Weekly Case Summaries: February 12, 2016

Court of Criminal Appeals

Ex parte Molina

No. WR-83,799-01            2/10/16

Issue:

Must a defendant exhaust all administrative remedies under Government Code §501.0081 prior to an application for habeas corpus alleging that the judgment failed to credit him for time served prior to a sentence being imposed?

Holding:

No. Under §501.0081 an inmate cannot file an application for a writ of habeas corpus for a “time-served credit error” until he has a written decision from the highest authority in the resolution system. However, a “time-served credit error” does not include an error in the judgment that fails to credit time served before a sentence was imposed. Because the resolution system in the Department of Criminal Justice has no authority to modify an incorrect judgment, an inmate is not required to exhaust all the administrative remedies under §501.0081. However, an application for a writ of habeas corpus for an incorrect judgment may still be dismissed as the proper remedy is to seek a nunc pro tunc judgment or writ of mandamus. Read.

Commentary:

This decision is helpful primarily for reaffirming that time-credit issues should be addressed by a motion for a nunc pro tunc judgment or a petition for a writ of mandamus. Refer to this decision if the defendant attempts to get the issue addressed by way of petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

Blea v. State

No. PD-0245-15                 2/10/16

Issue:

When considering evidence of serious bodily injury, should the effects of medical treatment received by the victim be considered?

Holding:

No. Injuries should be assessed as they were inflicted by the defendant, not as they existed in an improved condition after medical treatment. Serious bodily injury is defined as an injury that “creates a substantial risk of death,” and that risk must be assessed as it was caused by the defendant, not the risk after intervening medical treatment. Read.

Commentary:

This should be a very helpful decision. There has been some inconsistency in how the court has treated the serious bodily injury issue in the past. The court disavowed one of the leading decisions that urged consideration of medical treatment as a means of suggesting that a defendant did not inflict serious bodily injury. If you have what some might consider a “close case” on whether serious bodily injury was inflicted, read this decision to see how the testimony was developed. The State did a great job at trial in presenting testimony that would support a finding of serious bodily injury.

Ex parte Torres

No. PD-0679-14                 2/10/16

Issue:

What is the standard for determining prejudice when a defendant’s attorney is deficient in failing to advise the defendant about deportation consequences of a guilty plea?

Holding:

According to Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), trial counsel must adequately advise a defendant regarding presumptively mandatory deportation consequences of a guilty plea. However, to succeed on an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim, a defendant must also show that he was prejudiced by this failure. The defendant must show a reasonable probability that counsel’s errors affected the outcome of the plea proceedings and that but for counsel’s errors, the defendant would have rejected the plea and instead pursued a trial. The defendant is not entitled to a presumption of prejudice. Read.

Commentary:

At some point, the United States Supreme Court is going to need to revisit Padilla because deportation consequences are not nearly as “mandatory” or “automatic” as the federal statutes might suggest. But Padilla is still the law, and this is a good case dealing with that issue. In the typical case, like this one, the defendant is able to prove that his defense lawyer at trial gave insufficient advice. But in the typical case, like this one, the defendant is also not able to prove that, if he had been fully advised, he would not have pleaded guilty but would have instead pleaded not guilty and insisted on going to trial. Defendants still have to prove that second part of the ineffective assistance of counsel claim to prevail.

Rabb v. State

No. PD-1472-14                 2/10/16

Issue:

Is reformation of a conviction required when the factfinder found every element needed to convict the defendant of a lesser-included offense, and the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support a conviction of that lesser-included offense but not the greater offense?

Holding:

Yes. A judge in a bench trial initially found the defendant guilty of tampering with evidence by destruction. The evidence was not sufficient to confirm the destruction of the evidence so the judgment should be reformed to the lesser-included offense of attempted tampering with evidence. Because the judge found the defendant had the intent to destroy or impair the use of evidence, he necessarily concluded the defendant had the specific intent to conceal the evidence. The Court noted that it is not broadly applying the principle that in every case where the factfinder determines the defendant had intent to cause a specific result there will also be specific intent to commit the act. Read.

Commentary:

As tampering with evidence cases go, this decision may not be that helpful because the Court of Criminal Appeals had already made clear in a prior decision in this case that the defendant probably should have been charged with “concealing,” not “destroying.” But this decision could be quite helpful if you are prosecuting a defendant for an attempt to commit a crime that requires an act (as opposed to an omission or possession). As it says, the court does not make a broad holding, but its analysis would apply to all but the “uncommon” (the court’s word) cases.

Texas Courts of Appeals

State v. Akin (13th COA)

No. 13-15-00076-CR        2/4/16

Issue:

Does a previous administrative hearing concerning a defendant’s employment trigger double jeopardy or collaterally estop a felony prosecution?

Holding:

No. The defendant in this case was a state employee who was fired from his job under Texas Administrative Code, chapter 40, §3.301. He filed an employment grievance with the Department of Health & Human Services, and an administrative law judge found allegations of abuse unconfirmed and ordered the defendant’s employment reinstated. The defendant was then indicted for injury to a disabled individual under Penal Code §22.04. The court of appeals determined that collateral estoppel should not apply because the administrative hearing did not involve the “same party or party in privity” as a criminal proceeding and did not represent the interests of the district attorney. Additionally, double jeopardy is not implicated because the HHS hearing was not “essentially criminal” in nature. Read.

Commentary:

Such issues may come up rarely, but refer to this decision if a defendant raises a collateral estoppel argument based upon a previous administrative decision based upon the same facts. This is a very thorough and well-reasoned treatment of that area of the law.

TDCAA is pleased to offer these unique case summaries from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Texas Supreme Court, the 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 commentaries expressed in these case summaries are not official statements by TDCAA and do not represent the opinions of TDCAA, its staff, or any member of the association. Please email comments, problems, or questions to [email protected]
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