I recently prevailed in a motion to have a client’s felony conviction reversed on grounds of actual innocence under the District of Columbia’s Innocence Protection Act (D.C. Code § 22–4135).
A jury had convicted my client, who was then represented by different counsel, on charges of failing to appear at a hearing related to pending criminal charges. Such a failure to appear is a violation of D.C.’s Bail Reform Act. The client was sentenced to two years’ incarceration for that supposed failure to appear.
After the trial the D.C. Superior Court appointed me to represent the client in a post-conviction “collateral relief” proceeding in before the same judge who had presided over my client’s trial. After conducting a thorough investigation, I was able to develop substantial evidence, which had not been presented at the client’s trial, that, at the time he failed to appear for the hearing, the client had been unable to go to court because he was then incarcerated in a secure psychiatric facility. Consequently, citing the Innocence Protection Act, I argued that (in addition to being ineffectively assisted by trial counsel, a claim permitted by D.C. Code § 23-110) my client was actually innocent on the failure to appear charge and that his conviction on this charge should be reversed. (My motion to the court seeking reversal of the conviction is available here.) Initially the government pushed back vigorously, arguing that grounds to overturn the conviction were lacking. Eventually, however, after further reviewing the evidence I had presented, the government, to its credit and a bit to my surprise, reversed course and told the trial court that it now agreed that this conviction should be reversed. Consequently, the trial court granted the motion I had filed, adjudicated my client as actually innocent on the failure to appear charge, and vacated his conviction and the two-year sentence that had been imposed for this conviction.
I appreciate D.C. Superior Court Judge Nash’s kind words in approving my fee request as appointed counsel under the Criminal Justice Act: “Mr. Kaplan achieved an excellent result for his client, ferreting out a meritorious defense that had been overlooked by a legal team at trial that itself provided highly skilled representation.”