Wrongful Prosecution Case Highlights Appeals Process

In 2005, a New Orleans detective investigated a case regarding a robbery and shooting at a local meat market. An armed assailant was seen fleeing the scene of an attempted murder. After investigation and contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a man was arrested who was known simply as “Mohammad.” This man was held for two years before the charges against him were dropped. As soon as he was released, the man filed charges against the detective and the City of New Orleans for violation to the right to due process and malicious prosecution for the attempted first degree murder that had taken place in 2005.

Mohammad alleged that his due process rights were not being respected because he believed that the detective used false evidence to hold him for trial. The right to due process comes from the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Due process involves the rights to a fair and speedy trial as well as the right to be notified of the charges against you and the right to be heard in a court of law.1 Presumably Mohammad’s claims were based on the assumption that if the detective was attempting to convict him on false witness testimonies then the trial could not be fair by definition.

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana heard the case and many witnesses were presented on either side. Witnesses who saw the attempted murder that day described someone who fit Mohammad’s description and one witness even identified him directly. Evidence was also submitted regarding the detective’s investigation of the case, including the fact that he interviewed a number of witnesses and worked with the FBI in this case. Mohammad presented a single witness who described a man who did not fit Mohammad’s description and another individual who stated that Mohammad was with him the entire day. Mohammad claimed that the statements and witnesses presented by defendants were created by the detective in order to get a conviction for this case. Nonetheless, the jury at the District Court level found for the City of New Orleans and the detective.

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed the case when Muhammad appealed the jury verdict. However, the Court of Appeals only issued a short opinion that pointed out the importance of the jury as a finder of fact in our system today. They stated that the jury verdict must be sustained unless there is “no substantial evidence to support it.” The court recognizes that although people can have differing opinions on a case, the jury’s verdict is given the utmost deference in cases such as this. The jury found that the prosecution did not present enough information to find the City of New Orleans and the detective at fault so they cannot rule in the prosecution’s favor.

The court points out that the jury needs to be reasonable and impartial, and unless these two qualities cannot be found within the jury as a whole then their verdict should be upheld. In this case, the court found that although many of the facts of this case were in dispute, reasonable people could have disagreed on the outcome of this case. Therefore, the court needed to defer to the jury’s verdict.

On appeal, even though the case is reviewed as if it were a new case, the jury verdict is still held in extremely high regard; unless there are extreme circumstances, the jury’s determinations are considered to be fact. In law, the jury is the ultimate “fact finder.” The Court of Appeals must view the evidence in “the light most favorable to the jury’s determination.”

In order to present a case to the jury that will convince them of the outcome of the case, you need a competent legal team who can connect with the individual members of the jury. Building a case to present to a jury is a challenging task that the Beniard Law Firm has mastered.

Contact the Berniard Law Firm Toll Free at 1-866-574-8005 to speak with one of our trained attorneys if you have any legal issues. We are happy to help.