There is nothing easy about exonerations. To reverse a conviction, it’s not enough to show that the evidence against a defendant was weak or that the defense attorney was inept or that the judge made mistakes about evidence. You have to create something like a perfect little storm, finding a legal error that could have plausibly affected the outcome and hoping that the judges reading your brief see the evidence the same way you do.

Once you’ve reversed the conviction, of course, now you need to actually have your client acquitted or the charges dismissed. This can mean poring over the evidence from the trial and identifying the weaknesses that the first trial counsel missed or the strategies the state employed to get around inadequate evidence. It can mean hoping against hope to prevail at an immunity hearing, to show your client was justified, or winning one of the vanishingly rare dismissals granted when the state knowingly destroys exculpatory evidence. Or, sometimes, if you’re lucky, it can mean finding a prosecutor who looks at the case with the same skepticism you did.

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