In April of 2014, Dale Lee Varner of Davenport, IA was found guilty of vehicular homicide in an incident that occurred in September of 2012. At his May 2014 sentencing, Varner was given a 10-year sentence which was later suspended by a Scott County District Judge who instead gave Varner three years of probation.
Varner, who was 45 when the accident occurred, allegedly ran over Martin Eason, a 23-year-old man who Varner said made him worried about the safety of himself and his children when Eason ran out into the roadway and began waving his arms as Varner was dropping his children off at the babysitter’s.
According to a news report at Radio Iowa, Varner admitted he “hit the gas” in hopes that Eason would move out of the roadway. Eason didn’t move, and was run over and dragged by the car; he later died from his injuries. While there was a lesser charge on the table, involuntary manslaughter, the jury decided to convict Varner of vehicular homicide, a more serious charge.
In addition to probation, Varner was ordered to pay Eason’s 5-year-old son $150,000 in restitution. Some believed Varner feared Eason when he began coming toward the car because he was a black man.
Varner appealed his conviction and sentence, however the Iowa Court of Appeals said the court would not substitute its judgment for the jury’s, and that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find him guilty.
Many people who are convicted or feel they were unfairly sentenced for a crime appeal the lower court’s decision to a state court of appeals. For instance, in Michigan those who have been found guilty of a crime may appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals, who has the authority to overturn decisions made by trial courts or correct mistakes made during the criminal justice process. The trial court system is run by humans, and therefore mistakes can be and are often made. Judges and juries must make decisions that are fair and in accordance with the law, however this is not always the case. This is where the appeals process comes in – and if the result of taking the matter to a court of appeals is not satisfactory, a defendant may take the case to an even higher court, the Michigan Supreme Court. This court has the power overturn rulings or decisions made by the Court of Appeals.
As you can see, appealing a conviction or sentence is a complex and tedious process. In the majority of cases, an appeals court will not turn over a conviction. However, choosing a Michigan criminal appeals lawyer who is experienced, skilled, and has a proven track record can make a difference in the outcome. If you intend to appeal a conviction, make certain you choose a capable attorney.