Weekly Case Summaries: June 12, 2015

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

In re Young

No. 14-51288      6/5/15

Issue:

Does the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) statute of limitations on newly discovered evidence begin to run upon cross-examination of a witness?

Holding:

No. The ability to cross-examine a witness in a habeas proceeding does not trigger the one-year AEDPA statute of limitations without additional evidence that the defendant knew the witness was lying. Instead, the one-year time limit begins to run on the date on which the prisoner had notice of the facts to support his claim. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This holding appears to be inconsistent with the language of the statute that requires the limitations period to run from the time that information “could have been discovered,” as opposed to when it was actually discovered.  The record apparently did not reflect why the witnesses who provided the newly discovered evidence changed their stories, but the court of appeals appears to have decided that uncertainty very much in the defendant’s favor.  It did not make a difference in this particular case because relief was denied in any event.  But it could cause problems in future federal habeas corpus petitions.  Article 11.071 of the Code of Criminal Procedure does not contain precisely the same language imposing a statute of limitations on the filing of an application for a post-conviction writ of habeas corpus.  But Section 5(a)(1) of that statute does contain a provision prohibiting a defendant from raising a “subsequent” claim unless the claim “could not have been presented previously . . . because the . . . basis for the claim was unavailable . . .”

Texas Courts of Appeal

Dromgoogle v. State

No. 01-13-00931-CR        6/4/15

Issue:

Prior to a blood search warrant does a police officer have a duty to inquire about medical conditions that would affect the suspect or the collection?

Holding:

No. A suspect bears the burden to notify an officer or the person conducting the blood draw that it presents an unreasonable risk due to a medical condition. To challenge the blood draw in court, a defendant must be able to prove: 1) she had a medical condition, 2) that created an unreasonable risk of medical harm for a blood test, and 3) that she sufficiently notified the police or person performing the blood test prior to the blood draw. Read opinion.

Commentary:

If you prosecute driving while intoxicated cases, you really should read this decision.  It is lengthy.  But it deals very well with a defendant’s claim that her medical condition might have rendered her unfit for a blood test.  This defendant allegedly suffered from syncope (fainting or loss of consciousness), but the record did not support any claim that taking her blood would have had any adverse effects upon her medically.  This case also dealt with a rather lengthy battle-of-the-experts on the reliability of the blood testing procedure.  This is a very helpful DWI decision.

Friemel v. State

No. 06-14-00185-CR        6/9/15

Issue:

Must a defendant be admonished about all possible consequences of a deadly weapon finding included in his guilty plea?

Holding:

No. The defendant was given the customary admonishments, including the applicable range of punishment, before agreeing to plead guilty. Because the deadly weapon finding does not affect the length of the sentence, a specific admonishment on its effects is not required. Additionally, there is no due process violation in withholding an admonishment about the effects of a deadly weapon finding on community supervision or parole. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This is not a case in which the defendant proved that he was unaware of the adverse effects of a deadly weapon finding or that he had been misinformed about those adverse effects.  He was merely claiming that he had to be admonished about those adverse consequences, either under Article 26.13 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or the United States Constitution.  The court shows quite well why neither provision requires such an admonishment. 

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]