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Those individuals convicted of a crime at a jury trial or a bench trial are entitled to appeal the conviction to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. (COCA) The purpose of an appeal is not to challenge the jury's factual determination but to ensure that the process by which the jury reached that verdict was fair and the rights of the accused were not violated during the trial. In most cases the appellate attorney will raise issues that challenge legal rulings made by the trial judge. However, if appropriate the appellate attorney can raise propositions of error that do not necessarily involve rulings by the trial court such as newly discovered evidence, prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of trial counsel.
Most cases are affirmed on appeal. Successful appeals are typically those appeals that raise serious errors of law that significantly affect the rights of the accused. Errors committed in the trial which do not result in miscarriages of justice or constitute in substantial violations of constitutional of statutory rights are known as "Harmless Error". When considering issues to raise on appeal one should keep the Harmless Error Doctrine in mind.
When the State seeks to convict one of its citizens of a crime and deprive that citizen of his or her life or liberty, the State should, at the very least, be required to follow the law. Quite appropriately, this Court applies the " harmless error" doctrine to errors which neither result in a miscarriage of justice nor constitute a substantial violation of a constitutional or statutory right. Thus, our law does not require perfection by the State in prosecuting a citizen. We can, and do, frequently deem harmless those errors which do not substantially violate an individual's rights. Flores v. State, 1995 OK CR 31.
Individuals without the funds to hire an attorney to represent them on appeal are entitled to be represented on appeal at state expense. In order to be represented on appeal at state expense a defendant must file out a Pauper's Affidavit and based upon that affidavit the Trial Court will make a determination that the individual is “indigent” or without the funds to hire an attorney to represent them on appeal.
Once the Court has made a determination of indigency the Court will appoint that individual an attorney at state expense or and order the transcripts prepared at state expense. Just because a defendant had a private attorney representing them at trial does not mean that they are not entitled to be represented on appeal at state expense. The determination must be made on a case by case basis based on the Pauper’s Affidavit.
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