How Do You Find Newly Discovered Evidence From Prison?
If you’ve been wrongfully convicted of a crime, you’re probably exploring every option you can find to prove your innocence. One of the options you have, even from prison, is to present newly discovered evidence. Newly discovered evidence is evidence that existed at the time of your trial but was not discovered. If newly discovered evidence puts your conviction in doubt, courts may order a new trial.
But if you’re locked behind bars, finding newly discovered evidence from prison isn’t easy. You obviously can’t physically look for evidence. And it’s also not easy, and is sometimes not possible at all, to talk to with witnesses. You also can’t examine evidence, talk to experts or do other things to help prove your innocence. In fact, unless you’re lucky enough to be able to afford your own lawyer or get help from an organization like the Innocence Project, finding newly discovered evidence from prison is an uphill battle.
Is there a way for you to find newly discovered evidence from prison?
Yes. The easiest way to present a post-judgment motion based on newly discovered evidence is with a lawyer. If you have the money, you can pay for one. That lawyer can use their expertise to investigate. Then, after an investigation, they can file a motion on your behalf. Other than testifying in court, you won’t have to leave prison. And your incarceration won’t slow your case down.
If you’re not lucky enough to be able to hire a lawyer, you can also get help from an organization like the Innocence Project. But there are thousands of people in prison who contact the Innocence Project every year. And the Innocence Project can’t possibly help in every case. In fact, you can assume you will have a really hard time getting the Innocence Project to help.
Even if you can’t pay for a lawyer or get help from the Innocence Project, you still have options to find newly discovered evidence from prison. You can send letters to people. You can talk to people on the phone. And you can ask friends and family members for help. In fact, if your argument is strong enough, you can even ask a judge to help you receive legal assistance.
How long do you have to look for newly discovered evidence from prison?
The biggest thing you need to know about finding newly discovered evidence from prison, however, has to do with timing. Federal law and even some states’ law impose strict timelines for filing motions based on newly discovered evidence. For example, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 states that “[a]ny motion for a new trial grounded on newly discovered evidence must be filed within 3 years after the verdict or finding of guilty.”
Other states, however, have more flexible rules. For example, Colorado Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 states that “[a] motion for a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence shall be filed as soon after entry of judgment as the facts supporting it become known to the defendant, but if a review is pending the court may grant the motion only on remand of the case.” Colorado’s rule recognizes it takes time to find newly discovered evidence. The federal rule does not.
Even after you are in prison, you can look for newly discovered evidence. But, if you can’t afford to pay an attorney or get help from an organization like the Innocence Project, proving your innocence will be hard. Federal law and some states’ laws have very strict time requirements for motions based on newly discovered evidence.