Weekly Case Summaries: June 15, 2012

Texas Court of Appeals

In re Craig Watkins - 5th COA             

No. 05-12-00184-CV : 06/08/12

Issue:

Did the trial court wrongly grant a provision of a defense omnibus discovery motion requiring the State to turn over NCIC and TCIC records of law enforcement officers for an in camera inspection?

Holding:

Although the State failed to advise the trial court that no such record existed (so the trial court was denied the opportunity to rule on the issue that the State would have to create the document), neither Brady v. Maryland, 372 U.S. 83 (1963), nor CCP art. 39.14 impose a duty on the State to acquire the information. Moreover, there were 1) no oral or written request for the records, 2) no oral or written showing of “good cause” for the records, 3) no oral or written showing why those records were material to the defense, and 4) no oral or written showing that those records were in the State's possession.
Read Opinion 

Commentary: 

 How many times do appellate courts have to issue decisions telling trial judges that they cannot order defendants’ overbroad discovery requests?  The defendant had not even tried to meet ANY of the requirements of Article 39.14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (good cause, materiality, or possession by the State).  This decision will be helpful to prosecutors for an additional reason.  The decision states that the State is not required to determine criminal histories for witnesses if the State has not already done so.  Criminal histories are technically in the State’s possession (in the broadest sense) because they are in law enforcement computer systems.  But we as prosecutors are not required to determine those criminal histories just because the defendant asks.

In re Craig Watkins - 5th COA          

No. 05-12-00225-CV : 06/08/12

Issue:

Did the trial court’s standard discovery order requiring the State the produce NCIC and TCIC records of State’s witnesses violate the terms of CCP art. 39.14?

Holding:

Yes; the order required more than Brady dictates and lacked CCP art. 39.14 requirements that the defense both make a motion and demonstrate “good cause” for access to the information. The trial court had no discretion to ignore the statute.
Read Opinion 

Commentary: 

This might appear to be a companion case to the decision presented in the first posting, but it is actually out of a different trial court in the same county.  To find that the discovery order overturned in this decision was a “standard” discovery order is an even greater insult to the rule of law.  Thank you to the court of appeals for setting the trial judges straight.

In re: The State of Texas - 8th COA

No. 08-11-00373-CV : 06/06/12

Issue:

Did the trial court wrongly issue an order requiring the State to subpoena all its witnesses and prohibiting it from calling witnesses informally?

Holding:

Yes. Under CCP art. 24, the State—like the defendant—has the power to issue subpoenas.  But the State—like the defendant—is not required to issue subpoenas for its witnesses.  Likewise, no statute or rule prohibits the State or the defendant from calling a witness who has not been subpoenaed.  The trial court had no authority to order the State to subpoena all of its witnesses.
Read Opinion 

Commentary: 

Are you seeing a theme here?  It seems that trial judges need to be reminded that they cannot impose overbroad requirements upon the State just because the defense is unhappy.  It seems that the defendant subpoenaed several law enforcement and other State’s witnesses for a motion to suppress hearing, even though those witnesses had nothing to say on the issues raised in the motion to suppress.  So motions to quash the subpoenas were filed.  The defense complained that they could not file their own motions to quash the State’s subpoenas because the State had not filed any subpoenas.  Sigh.  Instead of politely listening to the defendant, the trial judge decided to issue the overbroad order.  I would say that this decision would be helpful to prosecutors, except that I cannot imagine this fact situation coming up again.

Texas Attorney General

Request from El Paso County Attorney

RQ-1067-GA : 06/07/12

Issue:

Whether a county bail bond board may permit a licensed bail bond holder to change all or part of the collateral he or she posted as security.
Read Request

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.