Criminal prosecution always assumes that all constitutional guarantees and procedures were followed correctly so that the accused person has all his or her legal rights protected. In some cases, careful examination of a case can determine that there were errors in the legal case which makes the judgement invalid. When this happens the defendant can seek a strategic criminal reversal. If proven the conviction can then be reversed or a new trial can be ordered.
There are many examples.
In one Florida case, Joe Elton Nixon was charged with first degree murder, kidnapping, robbery and arson in 2004. The state sought a capital sentence. At trial, Nixon’s lawyer adopted a strategy of acknowledging Nixon’s guilt in his arguments. The lawyer was trying to maintain credibility with the jury so he could argue against the death sentence. When told of the strategy, Nixon did not express an opinion about it. The defendant, in fact, refused to attend most of the trial.
After he was convicted and sentenced to death, Nixon sought a strategic criminal reversal arguing that he had ineffective assistance of counsel in his trial, because he did not consent to the defense’s strategy. Nixon was successful in achieving his reversal. The Florida Supreme Court held that the evidence showed only Nixon’s “silent acquiescence” rather than the required explicit consent. A new trial was ordered.
In 1993, a Virginia jury convicted a Mr. Mickens of murder. When Mickens discovered that his court appointed attorney had also his victim on assault and concealed weapons charges two years earlier. Mickens sought a criminal reversal on grounds of the lawyer’s conflict of interest. The lawyer had never disclosed this previous experience to the court. In this case, the federal district court denied the petition for reversal. The judgement was consequently affirmed by the federal circuit court.
In criminal cases, any error in proceedings can be grounds for a petition of criminal reversal.