Weekly Case Summaries: August 5, 2016

Texas Courts of Appeals

Ex Parte Vasquez             (1st COA)

No. 01-15-00728-CR        7/28/2016

Issue:

In an actual-innocence claim, does an affidavit recanting the victim’s original statements satisfy the “newly discovered” evidence requirement for a writ of habeas corpus, when some evidence suggests the defendant knew of the recanted statements prior to his plea?

Holding:

No. When making an actual innocence claim, not only does the applicant have to make a truly persuasive showing of innocence, but he must also prove that the evidence he is showing is “newly discovered.” In this case, there is some evidence suggesting that the defendant knew or could have known about the recanted statements prior to accepting his plea. Read.

Dissent (Jennings, J):

The dissent would find there is no evidence in the record to suggest that the defendant knew of the recanted statements when he entered his plea. Even if there was some evidence, the new recanted statement should still be considered new evidence. The trial court failed to make credibility determinations, and many of the findings were not supported by evidence. Read.

Commentary:

Notwithstanding the 40-page dissenting opinion, this appears to be a typical recantation case in which the trial judge made findings denying relief to the defendant. In this case, the trial judge apparently found the victim’s outcries to be more credible than her recantation, perhaps in part because some of the recantation was not delivered until two decades later. The dissenting opinion is correct that the trial judge made no specific credibility determination as to the defendant, but such a finding was at least implicitly made in denying him habeas corpus relief. The trial court and the majority opinion also relied heavily upon laches in denying relief. Because this was a heavily disputed actual innocence case and because the decisions are published, the Court of Criminal Appeals may want to review it. So stay tuned.

In Re State of Texas        (4th COA)

No. 04-16-00299-CR        8/3/2016)

Issue:

When filing a motion under Code of Criminal Procedure Article 20.02(d) to petition for disclosure of otherwise secret grand jury information, does possible exculpatory evidence qualify as a “particularized need” to justify disclosure of the information?

Holding:

No. A trial court may order the disclosure of grand jury information if the defendant makes “a showing …  of a particularized need.” However, in this case the defendant’s motion related to obtaining potentially exculpatory information to cross-examine and impeach witnesses. “Because prosecutors have no duty to present exculpatory evidence to the grand jury, the accused can show no particularized need to access grand jury information to obtain such information.” Read.

Commentary:

In this case, the trial judge issued an order that would necessitate assembling a grand jury so that testimony could be adduced from the grand jurors regarding the presentment of a case. That alone should have been enough to grant the District Attorney’s petition for a writ of mandamus. Keep this decision close if you ever have a judge or defendant who wants grand jurors to testify about how or whether they deliberated on a particular case.

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