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This case presented a question of jury-charge error. The State alleged that Appellant Robert Arteaga, Jr., committed first-degree felony sexual assault of a child because he was “prohibited from marrying” the victim, his biological daughter. The offense of sexual assault was a first-degree felony if the State proves that the victim was a person whom the defendant was “prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the [defendant] was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under Section 25.01 [Bigamy].” Without objection, the trial court included in the abstract portion of the jury charge the consanguinity statute from the Family Code, which explained when certain marriages are void due to the familial relationship between the parties. Arteaga was convicted, and on appeal he argued in part that the trial court erred to include the consanguinity statute because, pursuant to Section 22.011(f) of the Penal Code, the State could prove that he was “prohibited from marrying” his daughter only if he engaged in bigamous conduct. He also contended that he was harmed by the charge error because the jury’s only guidance concerning the “prohibited from marrying” allegation was the consanguinity statute. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court. Arteaga argued on appeal that the court of appeals erred and he was entitled to a new trial. Here, in finding Arteaga guilty of first-degree felony sexual assault, the jury must have necessarily found that he also committed second-degree sexual assault, and the evidence showed that, if Arteaga had originally been convicted of the lesser-included offenses, there was sufficient evidence to support those convictions. As a result, the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded the proper remedy here was to reform Arteaga’s first-degree felony sexual-assault convictions to reflect that he was convicted of second-degree felony sexual assault and to resentence him according to the reformed judgment. View "Arteaga v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellee Mikenzie Rodriguez was indicted for possession of a controlled substance. Resident assistants searched Rodriguez's dorm room, found drugs, and called their director, who in turn called the police. The police entered the room and seized the drugs. The trial court granted Rodriguez’s motion to suppress and, on the State’s appeal, the court of appeals affirmed–holding there was no college dorm room exception to the Fourth Amendment. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the court of appeals that the officers’ physical intrusion into a constitutionally protected area was a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. And because it was done without a warrant, consent, or special needs, the fruits of that search were rightly suppressed. View "Texas v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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Appellant Joe LaRue was convicted for the capital murder of Donna Pentecost, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. His conviction was based in part on DNA evidence and in part on the very detailed testimony of a jailhouse informant. The conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. Appellant filed a motion for forensic DNA testing seeking re-testing of several things, but the motion was denied by the trial court. The Court of Appeals found Appellant could not show that he would not have been convicted if exculpatory results had been obtained through DNA testing, and affirmed. Although Appellant raised a variety of issues regarding the trial court’s ruling and the court of appeals’ affirmation of that ruling, the Court of Criminal Appeals granted review to take a closer look at the trial court’s decision to deny testing of the blood on a one-time-suspect’s t-shirt. After examining the record, the Court affirmed the court of appeals: exculpatory test results would "merely muddy the waters." View "Larue v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellee Rosa Arizmendi pled guilty pursuant to an agreement, but she moved for a new trial after her codefendant prevailed on a motion to suppress. Appellee, with a co-defendant, was charged with possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine in an amount of more than 400 grams. The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded appellee’s allegations in the motion for new trial were without merit because her failure to discover the new information was due to her own lack of diligence. Even if appellee had been diligent, the Court also concluded the ruling on the motion to suppress was not evidence and that the officer’s testimony at the hearing was either cumulative of the video evidence appellee had already seen or collateral because it was not material to the suppression issue in the co-defendant’s case. Furthermore, the Court concluded appellee’s ineffective assistance allegation was not properly before the trial court because it was not made within thirty days of the judgment and the State objected to it. View "Texas v. Arizmendi" on Justia Law

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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

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Appellant was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by sexual contact. Appellant waived his right to a jury trial and pleaded not guilty at a bench trial to the charges. Appellant filed a motion for new trial alleging ineffective assistance of counsel on the basis that his trial counsel had erroneously promised him that he would receive probation if he was found guilty by the trial court. This advice was erroneous because, under the former law that applied to appellant’s offenses that were committed in 2001, only a jury could recommend a probated sentence if he was found guilty of the offenses. The issue this case presented centered on the standard courts should employ for assessing whether a defendant was prejudiced from his attorney’s deficient performance with respect to the defendant’s decision to waive a jury trial in favor of a bench trial. The Court of Criminal Appeals found two possible alternatives for the prejudice standard in this type of case: (1) a court could consider solely how the deficient performance affected the defendant’s decision to waive the jury; or (2) a court could consider the totality of the record so that the deficient performance is gauged against how it affected the outcome of the proceedings by comparing the outcome of the bench trial that actually did occur with the probable outcome of the jury trial that did not occur. In his sole ground in his petition for discretionary review, Appellant argued the Court of Criminal Appeals should employ the first alternative. The Court concluded, however, that the second alternative appropriately applied here. The court of appeals properly determined that appellant was not prejudiced by counsel’s erroneous advice. Accordingly, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment. View "Miller v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Rodney Reed sought post-conviction DNA testing of over forty items collected in the course of investigating Stacey Stites’ sexual assault and murder. Ultimately, Reed was convicted and sentenced to death for the capital murder of Stites. The trial judge denied the motion. Because Reed could not establish that exculpatory DNA results would have resulted in his acquittal and his motion was not made for the purpose of unreasonable delay, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial judge’s denial. View "Reed v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Following the denial of his motion to suppress, Appellant Gareic Hankston was convicted of murder and was sentenced to twenty years in prison. The Court of Appeals affirmed Appellant’s conviction, holding that the warrantless acquisition of Appellant’s cell phone records (comprised of call logs and historical cell site location information (“CSLI”)) did not violate Appellant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment or under Article I, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution. In light of the Court of Criminal Appeals’ recent decision in “Ford v. Texas,” the Court did not grant review of Appellant’s Fourth Amendment claim. It did, however, agree to address an issue that was unresolved by “Ford” -whether Art. I, sec. 9 of the Texas Constitution afforded broader protection under these facts than the Fourth Amendment provided. The Court held that Appellant’s rights pertaining to call logs and cell site location information possessed by a third party were the same under both the Fourth Amendment and under Art. I, sec. 9. The Court also held that the State’s acquisition of Appellant’s cell phone records pursuant to a court order did not violate Art. I, sec. 9 of the Texas Constitution. Therefore, the Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Hankston v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Broussard pleaded guilty to delivery of cocaine and was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment. Laboratory tests later determined that Broussard possessed methamphetamine. In his habeas corpus application, Broussard alleged that his plea was involuntary, and as a result, violated due process because the test results show he did not possess cocaine. Because at the time of the plea Broussard had sufficient awareness of the law in relation to the facts, the Court of Criminal Appeals held that his plea was voluntary and intelligent. View "Ex parte Broussard" on Justia Law

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Relator, Matthew Powell, District Attorney of Lubbock County, sought to have the Court of Criminal Appeals compel Respondent, Judge Hocker, a county court at law judge, to rule in a certain way in a discovery dispute arising from a misdemeanor prosecution for driving while intoxicated (DWI). A threshold issue was whether the court of appeals had concurrent jurisdiction such that Relator should have filed his application for writ of mandamus in that court under "Padilla v. McDaniel," (122 S.W.3d 805, 808 (Tex. Crim. App. 2003)). The Court held that the court of appeals did not have concurrent jurisdiction and that Relator therefore properly filed his original mandamus application with the Court of Criminal Appeals. On the merits of the mandamus issue, the Court held that Relator satisfied the criteria for obtaining mandamus relief. View "In re Powell v. Hocker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law