Ex parte Pete

This case involved an appeal from a district court judge’s denial of relief in a pre-trial application for writ of habeas corpus. Appellant was under indictment for three charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child, and, in a consolidated trial, a jury had found him guilty of those offenses. Having elected to go to the jury for punishment, Appellant chose to testify. When he stood to approach the witness stand, it became apparent to the jury that he was shackled. Appellant asked for a mistrial, and the trial court took that request under advisement, meanwhile allowing the punishment proceedings to continue. After Appellant had testified on direct-examination, and following brief cross-examination by the State, the trial court interrupted the proceedings to announce that it had decided to grant a mistrial, but only as to the punishment phase of trial. Before the trial court was able to empanel a new jury to assess punishment, however, Appellant filed a combined application for writ of habeas corpus and motion to reinstate his pre-trial bond. He argued that, by granting a mistrial, the trial court had necessarily restored the cases to their pre-trial status, and that he should therefore be released on bond pending trial. The trial court denied both the writ application and the motion. On appeal from denial of the writ application, the court of appeals sustained Appellant’s claim. In an unpublished opinion, it reversed the order denying habeas relief and remanded the cases to the trial court presumably to retry them from scratch, including a new guilt phase of trial. The Court of Criminal Appeals granted the State’s petition for discretionary review to address the question whether, under the present bifurcated system, when irremediable error or misconduct occurs during a jury trial, but not until the punishment phase, trial courts should have the authority to grant a mistrial as to the punishment phase of trial only. The Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ex parte Pete" on Justia Law