DNA in Criminal Trials, Appeals, & Post-Conviction Proceedings
In the years that Steve and Isabelle have practiced law, they have come to know that the power of their advocacy is a combination of two mutually reinforcing abilities. First, they effectively analyze, investigate and prepare each case for trial, appeal, or post-conviction. Second, they have the talent, technical skills, and experience necessary to present their client’s side of a case persuasively during trial, in an appellate brief, or at a post-conviction hearing. It is the reinforcing effect of their combined abilities to effectively prepare a case and execute on a plan of representation that results in great advocacy. Steve and Isabelle approach their representation of each client with the firm belief that effective advocacy is both an art and a skill that is only mastered in an individual case through complete preparation and precise execution. This is why a person accused or convicted of a crime should retain RaquinMercer for representation at trial, appeal, or post-conviction.
Judge and jury trials are the principle way to resolve an accusation that a person has committed a crime. Although most criminal accusations are resolved through a plea-bargaining process, judge and jury trials remain the most important method for resolving a factual dispute whether an accused has committed a crime. In another sense, an attorney’s reputation as a trial attorney can make the difference to whether a prosecution ever goes to trial.
In our adversarial system, the defense is pitted against the prosecution and each side presents their version of the truth. In a jury trial, the judge gets to decide legal questions, the jury must decide factual questions, and then apply the law to the facts. To prevail at trial, the defense has certain tools available to it, such as the substantive law of the crime, the rules or procedures of the court, the technical rules of evidence, and the art or psychology of persuasion. Fully integrating these tools at trial is what RaquinMercer is all about.
In our system of criminal justice, overreaching police officers and overzealous prosecutors can tilt the balance of advantage against you. You need a seasoned trial team on your side to shift the balance in your favor. You have rights that need to be protected and a liberty interest that must be defended. RaquinMercer fights for you, for your rights, and for your future.
Contact RaquinMercer to speak with Steve and Isabelle about your criminal case.
Appellate advocacy is a specialized area of practice that is unfamiliar to many trial lawyers. Steve has 20 years of successful appellate experience, primarily in Maryland state appellate courts, but also in the D.C. Court of Appeals, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. You can read here a recent appellate decision in a case successfully briefed and argued by Isabelle.
Most trial lawyers lack an understanding of the procedures of an appellate court, or how doctrinal principles shape and define the contours of appellate review. At the same time, many appellate attorneys lack the experience of jury trials, which limits their insight of the trial process. Steve and Isabelle believe that combining the art of appellate advocacy and the art of trial advocacy has a mutually reinforcing and amplifying effect on the quality of representation they provide to their clients. Trial experience, in particular mastering the art and psychology of telling a persuasive narrative, is an essential tool in an appellate practice. Also, knowledge of the appellate process is a critical part of honing legal arguments during a trial. RaquinMercer commits to both.
Contact RaquinMercer to speak with Steve and Isabelle about your appeal.
RaquinMercer has extensive experience with collateral challenges to Maryland state court convictions and sentences. Steve and Isabelle approach their representation of a client in post-conviction proceedings with the firm belief that successful claims can only be identified through complete preparation and precise execution in an evidentiary hearing. Steve has successfully obtained post-conviction relief of a new trial from murder convictions and other serious crimes, such as rape, sex offenses and abuse. Steve’s particular area of expertise include challenges involving DNA/forensic science, but his success also extends to non-DNA/forensic science claims of wrongful conviction. You can read about some of Steve’s successful post-conviction cases here.
Broadly defined, a post-conviction proceeding may involve a motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence, a petition under the Maryland Post-Conviction Procedures Act, a Writ of Actual Innocence, a Petition for Post-Conviction DNA testing, or a petition for a common law writ such as habeas corpus, arrest of judgment, and corem nobis. Although Maryland has unified the procedures for many of the post-conviction challenges and most of the historic common law writs, a complex set of rules govern waiver of these claims with many opportunities for a default to occur. Also, because of the tension between a collateral attack on a judgment of conviction and the State’s interest in the finality of a judgment, the substantive law that defines these claims is constantly evolving—and often not in helpful ways. For all of these reasons, success in a post-conviction proceedings requires extensive trial, appellate, and post-conviction experience.
Contact RaquinMercer to speak with Steve and Isabelle about your post-conviction case.
DNA/Forensic Science: Trials, Appeals, Post-Convictions
You may not be aware of it yet, but your case probably involves DNA/forensic science. DNA/forensic science may include any of the following types of evidence frequently introduced during a trial: fingerprints, cell phone/GPS location information, digital/computer evidence, firearm/toolmark comparisons, arson, cause/manner of death, trace evidence, hair/fiber, medical diagnoses of non-accidental trauma, sexual assault examinations and forensic interviews of children, breath, blood or urine tests for alcohol or drugs, and forensic analysis of suspected CDS.
It takes advanced knowledge of science and the law to identify the problem with DNA/forensic science in your case and to develop solutions. It is often the most powerful form of evidence against you. RaquinMercer has the expertise to review, challenge, and confront the DNA/forensic science in your case. Read about our team here. We litigate DNA/forensic science issues at trial, on appeal, and in post-conviction, in prosecutions for murder, rape, child abuse (physical and sexual), sexual offenses, robbery, burglary, assault, drug possession and distribution, weapons charges, theft, fraud, DUI/traffic cases, and violations of parole and probation.
Contact RaquinMercer to speak with Steve and Isabelle about the DNA/forensic science evidence in your case.
Criminal Defense Litigation FAQ’s
What questions should I ask my lawyer about the DNA evidence in my case?
- What is your training and experience with DNA?
- Have you filed for expanded DNA discovery?
- Who is the laboratory analyst? Did you get the lab’s protocols? The lab’s corrective action reports? Did you check the analyst’s proficiency testing, qualifications, and prior testimony?
- What serological and DNA tests were done? What test kits were used? What equipment platform was used? Did you review the lab’s validation studies to confirm the reliability and limitations of the DNA testing of the evidence?
- Did you get the lab’s entire case file? Did you interview the analyst about the case?
- Do you have a checklist that describes the scope of your administrative and technical review of the DNA testing?
- What assumptions did the analyst make when interpreting the test data? What aspects of the testing are vulnerable to a challenge?
- How can the DNA evidence be used to further my theory of the defense?
My lawyer says I should plead guilty because there is DNA. Should I get a second opinion?
Yes. Absolutely. Before you resolve your case, you must have an intelligent understanding of the DNA evidence. You have a unique interest in ensuring that only reliable forensic science evidence is used because your liberty is at stake. Unfortunately, the integrity of the scientific process that is essential to ensure the validity of the evidence is too often distorted by the central metric of success in criminal prosecutions: aiding an investigation, reducing backlogs, or securing a conviction. You should consult with an experienced DNA attorney.
The police have asked me to give up a sample of DNA. Do I have to consent to the collection of my DNA?
No, you do not have to consent to the collection of a DNA sample. You may request an opportunity to consult with an attorney before deciding.