Articles Posted in Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

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Appellant Jamel Fowler was convicted of stealing a Kawasaki Mule all-terrain vehicle (ATV) (valued at $1,500 or more but less than $20,000) from complainant Paul Blassingame. The jury assessed his punishment at confinement for two years. Fowler appealed; the Court of Appeals found the evidence sufficient to support Fowler’s conviction; however, it reversed the conviction, holding that the trial court committed reversible error by admitting an unauthenticated videotape exhibit into evidence. After review, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed and held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the video. View "Fowler v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Juan Gonzalez was charged with capital murder of a police officer. The jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of murder and sentenced him to fifty years’ imprisonment. During the trial, the State introduced evidence that Appellant had taken ecstasy earlier in the day while at school and that he had additional ecstasy pills in his possession when he committed the offense. The court of appeals reversed, holding the admission of the drug evidence was erroneous and harmful. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted review to determine whether the court of appeals erred in its analysis regarding the admission of the drug evidence and its harm. While the Court agreed that the evidence was erroneously admitted, it disagreed the admission of the evidence was harmful. "The low probative value of Appellant’s Facebook messages concerning his drug use six-to-seven hours prior to the offense was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Consequently, the trial court abused its discretion in admitting these Facebook messages. However, given the nature of the evidence of guilt and the State’s lack of emphasis on the evidence, we have fair assurance that the admission of this evidence did not affect Appellant’s substantial rights. The judgment of the court of appeals is reversed and the case is remanded for consideration of Appellant’s remaining grounds of error." View "Gonzalez v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Juan Gonzalez was charged with capital murder of a police officer. The jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of murder and sentenced him to fifty years’ imprisonment. During the trial, the State introduced evidence that Appellant had taken ecstasy earlier in the day while at school and that he had additional ecstasy pills in his possession when he committed the offense. The court of appeals reversed, holding the admission of the drug evidence was erroneous and harmful. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted review to determine whether the court of appeals erred in its analysis regarding the admission of the drug evidence and its harm. While the Court agreed that the evidence was erroneously admitted, it disagreed the admission of the evidence was harmful. "The low probative value of Appellant’s Facebook messages concerning his drug use six-to-seven hours prior to the offense was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Consequently, the trial court abused its discretion in admitting these Facebook messages. However, given the nature of the evidence of guilt and the State’s lack of emphasis on the evidence, we have fair assurance that the admission of this evidence did not affect Appellant’s substantial rights. The judgment of the court of appeals is reversed and the case is remanded for consideration of Appellant’s remaining grounds of error." View "Gonzalez v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Vera Guthrie-Nail pled guilty to conspiracy to commit capital murder. A judgment was entered against her in 2012. Without giving notice to Appellant or conducting a hearing, the trial court issued a Nunc Pro Tunc Judgment on December 4, 2012, changing the “Findings on Deadly Weapon” entry from “N/A” to “Yes, a Firearm.” Appellant appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the Nunc Pro Tunc Judgment in an opinion on January 8, 2014. After review, in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' opinion delivered September 16, 2015, it held Appellant’s right to due process was violated because the trial court issued an unfavorable nunc pro tunc judgment without notice and a hearing, and reversed the January 2014 judgment. The matter was remanded the case to the trial court “for proceedings consistent with [our] opinion.” In accordance with that opinion, the trial court conducted a hearing on December 16, 2016, and the trial court judge orally confirmed that it had been his intent to make an affirmative finding of a deadly weapon on the original September 12, 2012, judgment. Appellant appealed the trial court’s December 16, 2016 oral ruling and docket entry. On March 28, 2017, the Court of Appeals dismissed Appellant’s appeal because the trial court had not entered an appealable order. Appellant petitioned for discretionary review to contest the court of appeals’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. The State agreed Appellant was entitled to appellate review of the December 4, 2012 Nunc Pro Tunc Judgment and therefore joined Appellant’s request to overturn the court of appeals’s dismissal. The Court of Criminal Appeals determined the court of appeals’s dismissal was proper: "to date, the only valid judgment against Appellant is the original judgment dated September 12, 2012. If the trial court wishes to make a correction to the September 12, 2012, judgment based on what transpired at the December 16, 2016, hearing, the trial court must enter a new nunc pro tunc judgment, which would then be an appealable order." View "Guthrie-Nail v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Vera Guthrie-Nail pled guilty to conspiracy to commit capital murder. A judgment was entered against her in 2012. Without giving notice to Appellant or conducting a hearing, the trial court issued a Nunc Pro Tunc Judgment on December 4, 2012, changing the “Findings on Deadly Weapon” entry from “N/A” to “Yes, a Firearm.” Appellant appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the Nunc Pro Tunc Judgment in an opinion on January 8, 2014. After review, in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' opinion delivered September 16, 2015, it held Appellant’s right to due process was violated because the trial court issued an unfavorable nunc pro tunc judgment without notice and a hearing, and reversed the January 2014 judgment. The matter was remanded the case to the trial court “for proceedings consistent with [our] opinion.” In accordance with that opinion, the trial court conducted a hearing on December 16, 2016, and the trial court judge orally confirmed that it had been his intent to make an affirmative finding of a deadly weapon on the original September 12, 2012, judgment. Appellant appealed the trial court’s December 16, 2016 oral ruling and docket entry. On March 28, 2017, the Court of Appeals dismissed Appellant’s appeal because the trial court had not entered an appealable order. Appellant petitioned for discretionary review to contest the court of appeals’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. The State agreed Appellant was entitled to appellate review of the December 4, 2012 Nunc Pro Tunc Judgment and therefore joined Appellant’s request to overturn the court of appeals’s dismissal. The Court of Criminal Appeals determined the court of appeals’s dismissal was proper: "to date, the only valid judgment against Appellant is the original judgment dated September 12, 2012. If the trial court wishes to make a correction to the September 12, 2012, judgment based on what transpired at the December 16, 2016, hearing, the trial court must enter a new nunc pro tunc judgment, which would then be an appealable order." View "Guthrie-Nail v. Texas" on Justia Law

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In 2012 Appellant Natalie Reynolds worked as an investigative supervisor for the Greenville office of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (hereinafter referred to as “the Department” or “CPS”). In 2015, she was convicted of official oppression. The charge was based on an allegedly unlawful search and/or seizure of a cell phone belonging to a fifteen-year-old girl who was in lawful emergency custody of the Department. Reynolds’s conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Reynolds’s petition for discretionary review to determine whether the court of appeals correctly held that the evidence was sufficient to support Reynolds’s conviction. Based upon its review of the record, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, the Court held the evidence was insufficient to support the trial court’s finding that Reynolds knew her conduct was unlawful, which was an essential element of the offense of official oppression. The Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered a judgment of acquittal. View "Reynolds v. Texas" on Justia Law

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In 2012 Appellant Natalie Reynolds worked as an investigative supervisor for the Greenville office of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (hereinafter referred to as “the Department” or “CPS”). In 2015, she was convicted of official oppression. The charge was based on an allegedly unlawful search and/or seizure of a cell phone belonging to a fifteen-year-old girl who was in lawful emergency custody of the Department. Reynolds’s conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Reynolds’s petition for discretionary review to determine whether the court of appeals correctly held that the evidence was sufficient to support Reynolds’s conviction. Based upon its review of the record, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, the Court held the evidence was insufficient to support the trial court’s finding that Reynolds knew her conduct was unlawful, which was an essential element of the offense of official oppression. The Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered a judgment of acquittal. View "Reynolds v. Texas" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Appellant Rebekah Ross worked as an investigator for the Greenville office of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (hereinafter referred to as “the Department” or “CPS”). In 2015, she was convicted of official oppression. The charge was based on an allegedly unlawful search that Ross conducted pursuant to her duties as a CPS investigator. Ross’s conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Ross’s petition for discretionary review to determine whether the court of appeals correctly held that the evidence was sufficient to support Ross’s conviction. Based upon its review of the record, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, the Court held that the evidence was insufficient to support the trial court’s finding beyond a reasonable doubt that Ross knew her conduct was unlawful, which was an essential element of the offense of official oppression. The Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered a judgment of acquittal. View "Ross v. Texas" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Appellant Rebekah Ross worked as an investigator for the Greenville office of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (hereinafter referred to as “the Department” or “CPS”). In 2015, she was convicted of official oppression. The charge was based on an allegedly unlawful search that Ross conducted pursuant to her duties as a CPS investigator. Ross’s conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Ross’s petition for discretionary review to determine whether the court of appeals correctly held that the evidence was sufficient to support Ross’s conviction. Based upon its review of the record, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, the Court held that the evidence was insufficient to support the trial court’s finding beyond a reasonable doubt that Ross knew her conduct was unlawful, which was an essential element of the offense of official oppression. The Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered a judgment of acquittal. View "Ross v. Texas" on Justia Law

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At issue for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in this case was whether, in a prosecution for aggravated assault by threat in which it was alleged that the defendant used or exhibited a motor vehicle as a deadly weapon, the defendant was entitled to a lesser-included-offense instruction on deadly conduct. The trial court rejected the request by appellant Anthony Safian for such an instruction, and the court of appeals upheld that ruling by determining that, as a matter of law, deadly conduct was not a lesser-included offense of the charged offense under these circumstances. The Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed: Texas case law from Bell v. Texas, 693 S.W.2d 434 (1985), deadly conduct, as a matter of law, was a lesser-included offense of aggravated assault by threat when it was alleged that the defendant used a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense. In this case, the Court reached the same holding. Accordingly, the court of appeals was reversed. Because the court of appeals analyzed only the first step of the two-step analysis for determining whether appellant was entitled to a lesser-included offense instruction, the case was remanded for that court to conduct the second step of that analysis. View "Safian v. Texas" on Justia Law