On November 4 I appeared on behalf of my client at an oral argument before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which is D.C.’s equivalent of a state supreme court. At issue was exclusion of expert testimony about the accuracy of witness identification.
The central legal dispute in the case, United States v. Parada, No. 12-CF-1583, is whether my client’s criminal conviction arising from an armed robbery should be overturned because of the trial court’s exclusion of expert testimony about the limited accuracy of eyewitness identifications. The government acknowledged the correctness of my argument that the trial judge made a mistake by excluding this evidence, but asserted that the error was “harmless” because my client would have been convicted even if the evidence had not been excluded. Although it is never possible to be certain of how an appellate court will decide a case based on oral argument, the three-judge panel that heard the case seemed very skeptical of the government’s argument. The only significant evidence against my client was the testimony of a single eyewitness, making testimony on the accuracy of eyewitness identifications, which are far more often wrong than most people realize, especially important.
One unfortunate aspect of the case is that it has taken so long for this appeal to be heard—my client was convicted in 2011 and has actually finished serving his sentence and been released. Consequently, even if we win on appeal, and there appears to be a real chance that we will, the relief for my client will be largely symbolic. The D.C. Court of Appeals is more willing to give a fair hearing to the arguments of convicted criminal defendants than are many other appellate courts, but the speed at which it decides cases is sometimes glacial. Unfortunately, in many cases justice delayed is justice denied.
Disclaimer: (i) The results in any case referred to refer only to the specific results in that specific case; (ii) results in any case depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case; and (iii) results in this case do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case undertaken by The Kaplan Law Firm or Matthew B. Kaplan.