Justia Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law
In 1999, appellant Marcus Matlock was judicially determined to be the father of a five-year-old girl and ordered to pay child support. From the beginning, appellant frequently failed to pay the monthly child support. Appellant was charged with sixteen counts of nonsupport for failing to pay child support on the first of each month from February 2006 through November 2006, in January 2008, in June 2008, and from September 2008 through December 2008. The evidence was undisputed that appellant did not pay the required child support during those sixteen months. The only question was whether he had the ability to make those payments. Appellant testified that he didn't make any child support payments for either his daughter or son while he was in jail because "I didn't have no money. Nobody would give me money." There was no suggestion that appellant owned a car, a house, or a bank account. The jury found appellant guilty on all sixteen counts of nonsupport and sentenced him to confinement in a state jail facility for two years with a fine of $10,000 on each count. On direct appeal, appellant claimed that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support the jury's rejection of his "inability to pay" affirmative defense. The court of appeals focused on Count I-the failure to pay child support- and the undisputed evidence that appellant had been in the Smith County jail for the eleven months preceding that date. The court of appeals held that, "after considering all of the evidence relevant to Appellant's affirmative defense of inability to pay child support, . . . the jury's finding of guilt as to Count I of the indictment is so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be manifestly unjust." The State appealed, arguing that the court of appeals erred by applying a factual-sufficiency standard of review in deciding whether the evidence was legally sufficient to satisfy appellant's burden to prove his affirmative defense. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded: "[b]ecause the court of appeals conflated the standards for legal and factual sufficiency review, we are uncertain if it found that appellant had conclusively established his 'inability to pay' affirmative defense as a matter of law. Given its analysis, the court of appeals may have thought that the evidence supporting the jury's implicit rejection of appellant's affirmative defense was against the great weight of the evidence under a Meraz factual sufficiency claim. If the court thought that the jury's failure to find that appellant was unable to pay child support on February 1, 2006, was against the great weight of the evidence, then it should reverse the conviction on Count I and remand the case for a new trial on that count. Or the court of appeals might reach an entirely new conclusion based upon the standards of review that we have set out." View "Matlock v. Texas" on Justia Law