Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries
Articles Posted in Texas Supreme Court
This mandamus proceeding related to a disciplinary proceeding against a former prosecutor Jon L. Hall, who allegedly suppressed exculpatory evidence in an aggravated robbery prosecution. The Commission for Lawyer Discipline commenced a disciplinary action against Hall, alleging prosecutorial misconduct. The Commission then filed a motion seeking access to expunged records in the aggravated robbery case. The trial court refused the Commission access to the expunged criminal records for use in the disciplinary proceeding and ordered the Commission to turn over investigative records. The grievance panel in the disciplinary proceeding construed the district court’s actions as a bar to the disciplinary proceeding and granted Hall’s motion for summary judgment. The Commission then petitioned for writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the writ and directed the trial court to vacate its order, holding that the expungement order did not bar the Commission from using records from the criminal trial in the grievance proceeding. View "In re State Bar of Tex. " on Justia Law
The Time Cole Act (Act) entitles a person who has been wrongfully imprisoned to compensation from the State. Payments terminate, however, if, after the date the person becomes eligible for compensation, the person is convicted of a crime punishable as a felony. Michael Blair had a lengthy criminal record. Blair was first convicted in 1988. In 1993, Blair was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. In 2004, Blair pleaded guilty to four indictments of indecency with a child, for which he was given three consecutive life sentences. In 2008, the court of criminal appeals set aside Blair's murder conviction based on DNA evidence, and the State dismissed the charge. Defendant subsequently applied for compensation for having been wrongfully incarcerated from 1993 to 2004. The Comptroller denied compensation. The Supreme Court concluded that the Comptroller correctly denied Blair's claim for compensation, holding that the Act does not require payments to a felon who remains incarcerated for a conviction that occurred before he became eligible for compensation. View "In re Blair" on Justia Law
The State brought an action for forfeiture of a vehicle and $90,235 found in it following a traffic stop, alleging that the property was contraband. The driver of the vehicle (Driver) answered the suit, asserting that he owned the property and requesting dismissal of the forfeiture action. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Driver. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the State failed to present sufficient evidence that a substantial connection existed between the property and illegal drug dealing activities. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the determination of whether law enforcement officers had probable cause to seize the property, that is, a reasonable belief in a substantial connection between the property and illegal activities, must be assessed in light of the facts as the seizing officers reasonably believed them to be; and (2) Driver did not conclusively negate such a belief. Remanded. View "States v. Ninety Thousand Two Hundred Thirty-Five Dollars" on Justia Law
A court cannot terminate a person's rights unless the State proves by clear and convincing evidence that the parent engaged in certain proscribed conduct, as specified in the Family Code, and that termination is in the best interest of the children. In this case, an immigrant convicted in another state of unlawful conduct with a minor and given a probated sentence years before his children were born was later deported to Mexico. The State relied on these facts in petitioning to terminate this father's parental rights, yet put on no evidence concerning the offense committed years earlier, nor the circumstances of his deportation. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' judgment in part, holding that the evidence was legally insufficient to support termination of this father's parental rights under these facts. Remanded. View "In re E.N.C." on Justia Law
Michael Wayne Bohannan pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated rape with a deadly weapon. Upon being released on mandatory supervision, Bohannan was thrice returned to prison for sexual crimes. After receiving a psychologist's report that Bohannan was a sexually violent predator (SVP), the State petitioned for his commitment. After a jury trial, the trial court issued an order of civil commitment. Bohannan appealed, contending that the trial court's exclusion of certain testimony on the basis that the expert was "not qualified to present an opinion" on whether someone is an SVP was error. The court of appeals determined that the exclusion of the testimony was harmful error and remanded the case for a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, though for different reasons, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in excluding the testimony on the grounds that the expert was not a physician or psychologist rather than examining her experience and training, and the exclusion was harmful.
A jury found petitioner committed sexual assault of a child based on the testimony of two witnesses who have recanted, and sentenced petitioner to 22 years' confinement after hearing false testimony by a State's expert. The district court denied habeas relief, the court of appeals affirmed, and petitioner subsequently appealed. The court concluded that petitioner was not entitled to relief on his claims of actual innocence or ineffective assistance of counsel. The court concluded, however, that false testimony by the State's expert witness contributed to his sentence and he was therefore entitled to a new disposition hearing.
Relator sought compensation from the state following the Texas Court of Appeals' grant of habeas relief. Under the Tim Cole Act, Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 103.001(a), a wrongfully imprisoned person could seek compensation from the state for the period of wrongful imprisonment. The court conditionally granted the petition for mandamus and instructed the Comptroller to comply and compensate relator under the terms of the Act where the Court of Criminal Appeals granted habeas relief on a Schlup v. Delo claim and relator's order clearly indicated that relief was based on actual innocence.
This case arose when respondent was arrested by a state trooper for driving while intoxicated. At issue was whether a peace officer's arrest report must be excluded from evidence if not sworn as required by law. Because it was no less a criminal offense to make a false statement in a governmental record than it was to make one under oath, the court held that an officer's failure to swear to a report did not deprive it of the assurance of veracity or render it inadmissible. Consequently, the court reversed the court of appeals' judgment and remanded.
Relator was held in contempt of court and confined for perjuring himself during a deposition. At issue was whether a trial court could hold a litigant in contempt for perjury committed during a deposition and whether the court should exercise mandamus jurisdiction to provide a forum for a civil litigant who was deprived of liberty pursuant to a court's contempt order, and the Court of Criminal Appeals had declined to exercise its habeas jurisdiction. The court held that the trial court abused its discretion where such perjury did not obstruct the operation of the court. The court also held that relator had no adequate remedy by appeal where the underlying suit was civil in nature and the Court of Appeals declined to grant relator leave to file a habeas petition in that court. Accordingly, mandamus was the appropriate remedy to correct the trial court's abuse of discretion and the court conditionally granted relief.