Making It Stick: Protecting the Record for Appeal

Having a sexual assault, domestic violence, or human trafficking case reversed on appeal can result in a re-trial with stale evidence, reluctant witnesses, and a victim who is forced to relive the case when she is finally beginning to heal. Though the appellate process is unavoidable, a prosecutor can bring a measure of finality to the criminal justice process by carefully building a strong trial court record that supports the conviction and the sentence imposed and withstands appellate challenges. This article discusses the proper creation and protection of the record during all phases of a criminal case, focusing on investigation, charging, plea agreements, trial preparation and strategy, summation, and sentencing. It addresses pretrial motions, recommends the use of trial briefs on anticipated trial problems, and explains how strategic charging decisions can result in admission of evidence that might otherwise be excluded.