On April 16, 2013 letters which included ricin were delivered to President Obama, Sadie Holland, a Mississippi judge, and Senator Roger Wicker of MS. Shortly thereafter, 41-year-old James Everett Dutschke was arrested by federal authorities on charges he manufactured ricin and sent the potentially deadly chemical through the mail in the letters mentioned above. Now, Dutschke is appealing his conviction once again.
Dutschke pleaded guilty to the charges against him, and is currently serving a 25-year sentence in a Colorado federal prison. Last month, he appealed his conviction claiming the charges were flawed because ricin was listed in the charges as a “biological” weapon rather than a “chemical” weapon. He also now claims he is innocent of the allegations against him, and that his attorney at the time was ineffective. In that appeal, Dutschke was unsuccessful as U.S. District Court Judge Sharion Aycock concluded he waived those rights by initially pleading guilty. Aycock said that at the time he pleaded guilty, he told the court he was satisfied with his lawyer.
Dutschke was required to serve his 25-year sentence in solitary confinement, an administrative measure imposed by the U.S. Dept. of Justice; he appealed this measure as well earlier this year.
He now says he will appeal the October ruling made by Judge Aycock to the Fifth U.S. Court of Appeals, and has notified the court of his intentions.
Considering the fact Dutschke originally pleaded guilty to the charges against him and never mentioned to the court that he was not satisfied with his attorney at the time, it is unlikely he will be successful in his latest appeal. However, Michigan criminal appeals attorneys know there are cases in which those convicted are successful in appealing a conviction or sentence.
In order to win an appeal, there must be strong proof that the defendant’s rights were violated, errors were made in the criminal justice system, etc. However, errors may be made at trial that do not merit reversal of the verdict. Ultimately, all defendants in criminal cases are entitled to a fair trial; in order for an appellate court to reverse a conviction due to an error, it must be a legal error that likely contributed to the defendant being found guilty. In the majority of cases, if a defendant’s constitutional rights were violated (error involving constitutional rights), the appellate court will reverse the conviction. There are some instances in which the conviction will not be reversed if the errors involving constitutional rights were deemed to be harmless.
As you can see, the appeals process is highly complex, and not to be entered into lightly. In order to have the very best opportunity for turning things in the defendant’s favor, it is critical to have an experienced Michigan criminal appeals attorney who is skilled and knowledgeable in the process, and who has a successful track record for obtaining the desired outcome.