Actual Innocence

December 20, 2013

Once a criminal defendant loses an appeal, there are certain circumstances under which he or she can invoke to go back to the trial court and seek relief by filing a “motion for relief from judgment.”

There are severe limitations on filing motions for relief from judgment: typically, a defendant will lose unless she or he can demonstrate that an issue was not previously raised, “good cause” for why it was not raised, and how the error was prejudicial to the outcome of the trial.

However, there is a question about whether these strict requirements apply in a case where the defendant asserts that the evidence demonstrates a significant possibility of “actual innocence.”

In 2013 the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that implicated this question. The ACLU of Michigan joined the Innocence Clinic of the University of Michigan Law School in filing a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that under such circumstances a motion for relief for judgment should be allowed.

In December 2013 the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed the denial of relief by summary order without reaching the merits of the actual innocence issue.

(People v. Garrett; ACLU Attorney Dan Korobkin and Law Student Intern Eric Merron; David Moran of the U-M Innocence Clinic.)

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