gavel and justice scalesThis is the next post in our discussion on the handling of post-conviction cases in Little Rock or elsewhere in Arkansas. Our last article discussed filing for habeas corpus due to a change in the law. It is important to understand that you only have a limited amount of time in which you may request relief if the law has changed. It is, therefore, important that you contact an attorney immediately. In this article we will be discussing the process of filing for relief. This process is complicated and has many technical requirements. Failing to properly follow those requirements may result in your petition being dismissed. Hiring a lawyer, who is familiar with this area of law, can help to ensure that this does not happen.

The process of filing for post-conviction relief begins by filing a Petition with the Court in which the defendant was originally convicted. The Petition must state how the defendant’s trial counsel was ineffective and how that poor representation is what led to the conviction. The State will then file an Opposition to the Petition. The defendant will file a Reply and the Court will set a hearing date. The hearing will be what is considered an “oral argument.” By this we mean that the the attorneys for each side will argue, to the Judge, the points of the case. No witnesses will be called at this stage. The Court will typically do one of two things at this point. The first of these possibilities is that the Court will deny the Petition. The defendant’s only option at this point is to file an appeal. The second possibility is that the Court will schedule an “evidentiary hearing” at which witnesses will testify. The latter of these options means that the case will go forward.

The evidentiary hearing will be similar to a bench trial. By this we mean that witnesses will testify but that there will be no jury. The defendant will be the first to call witnesses and this will include the original defense attorney. Counsel will question the prior attorney as to the facts which will show that they provided ineffective assistance. If, for example, the defendant is claiming that they were never shown a potential plea agreement then counsel will challenge them to prove that they met with the defendant to review any proposed agreement. The State will then examine any witnesses and call any witnesses they deem necessary. After a brief portion of testimony known as “rebuttal” the lawyers for both sides will make a closing argument. The Court may issue its decision immediately or, in more complex cases, it may issue a written decision at a later date.

It is important to understand that the Petition for a writ of habeas corpus must articulate certain facts or else it will be dismissed quickly. Also, the rules of evidence and procedure will be enforced at any evidentiary hearing. Hiring a post-conviction attorney familiar with these processes can help Little Rock defendants to improve their chances with the process and in building a strong record for appeal.

Our attorneys have over twenty-five years of combined experience in standing up for the rights of the accused. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation. In addition to Little Rock, we also handle matters in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Springdale, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Conway, Rogers, Pine Bluff and throughout the rest of the state.