The long-awaited conclusion of a criminal case in Philadelphia illustrates how a conviction is not always the end result of a case. There are many steps that can be taken to continue fighting for your rights even if a wrongful conviction has been entered against you and you are sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

In January of 2006, a six-year-old boy was in the back seat of his grandfather’s car when he was shot – allegedly by men standing on the street corner. It was alleged that the shooting was intended to hit the grandfather, however, the boy was left paralyzed from the neck down instead. When a crime is intended for one person yet instead is carried out on another, the prosecutor can still issue the charges as if the target had been the one harmed. Therefore, four men who had been identified as standing on the corner that night were charged with attempted murder, among other offenses. While one man was acquitted, three others were convicted. One of the convicted was then 18 year-old Donte Rollins, who was sentenced to at least 62 and a half years in Pennsylvania state prison.

Fighting for Freedom for Rollins

Despite the conviction, Rollins’s mother believed that she had evidence that he was not on that corner when the shooting occurred. Specifically, she insisted he had been shopping and had gathered receipts and surveillance videos to show he was at the mall and not on the street corner. She worked with defense attorneys who also gathered additional evidence, including cell phone records and witness testimony, to try to get Rollins a new trial. The following happened due to their efforts:

  • Based on new evidence, the District Attorney agreed that Rollins should have a new trial.
  • Judge Rayford Means, who oversaw the initial case, trial, and sentencing, disagreed and ruled against a new trial.
  • The Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned Judge Means’s ruling and granted a new trial, which would mean that Rollins would be released and held on house arrest while he waited for a new trial.
  • The District Attorney announced that they would not pursue a new trial and was instead going to drop all charges.

Rollins was released after more than 10 years behind bars without knowing charges would be dropped. He was just happy to be out of prison even if he was going to be house arrest and would have to go through a new trial. He was informed that all charges had been dropped by a reporter during his post-release interview. He, his mother, and his defense attorneys then went to have a meal at Maggiano’s Little Italy.

A Good Attorney Will Keep Fighting

Many people assume that a conviction and sentence is the end of their case and that there is little they can do, even if they know that they were wrongfully convicted. This is not the case and a criminal defense attorney who is skilled at appeals can tell you that there are many ways to keep fighting to have a conviction overturned. The appellate process is complicated and involves many complex legal arguments. The process can also be long – more than 10 years in Rollins’s case. However, with the right defense team on your side, new evidence and arguments can be presented that may, in some situations, result in the opportunity for a new trial or for your permanent release.

Find Out How a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You

Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Brian Zeiger has extensive experience handling criminal appeals on different levels. Our office can handle direct appeals, petitioning the court for post conviction relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act (PRCA), appealing a sentence, federal appeals, and habeas corpus appeals.

The legal standard or review is very different on the appellate level than it is at the trial level. For this reason, you want an appeals attorney who understands these differences and can build an effective appellate case. If you have been convicted of a crime and want more information about a possible appeal, call the criminal defense attorneys at The Zeiger Firm at 215-546-0340 today.


Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.