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Over a period of sixteen months during 2013 and 2014, Applicant Morris Johnson, II was convicted of forgery, then possession of a controlled substance, and then delivery of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to ten years on the forgery case, then ten years on the possession case, stacked on the forgery sentence, and finally forty years on the delivery case, to run concurrently with the other sentences. The concurrent sentence with the latest parole-eligibility date was Applicant’s forty-year sentence. He claimed on appeal that the Parole Board should conduct a parole review of each sentence as it becomes eligible, as if it were the only sentence, which would result in parole review when his ten year forgery sentence would, on its own, become parole-eligible. He argued that doing so would give him a chance to be paroled on the forgery sentence earlier, and so start the running of his possession sentence earlier, than if the first review is based on his eligibility on the forty-year sentence. According to Parole Board policy, when an inmate has concurrent sentences, the Board does not consider him for release to parole until he becomes eligible under the sentence with the latest parole-eligibility date. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals concluded Applicant’s claim was not cognizable on habeas corpus and that he did not show the violation of a ministerial duty that would warrant relief on mandamus. View "Ex parte Morris Landon Johnson, II" on Justia Law

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A jury found Appellant Michael Bohannan to be a sexually violent predator. The trial court thus adjudicated Appellant as a sexually violent predator and ordered him to be civilly committed for treatment. Appellant appealed the civil commitment, and while the appeal was pending, he violated the civil commitment order. The court of appeals eventually reversed the judgment of civil commitment. Appellant was charged and convicted of violating the civil commitment order, and he was sentenced to life in prison. Because Appellant was required to follow the terms of the civil commitment order while the appeal of the judgment of civil commitment was pending, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals determined the court of appeals correctly affirmed his conviction. View "Bohannan v. Texas" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals considered whether a person convicted of a criminal offense could present a facial challenge to the constitutionality of a statute for the first time in an application for a post-conviction writ of habeas corpus under circumstances in which the statute at issue had never been judicially declared by any court with binding authority to be facially unconstitutional. In 2010, appellant Clinton Beck was working as a middle school teacher. Appellant formed a close relationship with one of his students, Danielle, who was in eighth grade and thirteen or fourteen years old at the time. Despite a school policy against texting between teachers and students, appellant began sending text messages to Danielle. At one point, Danielle’s mother became concerned about the frequency of the text messages between appellant and her daughter. Danielle’s mother found text conversations between appellant and Danielle pertaining to sexual topics. Danielle’s mother called the police to report appellant’s behavior, and she also brought the matter to the attention of the school principal. Appellant was arrested and charged with the offenses of online solicitation of a minor and engaging in an improper relationship with a student. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the court of appeals’ conclusion that appellant could not bring, in the first instance, his facial constitutional challenge to the statute in his post-conviction habeas proceedings because it was not preserved at trial. The Court therefore affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment upholding the trial court’s denial of post-conviction habeas relief. View "Ex parte Clinton David Beck" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Jaye McClellan pled guilty to online solicitation of a minor under fourteen years of age pursuant to the pre-2015 version of the statute. He was sentenced to three years’ confinement and was required to register as a sex offender for 10 years. He did not appeal his conviction, but later filed a post-conviction application for a writ of habeas corpus arguing that the statute under which he was convicted was facially unconstitutional. Since the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals filed and set this case for review, it decided Ex parte Ingram v. Texas, PD-0578-16 (Tex. Crim. App. June 28, 2017), in which the Court held the pre-2015 version of the online-solicitation-of-a-minor statute was facially constitutional. In light of that holding, the Court did not address the issue of whether McClellan could raise a facial challenge to the online-solicitation-of-a-minor statute under which he was convicted for the first time post-conviction. Even if McClellan were permitted to challenge the facial validity of the definition of “minor” and the anti-defensive provisions in the online-solicitation-of-a-minor statute for the first time on post-conviction habeas, his claims would fail. Therefore, the Court denied relief. View "Ex parte Kenneth Jaye McClellan" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals held that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Dan Dale Burch’s motion for new trial. Burch was indicted for sexual assault. He pled not guilty and opted for a jury to assess his guilt. The jury convicted him, and Burch was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. He was not fined. After the jury found Burch guilty, he elected to have the judge decide his punishment. At the punishment hearing, defense counsel stated in his opening argument that Burch was “probation eligible.” Burch presented two witnesses, his brother and sister, both of whom testified that he would be a good candidate for probation. At the conclusion of evidence, defense counsel asked the judge to place Burch on deferred-adjudication probation. The prosecutor conceded that Burch “may be a successful probationer” but argued that the evidence did not warrant probation. The judge said that he was “not going to give you probation, but I am not going to give you 20 years. I am going to give you seven years in prison.” Burch filed a timely motion for new trial in part arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his lawyer erroneously advised him that he was eligible for deferred-adjudication probation from the judge. Based on that advice, Burch contended, he elected to have the judge assess his punishment, when in fact the judge was prohibited by law from granting deferred-adjudication probation. The issue in this case was whether the court of appeals erred. Burch argued on appeal that the trial court should have granted the new- trial motion due to his counsel’s erroneous advice that the judge could place him on deferred-adjudication community supervision. Burch also argued that, if he had known that the trial court could not place him on deferred-adjudication community supervision, but a jury could have recommended “straight” community supervision, he would have asked a jury to sentence him. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Burch’s new-trial motion and that the court of appeals was wrong to conclude otherwise. View "Burch v. Texas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A grand jury indicted Abraham Proenza for Injury to a Child, alleging that he intentionally and knowingly caused serious bodily injury to "AJV" by, among other things, failing to seek prompt medical care for AJV. Proenza's defense at trial was that he lacked the requisite intent to harm AJV because of his genuine, though perhaps mistaken, belief that he could not obtain medical care for AJV without some documentary proof that he was AJV’s legal guardian. This belief was apparently based on a previous occurrence in which Proenza’s father-in-law brought a granddaughter to a medical clinic but was turned away due to the father-in-law’s inability to produce this very kind of documentation. Proenza did not object when the trial judge began asking pointed, substantive questions of a witness bearing crucial defensive testimony. The question presented for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals was whether Proenza was barred from complaining of this error for the first time on appeal. The Court held the trial judge had an independent duty to refrain from conveying to the jury her opinion of the case, and Proenza was under no obligation to object mid-trial. View "Proenza v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Jamie Hallmark and the State entered into a plea agreement. According to the plea papers, Appellant would be sentenced to three years unless she failed to show up for her sentencing hearing, in which case she would be sentenced within the full range of punishment. Appellant did not show for her sentencing hearing, and she was later sentenced to ten years. The court of appeals determined that the “full range of punishment” part of the plea agreement was added by the trial court, that the trial court did not follow the parties’ plea bargain when it assessed the full range of punishment, and that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to permit Appellant to withdraw her plea. After review, the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that the court of appeals erred in finding an abuse of discretion because the “full range of punishment” term was a part of the plea agreement and Appellant failed to timely complain about any participation by the trial judge in the plea-bargaining process. View "Hallmark v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Johntay Gibson was convicted of capital murder during the course of an armed robbery of a mobile phone store in which the store’s owner was shot and killed. He received a sentence of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole. During the investigation of the offense, Appellant was observed as the driver and sole occupant of a motor vehicle which was under surveillance for having been connected to the robbery suspects. After being stopped for traffic violations, marijuana was found, and it was determined that Appellant had three outstanding warrants. It was also determined that Appellant had provided a false name in identifying himself after the stop. Appellant was taken into custody and interviewed about the offense. Appellant filed a pre-trial suppression motion seeking suppression of the interview. The written motion did not address the allegation that there was a five hour span of time between the initial interview and the continuation of the interview which was absent any additional Miranda warnings. When the officer testified at trial, Appellant objected to the last part of the recorded custodial interview. In the objection, defense counsel specified that he was asking that the second part of the interview be suppressed because Appellant was not re-warned. After conviction and sentencing, on direct appeal to the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, Appellant included points of error claiming that the trial court erred in denying his motion to exclude the second part of his videotaped statement because peace officers failed to re-warn and advise him of his Miranda rights and failed to provide him with the proper warnings. The court of appeals noted, “Appellant’s written motion to suppress did not raise the issue presented on appeal,” and affirmed his conviction. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that Appellant’s petition did sufficiently raise the issue on appeal, and the court of appeals erred in not addressing the merits of his appellate claim by holding that he failed to preserve error. View "Gibson v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Christopher Wimberly was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to fifty years’ imprisonment. In his fifth writ application, Wimberly claimed he was actually innocent of this offense based on newly available evidence - specifically, the confession by another prison inmate. After review, the Court of Criminal Appeals found the other inmate’s confession to the crime was not persuasive and not credible. Deferring to the findings made by the trial court, which were supported by the record, the Court held Wimberly did not meet his burden to prove that he was actually innocent of this offense, and relief was denied. View "Ex parte Christopher Wimberly" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted a motion to suppress evidence, and the State appealed. Appellant Hector Macias was charged with committing family-violence assault. The State filed a motion to stay further trial court proceedings, which the court of appeals granted. Then on October 16, 2013, the court of appeals handed down an opinion reversing the trial court. The opinion made no explicit statement about the stay that the court of appeals had earlier granted. The trial court called the case for trial on January 16, 2014. The jury was chosen and sworn, the parties presented their evidence, and the guilt-phase jury charge was read to the jury. At that point, a prosecutor in the appellate section of the district attorney’s office approached the trial court with the information that the appellate mandate had not yet issued. Concluding that trial proceedings were a nullity and that it could not even declare a mistrial, the trial court dismissed the jury. The appellate mandate issued on January 30, 2014. Appellant subsequently filed a pretrial habeas application, alleging that any future trial on the charged offense would violate double jeopardy. The trial court denied the application, and Appellant appealed. The court of appeals determined that the question before it was whether jeopardy had attached to the trial proceedings that occurred. The court concluded that, if it had, then, absent manifest necessity to terminate that trial, any future trial would violate Appellant’s constitutional right against double jeopardy. The court of appeals further decided that jeopardy had attached unless the trial court lacked jurisdiction to conduct the trial. The question before the Court of Criminal Appeals was: Did the trial court have jurisdiction to conduct the trial? The Court answered that question “no,” because the appellate mandate had not yet issued. The Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals. View "Ex parte Hector Macias" on Justia Law