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Actual innocence is the absence of facts required for conviction under a criminal statute and is a widely used defense to crime. Defendants often claim actual innocence when appealing criminal convictions. To prove actual innocence, the defendant must submit additional evidence that undermines the court's confidence in earlier verdict reached. Appellate rules normally require that this evidence must not have been available to the defendant at the time of the trial.
The following is an example of a case law defining the term:
Actual innocence is “finding not guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Actual innocence means factual innocence, not mere legal insufficiency." Norris v. Warden, Noble Corr. Inst., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12171 (S.D. Ohio Feb. 11, 2010)