Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Following a car crash, Appellee Joel Garcia was taken to a nearby hospital. Law-enforcement officers, suspecting that Garcia was intoxicated and concerned that he might soon receive an intravenous treatment, took a sample of his blood without a warrant. The State claimed that this action was necessitated by “exigent circumstances,” but the trial judge disagreed and ordered the blood evidence suppressed. The State appealed, but deferring to the trial judge's findings of fact, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals determined the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its suppression order. View "Texas v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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Applicant David Wood filed a subsequent application claiming that he was exempt from the death penalty due to intellectual disability, and that due process required that he be given tools and a hearing to more fully establish his intellectual-disability claim. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals remanded the case for the habeas court to consider these claims. Upon receiving the case back from the habeas court, the Court considered Applicant’s allegations and denied relief upon the habeas court’s findings and its own review.3After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Moore v. Texas, 137 S. Ct. 1039 (2017), Applicant filed a suggestion that the Court of Criminal Appeals reconsider his application on its own initiative. Having reviewed the record in this case in light of Moore and the subsequent decision in Ex parte Moore, 548 S.W.3d 552 (Tex. Crim. App. 2018), the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that no further record development or fact findings were needed and that Applicant was not entitled to relief. "The habeas court’s findings of fact were extensive. Some of those findings, 280 through 322, discussed the Briseno factors and possible alternate causes of any adaptive deficits and are no longer viable after the Moore cases. Nevertheless, the habeas court’s denial of relief remains amply supported by findings 1 through 279." View "Ex parte David Wood" on Justia Law

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This case involved a stabbing after an Austin nightclub closed for the evening. The victim was at the club with her friend and her friend's boyfriend. The boyfriend got into an argument with Appellant's friend. Appellant and the victim started arguing, ending with the Appellant stabbing the victim in the chest. The victim died as a result of her injuries. The issue presented on appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals this case was whether Appellant was entitled to a lesser-included offense instruction on manslaughter during her second murder trial. The trial court denied Appellant’s request, and the court of appeals affirmed. Finding no reversible error, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals. View "Ritcherson v. Texas" on Justia Law

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On the second day of his trial for continuous trafficking of persons, Appellant Deondre Jenkins moved to dismiss his case. Citing to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' 1995 decision in Cook v. Texas, 902 S.W.2d 471, Appellant argued to the trial court that, since the indictment filed by the State and read to the jury at the beginning of his trial did not name him personally, it did not charge “a person,” and thus it was fatally defective under article V, section 12(b) of the Texas Constitution. The trial court denied Appellant’s motion to dismiss. He was found guilty by the jury and was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. The court of appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the indictment. Granting the State's petition for review, the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that the indictment at issue here, though defective, was still an indictment that met the jurisdictional requirements under article V, section 12(b) of the Texas Constitution. The Court reversed the court of appeals and affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Jenkins v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Terri Lang challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support her conviction after she was caught attempting to steal items from a grocery store. The issue in this case was whether the statute defining the offense of organized retail theft permitted a conviction for ordinary shoplifting by a single actor. On direct appeal, appellant contended that her conduct in engaging in ordinary shoplifting, by herself and without the cooperation of others, could not, as a matter of law, properly give rise to a conviction for organized retail theft. The court of appeals rejected her argument, concluding that the statutory language plainly permitted a conviction under these circumstances. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed with the court of appeals’ conclusion that the organized retail theft statute plainly permitted a conviction for this type of conduct, and instead held based on its analysis of the ambiguous statutory language, viewed in light of the statute’s extensive legislative history, that this statute did not apply to the conduct of an ordinary shoplifter acting alone. Because the facts in this case showed appellant did not engage in any conduct beyond committing ordinary shoplifting by herself, the Court vacated her conviction for organized retail theft. The matter was remanded to the court of for it to consider, in the first instance, whether the judgment should be reformed to any lesser included offense. View "Lang v. Texas" on Justia Law

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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