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Appellant Elizabeth Garrels was charged by information with the misdemeanor offense of driving while intoxicated (DWI). She was tried by jury. The State’s first witness was Trooper Christopher Lucchese with the Texas Department of Public Safety, who performed the traffic stop and roadside investigation that eventually led to Garrels’ DWI arrest. Garrels objected that her statutory discovery rights had been violated by the State’s failure to timely designate the trooper as a potential “expert” witness. Although the State had formally designated Lucchese as a potential expert witness prior to jury selection, that designation occurred less than a week before jury selection. As a result of this untimely designation, Garrels asked that the witness not be allowed to testify in any expert capacity. Although the trial judge was not inclined to grant Garrels’s request to “strike” the officer’s testimony, he was also averse to the State’s request for a two-week continuance so that the terms of the discovery statute might be satisfied. Faced with two unappealing options, the judge sua sponte declared a mistrial. A defendant has a constitutional right to have her fate determined “before the first trier of fact.” A trial judge may violate this right by ordering a mistrial over her objection; but if she consented to it, double jeopardy will not prevent her re-prosecution. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reiterated that, although consent may be “implied” from the totality of the circumstances, it must nevertheless be supported by record-based evidence. Because the court of appeals found otherwise, the Court reversed. View "Ex parte Garrels" on Justia Law

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Appellant Gary Carson was charged with three counts of assault on a public servant and three counts of bail jumping. After Appellant agreed to waive his right to appeal, the State agreed to waive its right to a jury trial and the case proceeded before the trial court. Appellant pleaded guilty to all six charges. The trial court accepted Appellant’s pleas, found him guilty, and sentenced him. Appellant then appealed his conviction. Having found that Appellant’s waiver of his right to appeal was invalid, the court of appeals affirmed Appellant’s convictions, but reversed the assessment of punishment. Because the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found Appellant’s waiver of his right to appeal was valid, it reversed. The case was remanded, however, for the court of appeals to address whether an exception to the waiver rules nevertheless applied in this case in which the trial judge admitted that he considered facts not introduced into evidence when assessing Appellant’s sentence. View "Carson v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Roderick Beham posted several pictures on Facebook in which he appeared to “hold[] himself out as” a gang member. These pictures were shown in a punishment hearing as evidence of Beham’s character, and a law-enforcement expert on gang activity was called to explain their meaning and significance. The court of appeals held that this testimony was irrelevant and reversed Beham’s sentence. Because the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal thought the testimony was “relevant to sentencing,” it reversed the court of appeals. View "Beham v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant was a family friend whom K.E. (victim) considered to be an “uncle.” On previous occasions, Appellant had twirled K.E.’s hair, rubbed her neck, and rubbed her arms. When K.E. was nine years old, her grandfather died. On the day of the funeral, K.E. was taken back to her house to retrieve a handkerchief. When they were at the house, Appellant began twirling K.E.’s hair and rubbing her neck, but he then did other things to her that were of a sexual nature. At trial, the victim, now an adult, testified to what the defendant did to her when she was nine years old. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals concluded this evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for indecency with a child by touching the breast. View "Arroyo v. Texas" on Justia Law

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A trial court entered two orders granting shock probation. The orders were identical except that the second order was styled as an “Amended Order,” containing additional findings of fact, and it was signed at a later time. Both orders suspended further implementation of Appellee Crispen Hanson's prison sentence and placed him on probation. The State appealed the second order, and the court of appeals dismissed the appeal for want of jurisdiction, concluding that only the first order granting shock probation was appealable. The issue before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals was whether the court of appeals erred when it decided that the second order was not an appealable order. Because the Court concluded that it was an appealable order under Article 44.01(a)(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, it reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case for the court of appeals to consider the merits of the State’s appeal. View "Texas v. Hanson" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Appellant William Rogers of aggravated assault and burglary of a habitation with commission or attempted commission of aggravated assault. The court of appeals vacated the aggravated assault conviction on double jeopardy grounds because it was a lesser included offense of the burglary. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted review of the court of appeals’ holding in the burglary case that the trial court’s refusal to instruct the jury on self-defense and necessity. The Court concluded the trial court's refusal to instruct on self-defense and necessity, if error, was harmful to the defense. Consequently, the Court reversed and remanded for the court of appeals to decide whether the trial court's ruling was made in error. View "Rogers v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellants Rex Nisbett and George Delacruz were convicted of murder in unrelated trials. The cases were factually unrelated, however, there were many factual similarities between the two, including that, in each case, the victim’s body and the murder weapon were never recovered. In Nisbett’s case, the court of appeals held the evidence to be insufficient to support the conviction and rendered a judgment of acquittal. In Delacruz’s case, a different (but overlapping) panel of that court affirmed the conviction. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted review and consolidated these cases to address the appropriate analysis when the victim’s body and the murder weapon are not found. The Court ultimately held that the evidence was legally sufficient to support both convictions. Consequently, the Court reversed the court of appeals’s judgment in Nisbett’s case and affirmed the judgment in Delacruz’s case. View "Nisbett v. Texas" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed Appellant John Lee's conviction for misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. The court of appeals held that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to grant his motion for mistrial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the State’s petition for discretionary review in order to address its contentions that: (1) Appellant failed to preserve error; and that, (2) in any event, any potential harm could have been forestalled by a curative instruction, which Appellant failed at any time to request before asking for a mistrial. Because an instruction to disregard the blood-draw testimony, including an admonishment not to consider the prosecutor’s opening statement assertion about the result of the BAC testing, would have been efficacious, Appellant should not have been heard to complain on appeal of the trial court’s failure to grant his motion for mistrial. For this reason, the Court of Criminal Appeals held the court of appeals should not have proceeded to its analysis of whether the trial court abused its discretion to deny the motion for mistrial. Accordingly, the court of appeals' judgment was reversed. View "Lee v. Texas" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed Appellant John Lee's conviction for misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. The court of appeals held that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to grant his motion for mistrial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the State’s petition for discretionary review in order to address its contentions that: (1) Appellant failed to preserve error; and that, (2) in any event, any potential harm could have been forestalled by a curative instruction, which Appellant failed at any time to request before asking for a mistrial. Because an instruction to disregard the blood-draw testimony, including an admonishment not to consider the prosecutor’s opening statement assertion about the result of the BAC testing, would have been efficacious, Appellant should not have been heard to complain on appeal of the trial court’s failure to grant his motion for mistrial. For this reason, the Court of Criminal Appeals held the court of appeals should not have proceeded to its analysis of whether the trial court abused its discretion to deny the motion for mistrial. Accordingly, the court of appeals' judgment was reversed. View "Lee v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Brian White was convicted of one count of engaging in organized criminal activity and one count of money laundering. The trial court assessed his punishment at ten years imprisonment for each count, suspended for eight years of community supervision. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently, and White was ordered to pay restitution. The issue White raised to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals involved the admission of an audio recording of a conversation between White, his co-defendant Ronald Robey, and a third party named “Brandon.” The trial court admitted the recording into evidence over White’s objection that it was inadmissible under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 38.23. White argued the State failed to prove the recording was legally obtained and not in violation of Texas Penal Code section 16.02 (illegal wiretapping). The appellate court determined the trial court was authorized in finding admission of the recording was not barred by Article 38.23. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed and affirmed. View "White v. Texas" on Justia Law