Weekly Case Summaries: August 31, 2012

Texas Courts of Appeals

In re B.R.H.

No. 01-12-00146-CV      8/28/12

Issue

Should the trial court have dismissed a petition because the State 1) failed to use due diligence in prosecuting the juvenile’s case until after his 18th birthday and 2) was proceeding on an amended petition?

Holding

No. Generally, when a juvenile turns 18 the jurisdiction of a juvenile court becomes limited to either 1) transferring the case to an appropriate court, or 2) dismissing the case. But an exception applies to incomplete proceedings (see Tex. Fam. Code §51.0412), and here, the trial court made the necessary finding that the State used due diligence in prosecuting the case before the juvenile’s 18th birthday. The State’s amended petition substituted for, and did not extinguish, the original petition. Read opinion

Commentary

This could be helpful in some juvenile proceedings where the defendant/respondent is close to the age of adulthood when he or she commits the offense. As long as Section 51.0412 applies and the State can show the exercise of due diligence, the amended petition will relate back to the timing of the filing of the original petition. This supersedes the general civil rule that an amended petition takes the place of a previous petition.

Henry v. State

No. 05-11-00676-CR      08/05/12

Issue

Is a mandatory life sentence without parole for a person 17 years of age at the time of the offense a violation of the 8th Amendment?

Holding

Yes, under Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012). The court, however, rejected the State’s proposal to reform the sentence to a simple life sentence as unsupported by authority and remanded the case for a new punishment hearing. Read opinion

Commentary

Not much that we can do about this one, and there are several out there, some of which have not even been tried yet. The Governor or Legislature will hopefully provide some solution by way of a commutation or amendment to the range of punishment.  For those that have not been tried, you might want to consider adding a charge of murder to provide a range of punishment. And keep a lookout for claims that mandatory life WITH parole is an invalid punishment because it still does not allow for any discretion within a range of punishment.

Reynolds v. State

No. 10-10-00306-CR      8/23/12

Issue

Was a defendant convicted of a 1990 offense of sexual assault of a child but released in 1995 required to register as a sex offender so that he could be convicted in 2009 for never registering?

Holding

Yes. The 2005 statutory amendment continued the 1997 statutory amendment permitting retroactive application of the registration requirements for a reportable conviction or adjudication occurring on or after September 1, 1970. But conduct engaged in before the effective date of the 2005 amendment is governed by the law in effect at the time of the conduct and the prior law is continued in effect for that purpose. Thus, the 2005 amendments apply to the defendant so that it “appears” that he was required to register and the savings clause of the 1997 amendment does not apply. The retroactive effect of the 2005 amendment to the registration statute did not render it unconstitutional because it is necessary to safeguard the citizens of this state. Read opinion

Commentary

This is a very well-reasoned and -researched decision.  And it should hold up on petition for discretionary review because it appears to be consistent with dicta from a 2009 decision from the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Ex parte Sheikh

No. 03-10-00370-CR      8/17/12    (not for publication)

Issue

Did the State commit a Brady violation by failing to disclose potential impeachment evidence in the curriculum vitae of an expert witness?

Holding

No. Any inconsistencies between the CV and the expert’s testimony provided only limited impeachment evidence, and the strength of the State’s evidence supporting conviction outweighed any impeachment value of the suppressed evidence. Read opinion

Commentary

This is a very well-reasoned and thorough decision as well, and it provides a great deal of case law on an allegation that the State used false testimony, as well as the claimed Brady violation. This decision is made all the more remarkable because it is a State’s appeal from a trial court’s order granting relief to the defendant. And relief was granted to the defendant by Judge Charles Baird, a former judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals. A remarkable job done by the State in this case.

TDCAA is pleased to offer our members unique case summaries from the U.S. Supreme Court, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas Courts of Appeals and the Texas Attorney General. In addition to the basic summaries, each case will have a link to the full text opinion and will offer exclusive prosecutor commentary explaining how the case may impact you as a prosecutor. The case summaries are for the benefit of prosecutors, their staff members, and members of the law enforcement community. These summaries are NOT a source of legal advice for citizens. The information contained in this email message may be privileged, confidential, and protected from disclosure. Any unauthorized use, printing, copying, disclosure, dissemination of or reliance upon this communication by persons other than the intended recipient may be subject to legal restriction or sanction. Please email comments, problems, or questions to [email protected]. In addition, if you would like to discuss the summaries with fellow prosecutors, look for the thread in our criminal forum.