Introduction to New Trial Based on Discovering New Evidence
When it comes to a criminal trial, defendants should generally “lay all of their cards on the table” and introduce every relevant piece of evidence that may, however slightly, indicate that the defendant is not guilty of the offense charged. Even if the evidence or testimony appears to be of minimal persuasive value, it is difficult to tell what information a jury will find important and determinative. Suppose, however, that for one reason or another you fail to introduce a piece of evidence that you later believe would have altered the outcome of the trial. Can you obtain a new trial and introduce this evidence?
General Rule: No New Trial Based on New Evidence Defendant Knew About
Unfortunately, the general rule throughout the United States and in federal courts is that a defendant is not entitled to a new trial to introduce additional evidence that the defendant knew about at the time of the first trial. Thus, if you are facing a criminal trial and there is a question about whether you should or should not introduce a particular item of evidence or call a particular person to testify, you may wish to go ahead and introduce the evidence or call the witness as the trial would be your only opportunity to do so.
This general rule is unaffected by the materiality of the evidence. Suppose that, at trial, the defendant declined to testify and was found guilty by the jury. The defendant believes his testimony and recollection of the events surrounding the incident at issue would have persuaded the jury to acquit him. Even if the defendant were the most credible individual alive, a court would not grant a new trial to the defendant.
This rule extends to evidence and testimony that the defendant should have known about but did not have actual knowledge of. For instance, suppose that buried deep within the discovery of a case provided to the defendant by the prosecution is a witness statement that exonerates the defendant. Even if the defendant fails to notice this statement and fails to call that witness to testify, the court would still not grant the defendant a new trial. See the statute regarding a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence at the Cornell.edu website.
When a Motion for New Trial Would Be Granted
The only circumstances under which a new trial would be granted based on new or additional evidence is where (1) the new evidence could not have reasonably been discovered or available at the time of the original trial, and (2) the new evidence is such that the outcome of the trial could be affected. If the newly discovered evidence is not material, relevant, or does not have some persuasive value, the request for a new trial would be denied.
For example, suppose several months after a criminal conviction for DUI following a wreck, the defendant becomes aware of an eyewitness who says he saw the collision. (Assume, too that the defendant could not reasonably have known about the witness’s identity or location.) If the witness’s testimony would be such that the defendant’s guilt would only be reinforced – i.e., the witness would testify he smelled alcohol coming from the defendant after the crash – then a new trial would not be granted.
Conclusion to New Trial Based on Discovering New Evidence
Although much of the defendant’s evidence in a criminal case will come from the prosecution’s obligation to disclose the evidence in its possession, this does not do away with the defendant’s obligation to present any material evidence or witnesses that could help his or her case and that can be located through reasonable effort and diligence. It is very difficult to obtain a new trial so that the defendant can present new evidence when the defendant did not do so at the first trial. Contact an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney for additional information concerning a new trial based on discovering new evidence.