Collateral relief is a vital part of the American criminal justice system. By filing post-conviction petitions after the close of direct appeal, defendants can raise claims based on evidence outside the record that was not known or available at the time of trial. One common use of post-conviction relief is to file a claim related to a previously unknown constitutional violation that occurred at trial, such as ineffective assistance of counsel. If a defendant’s trial attorney performed ineffectively by failing to call, for instance, an alibi witness, then that omission is unlikely to be reflected in the trial record—but in the post-conviction proceedings, the defendant may seek to expand the record to include evidence of such ineffectiveness. If a court, sitting in post-conviction, hears that evidence and sides with the defendant, the usual remedy is to grant a new trial. Without access to the opportunities to supplement the record that are afforded by these collateral proceedings, however, a defendant who suffers ineffective assistance of counsel often has no opportunity for relief.

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