Weekly Case Summaries: July 24, 2015

Texas Courts of Appeals

Villarreal v. State (3rd COA)

No. 03-14-0095-CR           7/17/15

Issue:

Is the evidence sufficient to sustain a conviction as an adult for aggravated sexual assault when there is evidence that the defendant committed the act multiple times over a period of years, including some during which he was still a minor (under 17)? 

Holding:

Yes. The  evidence is sufficient when the jury could find there is some evidence that the defendant committed at least one act charged after age 17. Read opinion.

Commentary:

Be very careful when prosecuting a defendant as an adult who began molesting a victim while he was a juvenile but continued after he became an adult. While this case survived a sufficiency challenge, similar cases have been reversed for defective jury charges. See Alberty v. State, 250 S.W.3d 115 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008) (jury charge did not limit jury’s consideration of the case to acts committed after he became an adult). It is important to remember that, while a jury could consider acts committed by the defendant as a juvenile under Article 38.37, an adult court has no jurisdiction to convict the defendant of those acts unless the juvenile has been certified to stand trial as an adult. See Tex. Penal Code §8.07(b). This is a common issue in prosecting young adult sex offenders.

State v. Petersen (11th COA)

No. 11-14-00064-CR        7/16/15

Issue:

Is a retail store loss-prevention agent responsible for Mirandizing a theft suspect before questioning him?

Holding:

Generally, no. Miranda warnings are required only when police conduct a custodial interrogation of a suspect. An agency relationship between law enforcement and non-law enforcement agents is required if Miranda is to apply to a non-law enforcement agent. The law does not presume an agency relationship; the person alleging one has the burden of proving it exists. To determine if an agency relationship exists, appellate courts must examine the entire record and consider three factors: 1) the relationship between the police and the potential police agent, 2) the interviewer’s actions and perceptions, and 3) the defendant’s perceptions of the encounter. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This is a fairly straight-forward application of the CCA’s Wilkerson and Elizondo opinions that will be useful to any prosecutor with a Wal-Mart or Kohl’s in their county.

Lopez v. State (14th COA)

No. 14-14-00389-CR        7/16/15

Issue:

Does the Eighth Amendment require a defendant to be able to present mitigating evidence when faced with a mandatory life sentence?

Holding:

No. Therefore, the Eighth Amendment does not grant to a criminal defendant the right to present mitigating evidence when the State seeks a term-of-years sentence. Additionally, the mandatory life sentence imposed under Texas Penal Code §12.42(c)(2) is not unconstitutional under either the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Read opinion.

Commentary:

Child abuse prosecutors add this one to your collection. But, will anyone be surprised if the Constitution “evolves” to prohibit this practice?

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]