Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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At the time of the offense, Wendee Long was the principal of Wayside Middle School and a member of the Argyle I.S.D. school board. Long’s daughter, C.L., attended Argyle High School and traveled to Sanger High School to attend a girls’ high-school basketball game. P.S. agreed to show C.L. where the visitor’s locker room was located. The girls’ basketball coach, Lelon “Skip” Townsend, described the locker room as a private area to get away from the people that are at the ball game and allow the coaches and teammates to meet and discuss aspects of the game or do team activities such as pray. On the way to the locker room, C.L. informed her friend that she was going to set up her phone in the locker room to record Coach Townsend’s halftime speech. None of the girls on the team were aware they were being recorded, and Coach Townsend did not give anyone permission to record his remarks to his team. A copy of the recording was emailed to all the members of the school board in advance of the school board taking up the issue of whether to award Coach Townsend a term contract. The superintendent for the school district eventually delivered a copy of the recording to the police. A detective with the Sanger Police Department got access to Long’s work computer and found both an edited version of the footage, plus a version showing C.L. returning to the locker room to retrieve the phone after the halftime speech. The footage of Long’s daughter was not included on the copy of the video that was distributed to the school board. According to Long, the recording was her daughter’s idea. Long related that her daughter had initially tried to get a recording of Coach Townsend during a game between Argyle and Gainesville because “someone has to let people see how he acts to them.” The State charged Long with the unlawful interception of oral communication, or electronic eavesdropping, alleging in two paragraphs that she had violated Section 16.02 of the Texas Penal Code. At trial and on appeal, Long argued that, as a matter of law, she had committed no crime because Townsend had no reasonable expectation of privacy in his locker-room speeches to his team. The court of appeals agreed. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed, and affirmed Long's conviction for her role in the interception of the coach's communication with the team in the team's locker room. View "Long v. Texas" on Justia Law

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In an appeal of the denial of relief of a pretrial habeas application, appellant Adam Ingram raised various facial challenges to the constitutionality of the pre-2015 version of subsection (c) of the “Online Solicitation of a Minor” statute. Some of these challenges depended on the interaction between subsection (c), which proscribed the offense, and subsection (d), which provided certain facts were “not a defense to prosecution.” Appellant also contended subsection (a)’s definition of “minor,” which included “an individual who represents himself or herself to be younger than 17 years of age,” makes subsection (c) overbroad because the definition results in penalizing constitutionally protected roleplay between adults. Appellant also contended that subsection (c) placed an undue and impermissible burden on interstate commerce in violation of the United States Supreme Court’s Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals concluded appellant’s claims were without merit because: (1) constitutional attacks on free-standing anti-defensive issues were not cognizable on pretrial habeas; (2) without the anti-defensive issues and under a narrowing construction of the word “represents,” subsection (c) was not unconstitutionally overbroad; and (3) subsection (c) did not violate the Supreme Court’s Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence. View "Ex Parte Adam Wayne Ingram" on Justia Law

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After jet-skiing in the afternoon with one friend, and then drinking at least one glass of wine at the apartment of another friend before briefly falling asleep on her couch, Appellant Richard Bowman drove home in the early morning hours of September 24, 2004. Appellant was later arrested for the misdemeanor offense of driving while intoxicated (“DWI”). A jury trial convicted him of that offense in January 2005. His punishment was assessed at 180 days in county jail, probated for a period of one year, and an $800 fine. Although he originally intended to appeal his conviction, Appellant filed a motion to dismiss the appeal. In 2013, appellant filed a post-conviction application for writ of habeas corpus alleging that his trial counsel’s representation had been constitutionally deficient to his substantial detriment. The convicting court conducted a hearing on the writ application and ultimately denied relief. On appeal, however, the First Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that counsel had performed deficiently and that Appellant had suffered prejudice. The court of appeals rejected the State’s attempt to rely on the equitable doctrine of laches to bar habeas corpus relief on the ground that the State had not invoked laches during the writ hearing at the convicting court level. On the State’s petition for discretionary review, however, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the State did not forfeit its laches argument by failing to raise it first in the convicting court. The court of appeals remanded the case, in turn, to the convicting court for further factual development in a hearing on the laches issue. The convicting court concluded that Appellant should have been barred by laches from obtaining habeas corpus relief. The court of appeals reversed the convicting court again, however, holding that laches did not bar Appellant from pursuing his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, and once again granting Appellant relief on that claim. The Court of Criminal appeals granted the State’s second petition for discretionary review with respect to two issues: (1) whether the court of appeals erred in reaching the merits of Appellant’s habeas claim when he waited over seven and a half years to assert it; and, if not, then, (2) in any event, did the court of appeals err to hold that Appellant established ineffective assistance of counsel at his 2005 trial for DWI. Because the Court of Criminal Appeals held that the court of appeals erred to find trial counsel ineffective, it did not address the laches issue. View "Ex parte Richard Bowman" on Justia Law

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While purportedly disciplining his pet dog, appellant Robert Prichard killed her by repeatedly hitting her head with a shovel and then drowning her in a swimming pool. He was indicted for the state-jail felony of cruelty to a non-livestock animal. In his petition for discretionary review, appellant argued that a deadly weapon finding was improper when the only thing injured or killed as a result of a defendant’s criminal conduct was an animal rather than a human. Rejecting that argument, the court of appeals upheld a deadly weapon finding in this case in which appellant was convicted of animal cruelty and the deadly force was directed only against a dog. The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that the language of the deadly weapon statute was ambiguous with respect to whether a deadly weapon finding may be made for weapons used or exhibited against nonhumans, and thus, the Court considered extra-textual factors to discern the Legislature’s intent as to this matter. The Court thus determined that an analysis of those factors supported its determination that a deadly weapon finding may be made for human victims only. Therefore, the judgment of the court of appeals was reversed. View "Texas v. Prichard" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in this case was whether the court of appeals erred when it held that a witness could not be an accomplice as a matter of law unless the witness was charged with the same offense as the defendant or a lesser-included offense. Police pulled a Suburban over driving with its high beams on. Five people were in the car; the smell of marijuana emanated from an open window. Everyone was removed from the car. Seeing one occupant wipe a green substance off her clothing, everyone was detained and police conducted a search of the vehicle. Cocaine was found in a door panel. Though everyone was arrested, only Appellant Andre Ash was convicted of possession of cocaine, for which he received a 30-year sentence and a $5,000 fine. Ash appealed, arguing he was entitled to accomplice-as-a-matter-of-law jury instructions as to each passenger at trial, or at least accomplice-as-a-matter-of-fact instructions. The court of appeals affirmed. The Court of Criminal Appeals found that because the witnesses in this case were not charged with the same offense as Ash or a lesser-included offense, and the evidence was not uncontradicted or so one-sided that a rational jury would have had to believe that the witnesses were accomplices, it agreed with the court of appeals that Ash was not entitled to accomplice-as-a-matter-of-law instructions. View "Ash v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Robert Queeman was convicted of criminally negligent homicide after failing to prevent his van from colliding with another vehicle, which resulted in the death of a passenger in the other vehicle. The court of appeals reversed the jury’s verdict of guilt after finding that the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain the conviction. In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support this criminally negligent homicide judgment, the Court of Criminal Appeals addressed whether a death caused by two driving errors (the failure to control speed and the failure to maintain a proper distance between vehicles) proved a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under the circumstances. The Court agreed with the court of appeals’s ultimate conclusion that the evidence in this case was legally insufficient to establish criminally negligent homicide. View "Queeman v. Texas" on Justia Law

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In this case, the issue before the Court of Criminal Appeals was how a trial court should weigh a defendant’s failure to exercise his right to a speedy trial under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers when analyzing a claim that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. Appellant was indicted in 1993 for an offense that he committed in Texas, but his trial did not take place until 2015. During most of that period of time, he was incarcerated in Nebraska for crimes he had committed there. Although he was informed of his right to be transferred to Texas under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD) for his Texas charge, he never invoked that right. The State also had a right to obtain appellant’s presence in Texas under the IAD, but did not invoke that right until 2013. In rejecting appellant’s complaint, the court of appeals assessed and balanced the four factors articulated by the Supreme Court in Barker v. Wingo: (1) the length of delay, (2) the reasons for delay, (3) the defendant’s assertion of the right, and (4) prejudice to the defendant. Although the court of appeals found that the length-of-delay factor weighed heavily against the State and that the reasons-for-delay factor weighed against the State (but not heavily), the court also found that the assertion-of-right factor weighed heavily against the defendant and that the prejudice factor did not weigh in the defendant’s favor. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with most of the court of appeals’s reasoning but determined that, because the defendant and the State had an equal ability to bring the case to a speedy resolution by invoking the IAD, both parties were equally at fault under the reasons-for-delay factor. Consequently, that factor did not weigh against either party. View "Hopper v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Stephen Hopper was indicted in 1993 for an offense that he committed in Texas, but his trial did not take place until 2015. During most of that period of time, he was incarcerated in Nebraska for crimes he had committed there. Although he was informed of his right to be transferred to Texas under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD) for a speedy disposition of his Texas charge, he never invoked that right. The State also had a right to obtain appellant’s presence in Texas under the IAD but did not invoke that right until 2013. Appellant contended at trial and on appeal that he was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Both trial courts rejected that contention. The court of appeals assessed and balanced the four factors articulated by the Supreme Court in "Barker v. Wingo:" (1) the length of delay, (2) the reasons for delay, (3) the defendant’s assertion of the right, and (4) prejudice to the defendant. Although the court of appeals found that the length-of-delay factor weighed heavily against the State and that the reasons-for-delay factor weighed against the State (but not heavily), the court also found that the assertion-of-right factor weighed heavily against the defendant and that the prejudice factor did not weigh in the defendant’s favor. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with most of the court of appeals’s reasoning but determined that, because defendant and the State had an equal ability to bring the case to a speedy resolution by invoking the IAD, both parties were equally at fault under the reasons-for-delay factor. Consequently, that factor did not weigh against either. View "Hopper v. Texas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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While driving intoxicated, Appellant Harold Moore rear-ended another car that was stopped at a red light, causing the driver and passenger bodily injury, but not serious bodily injury. The trial court found that Appellant’s SUV constituted a deadly weapon that he used to commit felony DWI. The Fort Worth Court of Appeals reformed the judgment to delete the deadly weapon finding, holding that the evidence did not support it. In its petition for discretionary review, the State argued the court of appeals failed to draw every reasonable inference from the evidence in support of the deadly weapon finding. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed and reinstated the deadly weapon finding. View "Moore v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Roger Carter argued in a series of applications for habeas relief that the trial judge improperly cumulated, or “stacked,” his burglary sentence and credit-card-abuse sentences. The Court of Criminal Appeals filed and set Carter’s applications to address whether his claims are cognizable in a habeas corpus proceeding. Because Carter could have appealed his bare statutory violation and record-based the Court concluded they were not cognizable and denied Carter’s applications. View "Ex parte Roger Carter" on Justia Law