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WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THERE IS NO GREAT REASON FOR A NEW TRIAL BUT THE CONVICTION JUST "ISN'T RIGHT"?

Posted by Ben Sessions | Sep 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THERE IS NO GREAT REASON FOR A NEW TRIAL BUT THE CONVICTION JUST “ISN'T RIGHT”?

There are times when there are no real errors in rulings by the trial court and the performance of trial counsel really does not appear ineffective, but the jury verdict bothers us. The verdict just does not feel right to us. Perhaps there was too much conflict in the State's evidence. Perhaps there was real credibility issues with the State's law witnesses that were central to the State's case. There can be any number of reasons why a criminal conviction does not feel right to us, but we must have a vehicle to allow the trial court to help us.

Well, here it is:

As this Court has clearly explained,

Even when the evidence is legally sufficient to sustain a conviction [under the Jackson v. Virginia standard], a trial judge may grant a new trial if the verdict of the jury is “contrary to … the principles of justice and equity,” OCGA § 5–5–20, or if the verdict is “decidedly and strongly against the weight of the evidence.” OCGA § 5–5–21.

When properly raised in a timely motion, these grounds for a new trial—commonly known as the “general grounds”—require the trial judge to exercise a “broad discretion to sit as a ‘thirteenth juror.' ” In exercising that discretion, the trial judge must consider some of the things that she cannot when assessing the legal sufficiency of the evidence, including any conflicts in the evidence, the credibility of witnesses, and the weight of the evidence. Although the discretion of a trial judge to award a new trial on the general grounds is not boundless—it is, after all, a discretion that “should be exercised with caution [and] invoked only in exceptional cases in which the evidence preponderates heavily against the verdict”—it nevertheless is, generally speaking, a substantial discretion.White, 293 Ga. at 524, 753 S.E.2d 115 (citations and footnote omitted). An appellate court will not disturb the first grant of a new trial based on the general grounds unless the trial court abused its discretion in granting it and the law and the facts demand the verdict rendered. See State v. Cash, 298 Ga. 90, 95, 779 S.E.2d 603 (2015). See also OCGA § 5–5–50.

State v. Hamilton, No. S16A0986, 2016 WL 4729562, at *3 (Ga. Sept. 12, 2016).

WHAT DOES A NEW TRIAL ORDER ON THESE GROUNDS LOOK LIKE?

General grounds for a new trial.

Even when the evidence is legally sufficient to sustain a conviction [under the Jackson v. Virginia standard], a trial judge may grant a new trial if the verdict of the jury is “contrary to … the principles of justice and equity,” OCGA § 5–5–20, or if the verdict is “decidedly and strongly against the weight of the evidence.” OCGA § 5–5–21. When properly raised in a timely motion, these grounds for a new trial—commonly known as the “general grounds”—require the trial judge to exercise a “broad discretion to sit as a ‘thirteenth juror.' ” In exercising that discretion, the trial judge must consider some of the things that she cannot when assessing the legal sufficiency of the evidence, including any conflicts in the evidence, the credibility of witnesses, and the weight of the evidence. Although the discretion of a trial judge to award a new trial on the general grounds is not boundless—it is, after all, a discretion that “should be exercised with caution [and] invoked only in exceptional cases in which the evidence preponderates heavily against the verdict”—it nevertheless is, generally speaking, a substantial discretion.

State v. Hamilton, No. S16A0986, 2016 WL 4729562, at *3 (Ga. Sept. 12, 2016) (citations omitted).
This Court has carefully reviewed the trial transcript and exhibits and considered the conflicts in the evidence, the credibility of the witnesses, and the weight of their testimony and the Court has concluded that the jury's guilty verdicts were decidedly and strongly against the weight of the evidence and contrary to the principles of justice and equity. Accordingly, the court exercises its discretion to grant the Defendant a new trial.

Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Defendant's Motion for New Trial is GRANTED.

If you have a post-conviction relief question regarding a Georgia criminal conviction, call The Sessions Law Firm at (470) 225-7710.

About the Author

Ben Sessions

I work to provide exceptional service, attention, and results to each of my clients. Most of clients come to me because they are in a completely overwhelming situation. They need someone that will do more than address their legal problems.

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