Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Abreu: Reversal for Insufficient Evidence Alone Does Not Establish Actual Innocence for Unjust Conviction Statute

 In United States v. Abreu, 18-13965 (Oct. 1, 2020) (Jordan, Newsom, Hall), the Court affirmed the denial of a petition for a certificate of innocence under the Unjust Conviction Statute.

 The Eleventh Circuit had previously reversed the petitioner’s fraud convictions for insufficient evidence.  However, the Court held that, even assuming such a reversal  (or an acquittal) could itself entitle a person to a certificate of innocence, the appellate decision did not demonstrate the petitioner’s actual innocence.  The Court held only that there was no direct or circumstantial evidence from which a jury could find guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  And because the petitioner relied only on the appellate decision, without otherwise alleging or proving actual innocence, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the petition.

 Judge Newsom concurred in the judgment.  He opined that an appellate decision reversing for insufficient evidence, by itself, can never establish innocence under the actual-innocence prong of the the statute.