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A new trial was ordered by the appeal court and ordered to allow previously denied discovery video into evidence. Along with requesting supplemental evidence, I also argued to acquit for the traffic violations, but the appeal opinion only said arguments for acquittal to be without merit. It didn't explain why the arguments were wrong.

The municipal judge says the new trial can only be about the the discovery video and that arguments made in the original can not be repeated because the appeal court said the arguments were without merit.

The municipal judge asked if I understood and I said no. The judge didn't explain when I tried to ask him what is allowed in a new trial. He got upset and told me to leave.

What is a new trial?

Can't I try to argue my case better in a new trial?

Does a new trial have to be limited to only new evidence?

It sounds like the officer witness from the original trial doesn't have to testify again.

What does the appeal court mean when my arguments were without merit? I thought it meant I just didn't support it well in the appeal brief, so they don't explain why the argument was wrong, but I get to argue again at the new trial.

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An argument is without merit if it is not based on correct ideas about law (sometimes characterized as absurd or frivolous claims). For instance if I were to argue for acquittal of evasion of income tax on the grounds that I have a God-given right to not pay income tax, that would be without merit, and it is completely established that I am compelled to pay income tax. There would be no rational basis on which my claim could succeed, so I would not be allowed to make the argument. A court can reject a meritless argument, and is not obligated to explain why the argument is meritless, though often in the written opinion there is some brief indication pointing to case law.

It appears then that whatever arguments were given previously were based on patently false legal premises, but there is at least some legal merit to the video, so arguments can be made on that point (though there is always the risk that they too would be found to be without merit, which you can discover after the fact).

You cannot try to "argue better", except to the extent that the argument rests on the discovery video.

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It's important to understand the distinction here between arguments and evidence. In a trial, there's evidence that comes in the form of witness testimony and physical objects, and then there are arguments about how the law applies to the facts that the evidence reveals.

So if the prosecutor brought in a two police officers and photos of your car for the trial, he's probably going to have to bring them in again. Similarly, you're allowed to -- and should -- bring in any witnesses and evidence that you think helped you the first time around. And if you have any new evidence, you should bring that, too.

That's the evidence. But if you made an argument -- that the police should have Mirandized you, or that your speedy trial rights were violated, or that the police photos were inadmissible -- and the appeals court found that your argument was meritless, the court is not going to want to hear that argument again. It's already decided.

The big exception to that is the argument over whether you're guilty or not. Both sides get to put on all their evidence again, and both sides get to argue over what it proves.

Also, for whatever it's worth, a meritless argument is not necessarily an absurd or frivolous one; it's just an incorrect one.

  • I see case law opinions explaining why arguments are incorrect. I figured the appeal court gave me a new trial, so they just didn't want to explain what's incorrect. They told me to write any or all arguments in the appeal brief. I didn't think it would be the last time I could bring up the argument. I thought they would tell me what's incorrect with the argument and I would argue it better in the new trial without errors. – user27675 Jul 25 '17 at 23:31
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    @user27675 One of the main risks of not having a lawyer is not understanding how the process works. But, in this case the process was not the problem. The Court basically said your arguments at trial were entirely illegitimate and incapable of being fixed. You can argue it better in a new trial by not making any arguments remotely like those. – ohwilleke Jul 25 '17 at 23:47

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