In many criminal trials, the prosecution relies on testimony from victims and eyewitnesses to prove its case against the defendant. As such, if a key witness for the state later recants their testimony, it may constitute grounds for reversing a defendant’s conviction. A change in an eyewitness account will not always result in a favorable outcome for a criminal defendant, though, as demonstrated in a recent Michigan case in which a jury convicted the defendant of assault with intent to murder. If you are accused of a crime, it is critical to retain the assistance of a skilled Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
The Procedural Background of the Case
It is alleged that the defendant was charged with assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. During his trial, the prosecution’s case hinged on testimony from the alleged victim; he testified that the defendant shot at him numerous times following an altercation. A jury found the defendant guilty, and as he was a third-offense habitual offender, he was sentenced to 20 to 60 years in prison for his assault crime and two years for his firearm offense.
Reportedly, almost ten years after his conviction, the defendant moved for relief from judgment, his second motion for relief, on the grounds that the victim completed an affidavit in which he recanted his testimony. The trial court initially granted a stay but later denied the defendant’s motion following the victim’s death. The defendant appealed.
Reversing a Conviction Due to Newly Discovered Evidence
On appeal, the court found no error with the trial court’s ruling. The court explained that a defendant can file a second motion for relief from judgment but only if there is newly discovered evidence they did not have when they filed the first motion, or there has been an intervening change in the law. As such, a defendant filing a second motion for relief must show that one of these exceptions applies before the court will consider their motion.
When a defendant files a second motion for relief based on newly discovered evidence, they will only be granted a new trial if they can establish: that the evidence was newly discovered; the new evidence is not cumulative; they could not, using reasonable diligence, have found and presented the evidence at trial; and, the new evidence makes it probable that a different outcome would occur on a retrial.
In order to determine whether newly discovered evidence would result in a different outcome, the court must first evaluate whether the evidence is credible. In the subject case, the court ultimately found that there was no way to corroborate the trustworthiness of the witness’ affidavit. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.
Talk to a Trusted Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
If the victim of a crime recants their testimony following their alleged assailant’s conviction, it may be cause for vacating a guilty verdict. If you are charged with assault or another crime, it is smart to talk to an attorney about your rights. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a trusted Michigan criminal defense lawyer who can inform you of your possible defenses and help you to pursue the best legal result available under the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.