by
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

by
The issue this case presented for the Court of Criminal Appeals’ review centered on whether a trial court could pay an appointed prosecutor at an hourly rate even though the fee schedule approved by the judges of the county only allowed for payment of a fixed fee. Relators (the attorneys appointed to prosecute the defendant) argued that upholding the trial court’s order for payment was appropriate because the trial court’s determination of a reasonable fee for their services was a discretionary call, not a ministerial one. The primary Real Party in Interest (the Collin County Commissioners Court) responded that vacating the trial court’s order for payment was appropriate because the trial court lacked authority to set a fee outside of the fixed rate in the fee schedule approved by the local judges. According to the Commissioners Court, the local rule authorizing the trial court to “opt out” of its own fee schedule conflicts with a statute that requires payment according to that fee schedule. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the Commissioners Court that the statute in question limited the trial court’s authority, and the Court agreed with the court of appeals that the second order for payment should be vacated. View "In re Texas ex rel. Brian Wice v. 5th Judicial District Court of Appeals" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
In October 2015, while Appellee Amanda Waters was on community supervision for an offense, she was arrested for DWI. Based on her arrest, the State filed a motion to revoke her community supervision, alleging, among other grounds, that she had violated the terms of her supervision by committing another criminal offense. In February 2016, the trial court held a hearing on the State’s motion to revoke. The State’s sole evidence in support of its allegation that Waters had committed DWI was the testimony of Waters’s community supervision officer, Officer Jetton. Officer Jetton testified he was aware that Waters had been arrested for DWI, but he otherwise had no personal knowledge of the facts surrounding the alleged offense. Based on this evidence, the trial judge determined that the State had failed to prove by a preponderance that Waters committed DWI as alleged in the State’s motion, and found the allegation “not true.” The trial judge rejected the State’s motion to revoke, and he issued an order continuing Waters on community supervision. In March 2016, the State filed an information charging Waters with the same instance of DWI that had been alleged in the motion to revoke. Waters subsequently filed a pretrial application for a writ of habeas corpus in which she contended that her prosecution for DWI was barred by collateral estoppel pursuant to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’s holding in Ex parte Tarver, 725 S.W.2d 195 (Tex. Crim. App. 1986). Relying on Tarver, Waters asserted that, because the State had previously sought to revoke her community supervision based on the same instance of DWI that was alleged in the information and the trial judge at the revocation hearing had found that allegation “not true,” the State was precluded from prosecuting her for that offense. The State argued in its petition for discretionary review that Tarver was abrogated and should have been expressly abandoned. The Court concluded Tarver met the narrow criteria for overruling prior precedent, and it abandoned the rule of that decision. The Court therefore reversed the court of appeals that had applied Tarver to uphold the trial court’s dismissal of the information filed against Waters and remanded this case back to the trial four for further proceedings. View "Texas v. Waters" on Justia Law

by
At his trial for the sexual assault of a minor, appellant Joshua Jacobs sought to ask during jury selection whether a potential juror whether, if they knew that he had previously been convicted of a “sexual offense,” they could remain impartial in a second (the underlying case) case. The trial judge wanted Jacobs to use the phrase “felony offense,” but agreed, on Jacobs’s request, to let him refer to prior “assaultive offenses” instead. The court of appeals held that, in so limiting Jacobs, the trial judge offended his constitutional rights. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed, holding the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in determining that any marginal benefit Jacobs might gain by these added details would be outweighed by the risk of exposing the jury to the particular facts of the case before they were sworn. “Under these circumstances, we cannot say that the trial judge’s limitation “render[ed] the defendant’s trial fundamentally unfair.” View "Jacobs v. Texas" on Justia Law