in New York and nationwide is always evolving. Court rulings on previous cases throughout New York can be applied to a defendant's case if the facts are similar and sometimes there are sweeping changes that affect every case that goes forward.
At one time, a person wasn't read rights before they spoke to police, but in 1966 Ernesto Arturo Miranda appealed his conviction and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police must clearly tell a suspect they have a right to remain silent, that what they say can be used against them and that they can speak with an attorney, in accord with the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of Americans. Before that, no one was read a Miranda warning.
It sometimes takes a landmark case, a panel of judges who are willing to listen and an experienced Great Neck criminal appeals lawyer to make history. Any case can one day affect all cases.
In Los Angeles, a gay Nigerian-born man was convicted of assault, but during jury selection of his trial, a lesbian was stricken from the jury. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena recently heard the appeal, where the man's attorneys asked the judges to find that the trial judge made a mistake when accepting a bogus reason for the prosecutor dismissing the lesbian during jury selection.
At trial, the man's defense was that he was giving a hug to a man, which is a salutary gesture in his homeland, and the homophobic man overreacted, lunging away and falling to the floor with the defendant on top of him.
This case could end up being historic. For more than 25 years, a person hasn't been able to be dismissed from a jury because of their race, after a case out of Kentucky was successfully appealed and states changed that aspect of jury selection. Prosecutors once sought to keep minorities off juries, thinking they might be sympathetic to a minority defendant.
These are major issues that shape the criminal justice system in America. A criminal defense attorney is critical because a defendant's trial can mean the difference between liberty lost and freedom won.
But an appeal is also important because everything that happened in a criminal case must be reviewed to determine if the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney made mistakes. If a person's rights weren't upheld, a successful appeal can right those wrongs and get someone a new trial or the charges thrown out altogether.
Because both a trial lawyer and an appeals lawyer in New York is so important, choose wisely. Rarely do defendants get a second chance, so hiring an experienced and aggressive lawyer to handle a criminal case is critical.