Articles Posted in Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

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Appellant Robert Queeman was convicted of criminally negligent homicide after failing to prevent his van from colliding with another vehicle, which resulted in the death of a passenger in the other vehicle. The court of appeals reversed the jury’s verdict of guilt after finding that the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain the conviction. In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support this criminally negligent homicide judgment, the Court of Criminal Appeals addressed whether a death caused by two driving errors (the failure to control speed and the failure to maintain a proper distance between vehicles) proved a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under the circumstances. The Court agreed with the court of appeals’s ultimate conclusion that the evidence in this case was legally insufficient to establish criminally negligent homicide. View "Queeman v. Texas" on Justia Law

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In this case, the issue before the Court of Criminal Appeals was how a trial court should weigh a defendant’s failure to exercise his right to a speedy trial under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers when analyzing a claim that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. Appellant was indicted in 1993 for an offense that he committed in Texas, but his trial did not take place until 2015. During most of that period of time, he was incarcerated in Nebraska for crimes he had committed there. Although he was informed of his right to be transferred to Texas under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD) for his Texas charge, he never invoked that right. The State also had a right to obtain appellant’s presence in Texas under the IAD, but did not invoke that right until 2013. In rejecting appellant’s complaint, the court of appeals assessed and balanced the four factors articulated by the Supreme Court in Barker v. Wingo: (1) the length of delay, (2) the reasons for delay, (3) the defendant’s assertion of the right, and (4) prejudice to the defendant. Although the court of appeals found that the length-of-delay factor weighed heavily against the State and that the reasons-for-delay factor weighed against the State (but not heavily), the court also found that the assertion-of-right factor weighed heavily against the defendant and that the prejudice factor did not weigh in the defendant’s favor. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with most of the court of appeals’s reasoning but determined that, because the defendant and the State had an equal ability to bring the case to a speedy resolution by invoking the IAD, both parties were equally at fault under the reasons-for-delay factor. Consequently, that factor did not weigh against either party. View "Hopper v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Stephen Hopper was indicted in 1993 for an offense that he committed in Texas, but his trial did not take place until 2015. During most of that period of time, he was incarcerated in Nebraska for crimes he had committed there. Although he was informed of his right to be transferred to Texas under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD) for a speedy disposition of his Texas charge, he never invoked that right. The State also had a right to obtain appellant’s presence in Texas under the IAD but did not invoke that right until 2013. Appellant contended at trial and on appeal that he was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Both trial courts rejected that contention. The court of appeals assessed and balanced the four factors articulated by the Supreme Court in "Barker v. Wingo:" (1) the length of delay, (2) the reasons for delay, (3) the defendant’s assertion of the right, and (4) prejudice to the defendant. Although the court of appeals found that the length-of-delay factor weighed heavily against the State and that the reasons-for-delay factor weighed against the State (but not heavily), the court also found that the assertion-of-right factor weighed heavily against the defendant and that the prejudice factor did not weigh in the defendant’s favor. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with most of the court of appeals’s reasoning but determined that, because defendant and the State had an equal ability to bring the case to a speedy resolution by invoking the IAD, both parties were equally at fault under the reasons-for-delay factor. Consequently, that factor did not weigh against either. View "Hopper v. Texas" on Justia Law

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While driving intoxicated, Appellant Harold Moore rear-ended another car that was stopped at a red light, causing the driver and passenger bodily injury, but not serious bodily injury. The trial court found that Appellant’s SUV constituted a deadly weapon that he used to commit felony DWI. The Fort Worth Court of Appeals reformed the judgment to delete the deadly weapon finding, holding that the evidence did not support it. In its petition for discretionary review, the State argued the court of appeals failed to draw every reasonable inference from the evidence in support of the deadly weapon finding. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed and reinstated the deadly weapon finding. View "Moore v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Roger Carter argued in a series of applications for habeas relief that the trial judge improperly cumulated, or “stacked,” his burglary sentence and credit-card-abuse sentences. The Court of Criminal Appeals filed and set Carter’s applications to address whether his claims are cognizable in a habeas corpus proceeding. Because Carter could have appealed his bare statutory violation and record-based the Court concluded they were not cognizable and denied Carter’s applications. View "Ex parte Roger Carter" on Justia Law

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This case presented a question of jury-charge error. The State alleged that Appellant Robert Arteaga, Jr., committed first-degree felony sexual assault of a child because he was “prohibited from marrying” the victim, his biological daughter. The offense of sexual assault was a first-degree felony if the State proves that the victim was a person whom the defendant was “prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the [defendant] was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under Section 25.01 [Bigamy].” Without objection, the trial court included in the abstract portion of the jury charge the consanguinity statute from the Family Code, which explained when certain marriages are void due to the familial relationship between the parties. Arteaga was convicted, and on appeal he argued in part that the trial court erred to include the consanguinity statute because, pursuant to Section 22.011(f) of the Penal Code, the State could prove that he was “prohibited from marrying” his daughter only if he engaged in bigamous conduct. He also contended that he was harmed by the charge error because the jury’s only guidance concerning the “prohibited from marrying” allegation was the consanguinity statute. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court. Arteaga argued on appeal that the court of appeals erred and he was entitled to a new trial. Here, in finding Arteaga guilty of first-degree felony sexual assault, the jury must have necessarily found that he also committed second-degree sexual assault, and the evidence showed that, if Arteaga had originally been convicted of the lesser-included offenses, there was sufficient evidence to support those convictions. As a result, the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded the proper remedy here was to reform Arteaga’s first-degree felony sexual-assault convictions to reflect that he was convicted of second-degree felony sexual assault and to resentence him according to the reformed judgment. View "Arteaga v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellee Mikenzie Rodriguez was indicted for possession of a controlled substance. Resident assistants searched Rodriguez's dorm room, found drugs, and called their director, who in turn called the police. The police entered the room and seized the drugs. The trial court granted Rodriguez’s motion to suppress and, on the State’s appeal, the court of appeals affirmed–holding there was no college dorm room exception to the Fourth Amendment. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the court of appeals that the officers’ physical intrusion into a constitutionally protected area was a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. And because it was done without a warrant, consent, or special needs, the fruits of that search were rightly suppressed. View "Texas v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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Appellant Joe LaRue was convicted for the capital murder of Donna Pentecost, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. His conviction was based in part on DNA evidence and in part on the very detailed testimony of a jailhouse informant. The conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. Appellant filed a motion for forensic DNA testing seeking re-testing of several things, but the motion was denied by the trial court. The Court of Appeals found Appellant could not show that he would not have been convicted if exculpatory results had been obtained through DNA testing, and affirmed. Although Appellant raised a variety of issues regarding the trial court’s ruling and the court of appeals’ affirmation of that ruling, the Court of Criminal Appeals granted review to take a closer look at the trial court’s decision to deny testing of the blood on a one-time-suspect’s t-shirt. After examining the record, the Court affirmed the court of appeals: exculpatory test results would "merely muddy the waters." View "Larue v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellee Rosa Arizmendi pled guilty pursuant to an agreement, but she moved for a new trial after her codefendant prevailed on a motion to suppress. Appellee, with a co-defendant, was charged with possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine in an amount of more than 400 grams. The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded appellee’s allegations in the motion for new trial were without merit because her failure to discover the new information was due to her own lack of diligence. Even if appellee had been diligent, the Court also concluded the ruling on the motion to suppress was not evidence and that the officer’s testimony at the hearing was either cumulative of the video evidence appellee had already seen or collateral because it was not material to the suppression issue in the co-defendant’s case. Furthermore, the Court concluded appellee’s ineffective assistance allegation was not properly before the trial court because it was not made within thirty days of the judgment and the State objected to it. View "Texas v. Arizmendi" on Justia Law

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This case involved an appeal from a district court judge’s denial of relief in a pre-trial application for writ of habeas corpus. Appellant was under indictment for three charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child, and, in a consolidated trial, a jury had found him guilty of those offenses. Having elected to go to the jury for punishment, Appellant chose to testify. When he stood to approach the witness stand, it became apparent to the jury that he was shackled. Appellant asked for a mistrial, and the trial court took that request under advisement, meanwhile allowing the punishment proceedings to continue. After Appellant had testified on direct-examination, and following brief cross-examination by the State, the trial court interrupted the proceedings to announce that it had decided to grant a mistrial, but only as to the punishment phase of trial. Before the trial court was able to empanel a new jury to assess punishment, however, Appellant filed a combined application for writ of habeas corpus and motion to reinstate his pre-trial bond. He argued that, by granting a mistrial, the trial court had necessarily restored the cases to their pre-trial status, and that he should therefore be released on bond pending trial. The trial court denied both the writ application and the motion. On appeal from denial of the writ application, the court of appeals sustained Appellant’s claim. In an unpublished opinion, it reversed the order denying habeas relief and remanded the cases to the trial court presumably to retry them from scratch, including a new guilt phase of trial. The Court of Criminal Appeals granted the State’s petition for discretionary review to address the question whether, under the present bifurcated system, when irremediable error or misconduct occurs during a jury trial, but not until the punishment phase, trial courts should have the authority to grant a mistrial as to the punishment phase of trial only. The Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ex parte Pete" on Justia Law