What May Be Grounds for a New Trial in Florida?
Two recent criminal cases recently made headlines in Florida, but not because of the extreme or controversial nature of the crimes. Courts in two different counties granted new trials for:
- Jim Duncan, who had been previously sentenced to 70 years in prison, as reported by CNN; and,
- Jacob John Dougan, Jr., who has already served 40 years of a life sentence, according to News 4 Jacksonville.
A deeper look at the circumstances in each might provide some guidance if you believe there are grounds for a new trial in your case, so considering discussing two specific options with a Florida criminal defense lawyer.
Grounds for a New Trial: New Evidence
The Florida Code of Criminal Procedure provides that a defendant may establish the right to a new trial if new evidence is discovered in the case. However, the information must also be material, which means that it would likely have changed the verdict or outcome if it was presented at the time. In addition, it must be evidence that the defendant could not have discovered and produced under a reasonable standard of diligence at the trial.
In Case #1 mentioned above, the defendant had been convicted of aggravated child abuse when he brought his infant son into the ER, where doctors treated him for 13 broken bones. New medical science has revealed that the boy may have suffered from a newly discovered disease that makes bones extremely fragile to even slight pressure. The judge in the case agreed that this new evidence was material, and granted a new trial.
Grounds for a New Trial: Prejudice
The court must grant a new trial under certain circumstances if the rights of the defendant suffered from prejudice during the original proceedings. In Case #2, there the main issue cited in giving the defendant a new trial was the testimony of the state’s star witness.
The primary witness for the prosecution lied on the stand when questioned about the plea deal he’d agreed to in exchange for testimony against the defendant. He said he would be sentenced to life in prison, but was only given 15 years. The court found that his lack of truthfulness in testifying cast doubt upon the credibility of all his statements, many of which were used to support a conviction for the defendant.
What Happens Next?
A new trial means that the trial process begins anew for both defendants: It does NOT result in a dismissal or reduction in the charges against them. Still, a qualified criminal defense attorney can assist with presenting the new evidence and eliminating prejudicial testimony to ensure fairness in the process.
An Experienced Florida Criminal Lawyer Will Fight for Your Rights
While the level of proof may seem high if you’re attempting to obtain a new trial, your request may be granted if you meet certain requirements under Florida law. Where you’ve been sentenced to a long prison term, it makes sense to speak with a criminal defense attorney about your case and if grounds exist for a new trial. Fort Lauderdale lawyer Kevin J. Kulik has represented clients in various types of criminal cases and can inform you about your options. Please contact our office today for a confidential consultation.