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Has Your Time Run Out?

After an individual has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to incarceration, there are several legal avenues that they can explore to attack that conviction. However, if an individual does not act quickly they may miss out on these opportunities because several of the post-conviction options give individuals strict time limitations of two years or less to file their actions with the court. These strict limitations usually leave incarcerated individuals with questions about what other options are left for them. So what does happen when your time runs out?

Like most rules in life, the rules regulating post-conviction relief options have a handful of exceptions available to those who have exhausted their two-year window of time. Although these exceptions are very narrow and only apply to special cases, they are not as rare as one would think. An example of one exception falls under Rule 3.850 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure and provides that amongst several other grounds, an individual can file a motion when new evidence has been discovered. In order for an individual to prevail on newly discovered evidence as grounds for relief, the individual must prove that the evidence 1) was discovered since the former trial; (2) could not have been discovered earlier through the exercise of due diligence; (3) is material to the issue; (4) goes to the merits of the case and not merely impeachment of the character of the witness; (5) must not be merely cumulative; and (6) must be such that it would probably produce a different result on retrial. Recently, a man in Ocala was freed from a life sentence in prison after more than 22 years because of this exception.

Scotty Bartek was found guilty in 1991 during a trial of sexual battery on a girl about 5 years old. After this young girl, who was also Bartek's daughter, testified against him, he was sentenced to life in prison. In 2008, his daughter formally recanted her statements and both the circuit court and the appellate court found the recantation credible. These rulings ordered Bartek to be retried on the same offenses that he had been convicted of in 1991. The state decided that in light of the new statements that would be admissible in a new trial, the charges against Bartek would be dropped after more than two decades behind bars.

Although the story of Scotty Bartek is rare, it shows that the exceptions to the two-year limitation of post-conviction relief motions are not impossible. It further shows that justice will prevail as long as we don't stop fighting for what's right.

Source: Ocala Star Banner, Man freed from prison seeks compensation, April Warren

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