It will cost lots for a appellate attorney. If you are serious about hiring an attorney, then you should be be prepared to shell out a small fortune. A free attorney will be appointed to review the case for those who cannot afford an attorney. All that needs to happen to get that ball rolling is to file a notice of appeal within 60 days.
Quickly addressing your concerns, whether you son testified was his decision not the lawyers. There is a fine line between coaching and prepping. Too much prepping can lead to coaching and can be interpreted as dishonest and rehearsed. In any event, this area is probably not the strongest area of appeal. In addition, the attorney not presenting evidence is not usually a strong area for reversals.
Since you are not an attorney you probably don't realize what areas are ripe for appeal. Perhaps the DA said things that were prejudicial, the judge ruled that certain evidence could not be present, or that the DA could present some evidence that should have been excluded, that the rules of evidence were either broken or allowed to be broken by the judge, that the DA withheld exculpatory evidence (strongest appellate argument)...
The list goes on an on. There are also motions that could be filed before the appeal is filed, most notably is a motion for a new trial. This should be discussed with his attorney. Almost always a court appointed attorney for a 1st degree murder case is well qualified.
Hope is not lost.
The above information does not establish an attorney client relationship nor is it meant to provide legal advice.
He can appeal (you can't, of course) if he is within the appeal time allowed by the law of the state in which he has been convicted. The court will appoint counsel on appeal if he cannot afford to retain an attorney.
It sounds to me as though the issue you have in mind, i.e. the alleged faiilure of trial counsel to properly prepare and to present evidence, may be more appropriate for some form of collateral review (post-conviction petition, habeas corpus, coram nobis, or whatever process of review may be appropriate under your state law) than for appeal.
This does not mean that your son should file a collateral review petition instead of an appeal. It means that he may have to do both. The issues in this case, both substantive and procedural, are potentially quite involved and difficult and must be thoroughly evaluated by an attorney familiar with California appellate and collateral practice in criminal cases.
Upon request he will be entitled to a court appointed lawyer on appeal in California. Ineffective assistance of counsel is a very common grounds for appeal; the defense attorney will not usually take offence and may help. Also make sure that trial counsel assists with filing a timely notice of appeal.
This is not legal advice but a general comment on society. International Law 24/7 hotline +1-202-318-2406 - Dr. Jonathan Levy, PhD calls or emails usually returned within 24 hours.
If he had court appointed counsel for his trial, then he should be eligible for court-appointed counsel (a different one) for his appeal. The appeals attorney can review the record and determine if his trial attorney committed any errors that affected the outcome.
The place for him to start is to contact his trial attorney and ask about the appeals process. The trial attorney generally has the responsibility to file the notice of appeal and other paperwork, and there are strict deadlines for appeal so your son should not delay for any reason. He can always withdraw his appeal later if he decides he doesn't want to go through with it, but if he does not file on time, he may not have the chance to file later.
A lot depends on how long ago your son's conviction occurred. You, (meaning your son) have 60 days from the day the plea or sentence was given to file a notice of appeal. Once filed, the courts can appoint you an attorney since you probably wouldn't be able to afford one on your own (they are very expensive). They can review all the court records and consult with the trial attorney to see if there is anything ripe for appeal. Good luck!
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here. Please visit my web site: www.mdrmlaw.com for more information about my services.