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Appellant Albert Turner was convicted of capital murder for killing his wife and mother-in-law during the same criminal transaction. The jury answered the special issues in such a manner that Appellant was sentenced to death. Direct appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals was automatic. The Court remanded this case for a retrospective competency hearing, and later ordered supplemental briefing on the effect, if any, of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in McCoy v. Louisiana, 138 S.Ct. 1500 (2018). The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded Appellant was competent to stand trial, but also concluded that defense counsel conceded Appellant’s guilt of murder against Appellant’s wishes in violation of McCoy. Consequently, Appellant's conviction was reversed and the matter remanded for a new trial. View "Turner v. Texas" on Justia Law

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During Appellant Peter Traylor’s trial for first-degree burglary with a deadly weapon, the jury sent out a note stating that it unanimously agreed that Appellant was not guilty of the offense. However, the jury also indicated in this note that it was deadlocked on the issue of guilt for the lesser-included offense of burglary without a deadly weapon. The trial court instructed the jury to keep deliberating and ultimately declared a mistrial when the jury could not reach a unanimous decision. The issue this appeal presented for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ review centered on whether the jury’s initial note was a final verdict of acquittal on the charged offense. Appellant argued that it was, and therefore his conviction at his second trial violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. The Court disagreed, finding the note lacked “finality necessary to amount to an acquittal.” View "Traylor v. Texas" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Appellant Dondre Johnson of two counts of theft of money between $1,500 and $20,000 and assessed his punishment in each case at the maximum of two years in the state jail and a fine of $10,000. In a split opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed both convictions for insufficient evidence. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the State’s petition for discretionary review, and found the lower court erred in its application of the standard of review. The lower court judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Johnson v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Jose Rivera, Jr., the real party in interest, was charged by information with the misdemeanor offense of family-violence assault for punching or choking his younger brother. Although the defendant originally pled not guilty and invoked his right to a jury trial, in the middle of that trial he changed his plea to guilty. The trial court then instructed the jury to return a guilty verdict predicated upon the defendant’s guilty plea, which the jury did. But then, rather than permit the jury to go on to assess punishment, the trial court dismissed the jury. And rather than assess punishment, the trial court placed the defendant on deferred adjudication community supervision. In this mandamus proceeding, the State, through its elected district attorney, argued the trial court was not authorized to defer the adjudication of the defendant’s guilt. The State further contended the trial court lacked authority to take over the role of assessing punishment from the jury because the defendant’s change of plea converted the trial into a unitary proceeding, at which the jury should have assessed punishment. The State petitioned the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to order the trial court to withdraw its order granting deferred adjudication community supervision and empanel a new jury to assess the defendant’s punishment. The Court granted the petition and mandamus relief, limiting the scope: the Court held the trial court plainly lacked the authority to defer adjudication of guilt following a jury verdict on a plea of guilty, and conditionally ordered the trial court to withdraw its order of deferred adjudication. View "In re Texas ex rel. Wesley Mau" on Justia Law

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At his trial for sexual assault, Appellant Joshua Golliday sought to cross-examine the complainant and a sexual assault nurse examiner. He informed the trial court of the substance of the expected testimony and argued, unsuccessfully, that it was admissible because the jury needed to “get the whole picture of the situation.” The court of appeals reversed Appellant’s conviction on the grounds that the trial court’s exclusion of the proffered testimony violated Appellant’s constitutional rights to due process and confrontation. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that Appellant’s constitutional complaints were not preserved, and reversed the court of appeals' judgment. View "Golliday v. Texas" on Justia Law

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In October 2015, while Appellee Amanda Waters was on community supervision for an offense, she was arrested for DWI. Based on her arrest, the State filed a motion to revoke her community supervision, alleging, among other grounds, that she had violated the terms of her supervision by committing another criminal offense. In February 2016, the trial court held a hearing on the State’s motion to revoke. The State’s sole evidence in support of its allegation that Waters had committed DWI was the testimony of Waters’s community supervision officer, Officer Jetton. Officer Jetton testified he was aware that Waters had been arrested for DWI, but he otherwise had no personal knowledge of the facts surrounding the alleged offense. Based on this evidence, the trial judge determined that the State had failed to prove by a preponderance that Waters committed DWI as alleged in the State’s motion, and found the allegation “not true.” The trial judge rejected the State’s motion to revoke, and he issued an order continuing Waters on community supervision. In March 2016, the State filed an information charging Waters with the same instance of DWI that had been alleged in the motion to revoke. Waters subsequently filed a pretrial application for a writ of habeas corpus in which she contended that her prosecution for DWI was barred by collateral estoppel pursuant to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’s holding in Ex parte Tarver, 725 S.W.2d 195 (Tex. Crim. App. 1986). Relying on Tarver, Waters asserted that, because the State had previously sought to revoke her community supervision based on the same instance of DWI that was alleged in the information and the trial judge at the revocation hearing had found that allegation “not true,” the State was precluded from prosecuting her for that offense. The State argued in its petition for discretionary review that Tarver was abrogated and should have been expressly abandoned. The Court concluded Tarver met the narrow criteria for overruling prior precedent, and it abandoned the rule of that decision. The Court therefore reversed the court of appeals that had applied Tarver to uphold the trial court’s dismissal of the information filed against Waters and remanded this case back to the trial four for further proceedings. View "Texas v. Waters" on Justia Law

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At his trial for the sexual assault of a minor, appellant Joshua Jacobs sought to ask during jury selection whether a potential juror whether, if they knew that he had previously been convicted of a “sexual offense,” they could remain impartial in a second (the underlying case) case. The trial judge wanted Jacobs to use the phrase “felony offense,” but agreed, on Jacobs’s request, to let him refer to prior “assaultive offenses” instead. The court of appeals held that, in so limiting Jacobs, the trial judge offended his constitutional rights. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed, holding the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in determining that any marginal benefit Jacobs might gain by these added details would be outweighed by the risk of exposing the jury to the particular facts of the case before they were sworn. “Under these circumstances, we cannot say that the trial judge’s limitation “render[ed] the defendant’s trial fundamentally unfair.” View "Jacobs v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Applicant’s ankles were shackled at trial. He claimed two jurors saw him in the shackles during the punishment stage, and this denied him due process and a fair trial. He also contended his trial and appellate attorneys were ineffective for various related reasons. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals concluded the trial court committed no error because the State proffered a legitimate, uncontested reason for shackling, the trial court ordered the placement of a barrier to block the jury from seeing the shackles, defense counsel expressed satisfaction with the trial court’s remedy, and a barrier was constructed that appeared to be effective. Furthermore, the Court concluded that given these circumstances, Applicant’s attorneys did not perform deficiently. View "Ex parte Chavez" on Justia Law

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Appellant applied for habeas relief to challenge the trial court’s modification to the conditions of her community supervision that precluded Appellant from having any access to her own minor children. The trial court denied Appellant’s writ application, and the court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s writ application. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, finding that because the challenged modification infringed on Appellant’s fundamental constitutional right as a parent to have contact with her own children, the trial court should have held a hearing before issuing the modification. Following the trial court’s modification of her conditions that prohibited her from having contact with her own children, the Appellant was notified of those changes and refused to sign those conditions. Appellant’s attorney subsequently filed objections to those modifications and, failing to obtain relief, filed an Article 11.072 writ application. Having failed to provide the Appellant with a hearing at the time of the initial modification, under the facts of this case, the trial court could have remedied the situation by conducting a hearing before ruling on the 11.072 writ application. Since no hearing was held, Appellant had no opportunity to present evidence to support her challenge to the modification in question. Therefore, the court of appeals erred in affirming the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s claim for habeas relief. View "Ex parte Fineberg" on Justia Law

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Appellant Sandra Briggs pled no contest to intoxication manslaughter of a peace officer. She claimed in a motion for new trial that her plea was involuntary because case law decided after she pled would have changed her mind, and she would have exercised her right to a jury trial. The trial court denied Briggs’s motion for new trial, but the Court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision, finding that, “having the benefit of [the 2013 Missouri v.] McNeely [opinion] and its progeny,” Briggs’s attorney, in 2012, “misrepresented the law to Briggs as it relates to the admissibility of her blood-draw evidence.” The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that the court of appeals erred: [w]hen a defendant waives the right to have a jury determine guilt or innocence and admits or does not contest guilt, the defendant does so under the law existing at the time of the plea. The fact that Briggs’s attorney did not anticipate subsequent changes in the law does not impugn the truth or reliability of Briggs’s plea.” View "Briggs v. Texas" on Justia Law