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Applicant Malcolm Evans was charged with causing serious bodily injury to a child. After the State abandoned a deadly weapon allegation, he pled guilty with a 50-year cap, and the trial court sentenced him to 50 years in prison. Applicant claimed his plea was involuntary because his attorney misadvised him about the effect of a deadly weapon finding on his parole eligibility. He contended that if his attorney had correctly advised him, he would have insisted on going to trial. The habeas court found those claims to be true and recommended that the Court of Criminal Appeals grant relief. The Court of Criminal Appeals found the habeas court’s findings were supported by the record. The only issue presented, then, was whether the law as it existed when Applicant’s conviction became final entitled him to relief. The Court concluded it did. View "Ex parte Malcolm Evans" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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Cristian Aguilar, a Honduran national with temporary protected status, pleaded guilty to the state-jail felony of attempting to evade arrest in a motor vehicle and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. In his application for a writ of habeas corpus, Aguilar alleged that his plea counsel, who gave incorrect advice regarding the immigration consequences of the guilty plea, was ineffective and his plea was involuntary. The Court of Criminal Appeals found, after review, Aguilar had shown he would not have pleaded guilty if he had been correctly advised of the relevant immigration consequences. Therefore, the Court held ineffective assistance of counsel rendered his plea involuntary and vacated his plea. View "Ex parte Cristian Aguilar" on Justia Law

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A jury found Appellant Alvin Prine, Jr. guilty of sexual assault and sentenced him to 20 years’ confinement and a fine of $8,000. He claimed on appeal that his attorney was ineffective during the punishment phase of trial for calling three witnesses who gave damaging testimony on cross-examination. The Court of Appeals agreed and remanded the case for a new punishment hearing. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, finding the defense attorney faced a dilemma in the punishment phase of this case. "The facets of that dilemma are not fully revealed by the record before us. Thus it is impossible to say that his decision to call these witnesses and suffer their cross-examination was so unreasonable that no other attorney would have made the same decision." Without a more fully developed record, the court of appeals erred to hold that the trial attorney was ineffective as a matter of law. View "Prine v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellee Kimberly Ford was indicted for possession of methamphetamine. The drugs were seized from her purse at a Dollar General store during a theft investigation. The investigating officer informed appellee that she had been seen concealing items in her purse. Appellee responded that she had put items in her purse, but she was not done shopping, and she was going to pay for the items before she left. The officer noticed that appellee had a shopping cart and that there were items from the store in the cart that were not in her purse. The purse was in the child seat of the shopping cart and was covered by a blue jacket. The officer picked up the blue jacket and discovered that the purse was zipped up and full of merchandise. Upon removing the store items from the purse, the officer discovered six small baggies of methamphetamine and two pills later identified as hydrocodone/ibuprophen. The store employee printed a receipt for the store items in the purse, and the total price was $75.10. Appellee was placed under arrest for theft over $50. Appellee filed a motion to suppress the drugs, and the police report of the incident was admitted at the suppression hearing. At issue for the Court of Criminal Appeals' review was whether a police officer had probable cause to arrest a customer for theft from a store (for concealing items in her purse) when she had not yet exited the store and when she claimed, after being confronted by the officer, that she was going to pay for the items she had taken. The Court concluded the officer had probable cause to arrest. View "Texas v. Ford" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Appellant, John David Battaglia, was convicted and sentenced to death for shooting and killing his two young daughters in his apartment while they were talking to their mother on speaker phone. In 2016, shortly before his execution date, Battaglia filed a motion claiming he was "incompetent to be executed." Although three mental health experts believed Battaglia to be incompetent, the trial court found most credible the fourth expert who concluded that Battaglia was competent to be executed. Battaglia appealed the trial court’s decision to the Court o Criminal Appeals, which stayed the execution to determine whether the trial court abused its discretion. After a thorough review of the record, the Court affirmed the trial court’s decision finding Battaglia competent to be executed. The stay of execution was lifted, and the case remanded to the trial court to set Battaglia’s execution date. View "Battaglia v. Texas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Real Party in Interest Mitchell Childers was accused of two counts of indecency with a child by contact. Childers moved the District Court to order the State to deliver the two victims’ video recorded Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) interviews to the official court reporter for transcription. Childers’s motion also requested a copy of the transcripts be forwarded to his attorney at no cost. The judge’s order granted Childers’s motion over the State’s objection. The State contended the order violated Article 39.15(c) and informed the judge that it would likely seek mandamus relief. The next day and without further hearing or pleadings, the judge amended the order substantially. Claiming to “[b]alanc[e] the need for the legislative proscriptions found in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 39.15 with constitutional due process and right of counsel to be afforded the defendant in preparation for trial,” the amended order denied Childers’s motion. Yet the amended order still ordered the videos transcribed, and placed the transcriptions under seal. In its petition for a writ of mandamus, the State challenged the trial judge’s order under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 38.45 and 39.15 and Texas Family Code section 264.408.. The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded the State failed to demonstrate the amended order fell outside the "discretion of the trial court in matters of discovery," and accordingly denied the State’s motion for leave to file its petition for a writ of mandamus. View "In re State of Texas ex rel. Jennifer Tharp" on Justia Law

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Applicant Keith St. Aubin claimed Double Jeopardy when the State obtained multiple convictions against him in a single trial. He raised this claim for the first time in his habeas application brought under Texas Code Crim. Proc. Article11.07. The Court of Criminal Appeals held that this multiple-punishments double-jeopardy claim did not satisfy the "innocence-gateway" exception. Furthermore, because the double-jeopardy principles used to resolve the "new" case upon which applicant relied were not new, he has not satisfied the new-legal-basis exception. Because an exception to the prohibition against subsequent applications has not been satisfied, the Court dismissed this application. View "Ex parte Keith St. Aubin" on Justia Law

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At issue for the Court of Criminal Appeals' review was whether the record supported the trial court’s decision that a peace officer had reasonable suspicion of narcotics possession to continue the detention of a driver beyond the purpose of the stop for a traffic violation. In his appeal of the denial of his motion to suppress, Elvis Elvis Ramirez-Tamayo argued that the deputy who stopped him lacked reasonable suspicion to prolong his detention after deciding to issue him a warning ticket for speeding, and the court of appeals agreed. The State argued on appeal that the court of appeals erred by failing to defer to the trial court's determination that the credible officer’s training and experience were adequate to support his inferences and deductions that the otherwise seemingly innocent circumstances led to reasonable suspicion of narcotics possession in this case, and by failing to consider the totality of the evidence in examining whether there was reasonable suspicion. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the State, reversed the the court of appeals, and reinstated the trial court’s judgment of conviction. View "Ramirez-Tamayo v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Burt Burnett was charged with driving while intoxicated after he rear-ended another vehicle. The State alleged that Burnett was intoxicated “by not having the normal use of his mental and physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances." Burnett objected to including the entire “loss of faculties” statutory definition in either portion of the jury charge because the evidence showed that, if he was intoxicated, it was only due to alcohol, not anything else. His objection was overruled, and the jury convicted him. He was fined $1,000 and sentenced to 120 days’ confinement in the county jail, which was probated for eighteen months. The court of appeals help the trial court erred in instructing the jury to include the entire definition because no rational jury could conclude that Burnett consumed intoxicating drugs based on the evidence. The State appealed, but finding no reversible error in the appellate court's judgment, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. View "Burnett v. Texas" on Justia Law

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At the time of the offense, Wendee Long was the principal of Wayside Middle School and a member of the Argyle I.S.D. school board. Long’s daughter, C.L., attended Argyle High School and traveled to Sanger High School to attend a girls’ high-school basketball game. P.S. agreed to show C.L. where the visitor’s locker room was located. The girls’ basketball coach, Lelon “Skip” Townsend, described the locker room as a private area to get away from the people that are at the ball game and allow the coaches and teammates to meet and discuss aspects of the game or do team activities such as pray. On the way to the locker room, C.L. informed her friend that she was going to set up her phone in the locker room to record Coach Townsend’s halftime speech. None of the girls on the team were aware they were being recorded, and Coach Townsend did not give anyone permission to record his remarks to his team. A copy of the recording was emailed to all the members of the school board in advance of the school board taking up the issue of whether to award Coach Townsend a term contract. The superintendent for the school district eventually delivered a copy of the recording to the police. A detective with the Sanger Police Department got access to Long’s work computer and found both an edited version of the footage, plus a version showing C.L. returning to the locker room to retrieve the phone after the halftime speech. The footage of Long’s daughter was not included on the copy of the video that was distributed to the school board. According to Long, the recording was her daughter’s idea. Long related that her daughter had initially tried to get a recording of Coach Townsend during a game between Argyle and Gainesville because “someone has to let people see how he acts to them.” The State charged Long with the unlawful interception of oral communication, or electronic eavesdropping, alleging in two paragraphs that she had violated Section 16.02 of the Texas Penal Code. At trial and on appeal, Long argued that, as a matter of law, she had committed no crime because Townsend had no reasonable expectation of privacy in his locker-room speeches to his team. The court of appeals agreed. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed, and affirmed Long's conviction for her role in the interception of the coach's communication with the team in the team's locker room. View "Long v. Texas" on Justia Law