On Friday, March 11, it was announced that the murder and rape convictions of 31-year-old Shawn McClain had been upheld by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. McClain was convicted on murder and first-degree rape charges in August of last year. The victim, Dorothy Leatherwood, was allegedly raped and stabbed by McClain as he was at her home in November of 2012 to collect payment for yard work and odd jobs he had performed at her residence.
According to news reports, McClain pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to life behind bars on both counts. Later, he sought to have the convictions reversed on appeal.
Dorothy Leatherwood was 72 years old at the time of the rape/murder. McClain is eligible for parole, however had he gone to trial and been found guilty of capital murder, he would not have been eligible for parole. According to the district attorney in the case, Leatherwood’s family was satisfied with McClain’s agreement to plead guilty, as he could have “walked” had he gone to trial. News reports indicate McClain has an IQ of 53, and is mildly mentally retarded.
McClain will now continue serving consecutive life sentences.
Appealing a conviction is no easy task, particularly when a defendant pleads guilty to the charges. In fact, when a defendant is offered a plea deal by prosecutors (often in exchange for a lighter sentence), the defendant forfeits the right to appeal. However, a Michigan criminal appeals attorney who provides post-conviction guidance will help those convicted explore various legal options which may include a motion for a new trial, to withdraw or change a plea, or other options – but it’s vital to note withdrawing a plea is extremely difficult.
It is common for prosecutors to “pressure” defendants into accepting a plea deal without the defendant fully understanding the damaging consequences or knowing the rights they are forfeiting, such as the right to appeal a conviction.
Even when an individual is found guilty at trial, appealing a conviction is an arduous process. Appeals court judges rarely overturn the decision made by a lower court, but it does happen when strong grounds are presented. In order to have the best chance at winning an appeal, it is critical to work with a Michigan criminal appeals lawyer who is experienced, aggressive, and thoroughly familiar with the process.