Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Orian Lee Scott was convicted of nine offenses in three separate indictments and was sentenced to a total of 100 years’ confinement. The Court of Criminal Appeals filed and set these writ applications to decide whether his counsel was ineffective at the punishment stage of trial. Each indictment was identical except that they named different victims. In each indictment, Scott was charged with one count of possession of child pornography, one count of inducing a sexual performance by a minor, and one count of producing or promoting a sexual performance by a child. After review, the Court found Scott had not proven he received ineffective assistance of counsel at the punishment phase of his trial, and denied relief. View "Ex parte Orian Lee Scott" on Justia Law

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Appellant Teodoro Hernandez was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The Court of Appeals held the evidence to be legally insufficient to establish the deadly-weapon element of the offense, reformed the judgment to reflect a conviction for the lesser-included offense of simple assault, and remanded for a new punishment hearing. The Court of Criminal Appeals held that the court of appeals erred by failing to consider all of the evidence presented at trial that might have supported the aggravated assault offense alleged in the indictment when conducting its legal sufficiency analysis. The evidence presented in this case was not legally insufficient to support a conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals to the extent that it reformed the trial court’s judgment, and reinstated the judgment of the trial court. View "Hernandez v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Mark Bolles was found guilty of possessing child pornography and sentenced to two years in prison. The Court of Appeals reversed Appellant’s conviction and rendered a judgment of acquittal, holding that the evidence, which consisted of two images taken by Appellant’s cell phone, was insufficient to support his conviction. The Court of Criminal Appeals found the court of appeals erred in holding that the evidence was insufficient, reversed and remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to reinstate Appellant’s conviction and his sentence. View "Texas v. Bolles" on Justia Law

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After the State’s first witness, Officer Ruben Ramirez, was sworn-in and the trial court asked him to take a seat, a juror said, “Judge, I know [the witness]. I went to school with him.” The witness responded, “Yeah, I know him.” The jury was excused, and the juror was questioned by the judge and both parties. The trial judge made a finding that the juror was not biased (and that the trial would proceed with twelve jurors) but told the parties that they could agree to proceed with only eleven jurors. Defense counsel said that he wanted to proceed with eleven and that, if the juror was not removed, he would request a mistrial. The State agreed to the defense’s request, and the juror was removed. The eleven-member jury acquitted defendant Rene Gutierrez of two charges but convicted him of three others. Gutierrez moved for new trial arguing, that his attorney was ineffective because he advised Gutierrez to proceed with eleven jurors, and but for counsel’s erroneous advice, he would have requested a mistrial so a new jury of twelve could be impaneled. The trial court granted Gutierrez’s new-trial motion without entering any relevant findings of fact or conclusions of law. The State appealed, and the court of appeals agreed with Gutierrez that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. According to the court of appeals, a mistrial likely would have been granted had one been requested, because the trial court could have reasonably found that Gutierrez’s right to a jury trial by twelve was abridged and that he was harmed by that violation. The question in this case was whether the court of appeals erred when it affirmed the trial court’s granting of a new trial on ineffective-assistance-of-counsel grounds. The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded the court of appeals did err because the trial court should not have granted the motion. As a result, the court of appeals was reversed, the trial court’s order granting a new trial was vacated, and order the judgments of convictions and associated sentences reinstated. View "Texas v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Appellant Ronald Lee, Jr. of continuous sexual abuse of a child, for which he was given a life sentence. Appellant claimed on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. The Eastland Court of Appeals held the evidence was sufficient and affirmed the trial court. The Court of Criminal Appeals granted Appellant’s petition for discretionary review to determine if the court of appeals erred in holding that the evidence was sufficient. After that review, the Court concluded the lower court did err, and reformed the judgment to reflect a conviction for the lesser-included offense of aggravated sexual assault of a child. The case was remanded for a new punishment hearing. View "Lee v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Cesar Gamino was convicted on aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The Court of Appeals reversed Appellant’s conviction and remanded his case for a new trial, holding that the trial court erred by refusing Appellant’s request for a jury charge on self defense. After review of the trial court record, the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed Appellant was entitled to a self defense charge. View "Gamino v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Darren Lewis pled guilty to obtaining a controlled substance “through the use of a fraudulent prescription form” and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. However, Lewis’s lawyer never told him that, under the Court of Criminal Appeals’ opinion in Avery v. Texas, the prosecution would be unable to meet its burden to prove this offense as alleged. After review, the Court of Criminal Appeals held Lewis received ineffective assistance of counsel, and as a result, his plea was invalid. View "Ex parte Darren Lewis" on Justia Law

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During a traffic stop, Appellee Reinaldo Sanchez was arrested for outstanding warrants. During that arrest, the officer searched Appellee’s person and discovered illegal drugs. The officer then searched Appellee’s Jeep and discovered more illegal drugs. The courts below held that the search of the Jeep was not a valid search incident to arrest because there was no reason to believe that the Jeep contained evidence relating to the outstanding warrants for which Appellee had been arrested. The court of appeals further held that the discovery of the illegal drugs on Appellee’s person could not supply a new basis for arrest, for the purpose of conducting a search incident to arrest, that would justify the search of the Jeep. The Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed and held that discovery of drugs on a suspect’s person, after an arrest on traffic warrants but before the search of the suspect’s vehicle, can supply a new basis for arrest that would justify search of the vehicle as a search incident to arrest. View "Texas v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

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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