Post Conviction Lawyers

For the past 5 years, Mr. Zinger’s firm has represented five prisoners in State custody alleging that they were tortured into making false confessions and wrongfully convicted of murder. Four of the murder cases are still pending before various judges at 26th and California. People v. Gerald Reed, 90 CR 25846, will be tried before Judge Thomas Gainer this fall. All five prisoners have entered into contracts with Mr. Zinger’s firm to represent them in wrongful conviction 1983 litigation as well as post conviction work and in hearings before the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission.

In one of the torture cases , People v. Mark Maxson, Mr. Zinger was able to get his client’s conviction overturned in September of 2016. The DNA testing we were able to obtain for our client revealed the identity of the actual murderer, some 25 years after the crime was committed. Our firm filed a Sec. 1983 Wrongful Conviction case in October of 2016, Maxson v, Dwyer, et al, 16 CV 9417, seeking $36 million in compensatory damages and $18 million in punitive damages.

Criminal convictions can be challenged not only through direct appeal, but also through post-conviction remedies. Illinois’ Post-Conviction Hearing Act allows for those convicted of a crime to seek collateral remedies, which can include requesting a  new trial, correcting sentencing errors, a habeas corpus writ for ineffective assistance of counsel, or a request for a pardon (725 ILCS 5/122—1 et seq.).

Anyone who is currently serving time in state prison can apply for post-conviction relief. An applicant must show that his rights under the Illinois or U.S. Constitution were denied during his original trial. You must file a petition that lays out how your constitutional rights were violated with the appropriate court.

There is a time limit for requesting post-conviction relief. Your petition must be filed on or before the earliest of these dates:

6 Months -- After the denial of a petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court or 6 months after the deadline for filing a petition, if you do not file one;
45 Days-- After the filing of a brief before the Illinois Supreme Court or the deadline for filing a brief, if you do not file one; or
3 Years-- After the date of conviction

If it has been too long, and you have missed whichever of the three deadlines applies to you, you may still try to seek post-conviction relief if you and your lawyer can show that the delay was not caused by your culpable negligence. For example, if new facts came to light years later that show how your Constitutional Rights were violated during your original trial, you can bring this new evidence and file a petition, as long as you act without an unreasonable delay.

Previously, those seeking post-conviction relief could do so at any time, but they had to wait until their direct appeal had been concluded. However, the law has changed, and as it now stands, you are able to petition for post-conviction relief while your direct appeal is still pending, and often must do so to avoid being cut off by the time limit.

Relief After Conviction

Your case must pass several levels of scrutiny. First, a judge will independently determine whether your claim is frivolous or patently without merit. If it passes to the next phase, attorneys for the state can make arguments against it, and you and your attorney will have to show that your constitutional rights were violated, and that you have evidence in the trial record or affidavits that support your claim. At the third stage, an evidentiary hearing will be held, where a judge examines your argument and its supporting documentation.