A criminal conviction is life changing. The life of a convicted criminal is far different than the life of an adult with a clean record. Convictions are the criminal justice system’s way of signifying that a person owes a debt to society. This means that person will pay with time. Time in jail, time away from friends and family, time that the convicted will never see again. The unfortunate reality of this is that time is a precious commodity and the criminal justice system is not perfect. In fact, far from being perfect, the justice system is often flat out wrong. After a judge or jury determines that a crime has been committed the sentencing phase is all that remains before the convicted becomes aware of just how high of a debt they now owe. While this is a life-altering event, it is one that can be remedied to some extent. The remedies available to someone sentenced to jail happen at the appellate level. For some, especially those wrongfully sentenced, an appeal is the avenue to freedom, the way to ensure your conviction does not dictate your future.
Mr. Rosas’ Story
This month a California appellate court overturned the conviction of a man named Rene Rosas. Rosas was sentenced to spend time at San Luis Obispo County Jail after being found guilty of manslaughter. Prior to sentencing Rosas was a man looking to have his recreational vehicle repaired. In his pursuit he took the RV to a friend’s shop in Arroyo Grande. The owner and mechanic of Tuffy’s Central Supply, Ron Kelsey, began to inspect the vehicle. Kelsey crawled underneath the RV after placing the rear wheels in an elevated position. Kelsey then told Rosas to shift through the gears on the RV while Kelsey observed from underneath. Rosas stepped on the gas causing the RV to lurch backwards, fall off its supports, and ultimately crush Kelsey.
The Justice System
Rosas was tried during 2014 before a jury of his peers for the crime of vehicular manslaughter. Rosas’ trial lasted for five days. Rosas strongly contested his guilt and referred to the trial as “corrupt.” In California, his conviction meant that he no longer had a right to a court appointed attorney, despite his desire to appeal the case. Fortunately, a non-profit organization took on his appeal and provided him with the legal assistance he needed to appear for the Second Appellate District Court. The law is written such that a conviction of vehicular manslaughter requires that the defendant be “driving” at the time of the crime. In this case the Court of Appeals agreed that Rosas was not driving when the accident occurred. Rosas conviction was overturned and after about a year in prison Rosas was reunited with his family. “It’s been nothing short of a whirlwind. Now I just want to get my life back together,” said Rosas.
When laws are misused or misconstrued, harm is done to the defendant and the justice system as a whole. If you or someone you love has been wrongfully convicted of a criminal act an appeal may be the only way to reclaim your life. For questions regarding how to file an appeal in a criminal case, contact the attorneys at Brownstone Law today.