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Theme of Criminal Appeals in Just Mercy: Analytical Essay

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Most people are wrongly convicted of a crime. If there was an error, then you would want to file an appeal to a higher court as quick as possible. Any legal errors can affect the outcome of the case and can put the defendant in a tough spot. If they are convicted as guilty then the process to reverse might not be as simple. In this essay, I will talk about how a criminal appeal is very important to the outcome of a case and should be fully reviewed so that the defendant can get a fair trial.

In the article, Marquette Law Review it says, “Because criminal appeals often involve specialized appellate lawyers on both the prosecution and defense sides, the process involves repeat players to a much greater degree than is true of civil litigation” (Oldfather and O’Hear 341). This quote says that because lawyers are so good at what they do it can change the outcome of what’s supposed to happen in court. The court will favor the better lawyer even if what they talk about isn’t completely true. Relating to the book Just Mercy, it also has a part in the text where the lawyer was spreading lies and managed to convince the court that he was right. We know that later he confesses, but it isn’t right when the court favors the wrong side. There must be better evidence before you can convict the defendant of a crime. Sometimes the judges are given too much power in my opinion and that isn’t fair. The defendant feels like their voice isn’t heard because whenever they ask, they are accused of violating some rules. I also believe that an appellate court has too much control. Because a law can be taken away with one ruling from the appellate court. It feels as if they are enforcing their own laws and that’s not supposed to happen.

Researchers named Joyce Chapper and Roger Hanson did a study on intermediate appellate court outcomes in 1989. In the article, State Criminal Appeals Revealed, it says “They collected data from nearly 1,750 first appeals of right filed by defendants and resolved between 1983 and 1985 in five states’ courts, and reported defense success rates for specified claims, crime types, and types of representation” (Heise et al. 1941). With all the data they collected they found an overall defense win rate of about 20%. This shows how difficult it is to win on the defensive side. Being convicted as guilty when you haven’t don’t anything wrong isn’t fair and in an appellate court, they should really pay attention to what each other has to say.

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Relating to the book Just Mercy, many people were still sent to death row or jail no matter if they didn’t do anything wrong. A man named Walter McMillian in Just Mercy was accused of murdering Ronda even though he would never commit murder. All because they suspected his previous relationship wasn’t great and that he had a history of cheating and anger issues they assumed he had murdered Ronda. Without evidence nothing should be assumed. They shouldn’t have suggested having Walter a suspect without any proof that he did commit murder. Ralph Myers was very suspicious. In the book Just Mercy, it says “When his allegations against the sheriff didn’t seem to be going anywhere, he changed his story again and told investigators that he had been involved in the murder of Vickie Pittman along with Karen Kelly and her black boyfriend, Walter McMillian. But that wasn’t all. He also told police that McMillian was responsible for the murder of Ronda Morrison” (Stevenson 33). This made law enforcement go after Walter and investigate his past. All because someone lies it can cause trouble and lead to the wrong person being locked up in jail. This resurrects the fact that criminal appeals are meant to be fully looked at so that they don’t end up putting the wrong guy in jail or even worse death row.

In the article, Efficiency and Justice and Fairness: An Empirical Analysis of Criminal Appeals in Human Province, China, it says “The majority of studies on criminal appeals reflected such diversity. For instance, many studies debated over the review power and scope of criminal appeals while other turned to empirical data to examine the nature of appellate judges’ work and explore how different factors may have affected their daily work” (Kuang and Liang 565). They debated over the fact that many judges will decide based off one’s race. Many studies talk about it, but never really came up with a way to improve systemic efficiency and defend fairness/justice.

I mentioned before evidence is important because without it, they can’t accuse you of anything. If there is evidence, you will be fine. Hopefully the court realizes that they need evidence to sentence someone and that one’s race shouldn’t be a factor when determining the outcome of a trial. In the same article it says, “For instance, whether defendants’ race/ethnic background, as a non-legal factor, has affected appellate judges’ decision-making is definitely an issue of justice and fairness and whether appellate judges be allowed to expand their review scope concerns both defendants’ due process rights as well as the efficiency of the system” (Kuang and Liang 566). The system will never be fixed if appellate judges continue their bad and unjust ways. An appellate judge must be fair to everyone equally and use the facts presented in front of them to determine a decision.

In conclusion, criminal appeals are important to a defendant because it allows a right to appeal and helps when correcting errors made by trial courts. There are many errors that happened throughout history, and it put innocent people in tough situations. Biased appellate judges don’t even give the defendant a say in the matter. In my opinion we need to get rid of these biased judges and put in judges that are going to treat everyone fairly. A better court system means a better criminal appeals process. No defendant or lawyer should worry if the judge is white because that shouldn’t determine if you will win or not.

Works Cited

  1. Oldfather, Chad M., and Michael M. O’Hear. “Criminal Appeals: Past, Present, and Future.” Marquette Law Review, vol. 93, no. 2, Winter 2009, pp. 339-347. EBSCOhost,
  3. Heise, Michael, et al. “State Criminal Appeals Revealed.” Vanderbilt Law Review, vol.70, no. 6, Nov.2017, pp. 1939-1970. EBSCOhost, Url=
  4. Kuang, Kai, and Bin Liang. “Efficiency and Justice and Fairness: An Empirical Analysis of Criminal Appeals in Human Province, China.” European Journal on Criminal Policy & Research, vol. 21, no. 4, Dec. 2015, pp. 565-590. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s10610-014-9266-2.
  5. Stevenson, Bryan. A Story of Justice and Redemption. Scribe, 2015.

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