Grounds for a Motion for a New Trial


Post Trial Procedure in a Criminal Case

Grounds for a Motion for a New Trial

Motions for a new trial are fairly common, but are rarely granted. Because a motion for a new trial is a request for a court to overturn a jury verdict or judge's decision and order a new trial, there must be grounds for the request.

Grounds for motions for a new trial generally fall into one of two categories:

  • Discovery of New Evidence; or
  • In the Interest of Justice.

Discovery of New Evidence

Courts are extremely clear about what “new evidence” means. There are four criteria that must be met for new evidence to be considered in a motion for a new trial:

  • The evidence is newly discovered and you did not know about it prior to, or during the trial;
  • The evidence must be material and not merely cumulative;
  • Your failure to learn of the evidence before the verdict was not because of a lack of diligence; and
  • The new evidence is significant enough that it would likely result in a different outcome if a new trial is granted.

In the Interest of Justice

A motion for a new trial may be made if there was a judicial mistake or bias involved in the original verdict. If there are grounds for a new trial because justice was not served, the court may overturn a conviction and grant a new trial.

Unlike in the case of discovering new evidence, “in the interest of justice” has a much broader description, which affords a court greater discretion to decide when a new trial is required. There are no exact requirements; however, the following may be reasonably considered grounds for being granted a new trial when it can be shown:

  • The jury was biased;
  • There was some sort of identifiable jury misconduct;
  • Improper instructions were given to the jury;
  • There was insufficient evidence to support a conviction;
  • Misconduct on the part of the prosecutor, which may include malicious/false prosecution, witness tampering, fabrication of or tampering with evidence; or
  • Judicial misconduct, such as a judge making improper remarks to a jury or failing to accurately respond to jury questions about their instructions;
  • There was a conflict of interest with the judge who did not, but should have, excused him/herself from the case.

Simply being unhappy with the outcome of your case, or being dissatisfied with your attorney’s performance or handling of the trial are not reasons for being granted a motion for a new trial.

If a motion for a new trial is denied, and the conviction stands, a defendant may:

  • Be sent to serve time in jail or prison;
  • Given straight probation; or
  • Given probation that is conditional upon specific requirements such as performing community service, completing a treatment program, or other conditions of probation.

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