The Appeals Process

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After conviction, there are several steps in the appeals process.  Not every case goes through every step but usually they follow the same general pattern.

Motion for New Trial

This is the first step after a conviction.  The defense files a motion for new trial.  This motion alleges that errors were committed during the trial and that the defendant deserves a new trial as a result of these errors.  Usually a motion for new trial is not scheduled until after the trial transcript has been completed.  Due to the extremely heavy schedule of the court reporters in this circuit, the transcript may take a long period of time to complete. 

At the hearing on the motion for new trial, the defense has the burden of proof.  The motion is heard by the same judge that oversaw the trial.  Unless there was some egregious error, the trial court will almost always deny the motion.

The Appeal

The next step is to file an appeal.  Other than a handful of cases that are exclusively in the jurisdiction of the Georgia Supreme Court, such as murder, the appeal is filed in the Georgia Court of Appeals.  During the appellate process, the Defendant no longer carries the presumption of innocence.  Only in extremely limited circumstances will the appellate court set aside a jury verdict. 

Petition for Certiorari

If the Court of Appeals sustains a conviction, the defendant may file a petition for certiorari with the Georgia Supreme Court.  This petition requests that the Court review the case.  In rare circumstances, the Supreme Court will grant the petition.  For the majority of appeals, the petition is denied.

Petition for Habeas Relief

A defendant has four years after a felony conviction to file a petition for habeas corpus.  This is a civil petition alleging that his constitutional rights were violated, usually because of some defect in his defense counsel at trial.  It is filed either in the county where he is imprisoned or in the county where he was convicted.  The Attorney General's Office handles habeas petitions except in limited circumstances.

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