Weekly Case Summaries: March 13, 2015

Texas Courts of Appeals

Nelson v. State

No. 01-13-00769-CR              3/10/15

Issue:

When the defendant invoked her right to counsel at police headquarters during an interrogation, then waived it and inculpated herself in a statement she made after hearing officers privately describe the grisly details of her victim’s murder to each other in the front of their squad car, did the officers’ conversation amount to an impermissible interrogation technique that violated the defendant’s constitutional rights?

Holding:

No. It was reasonable for the trial court to hold that the officers had no special knowledge that the defendant would be unusually susceptible to the type of conversation they were having and it did not appear to be designed to elicit a response. Thus, it was not “reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response” under Rhode Island v. Innis. Read the opinion.  

Commentary:

Officers should be careful of their conversations around suspects. Crucial facts revealed to a suspect might frustrate further investigation. Non-factual information might be viewed as attempts to circumvent Miranda.

Escobar v. State

No. 05-13-01562-CR (not for pub.)               3/10/15

Issue:

During a plea hearing, when the judge made comments from the bench toward the defendant that indicated the judge did not hold the defendant in high esteem, did those comments amount to an indication of extrajudicial bias that would offend due process?

Holding:

No. Everything the judge said to the defendant referenced facts he learned about the defendant during the hearing and therefore were not indications of an extrajudicial bias against the defendant. Read the opinion.

Commentary:

A court will seldom go wrong if the court limits itself to the following words: “granted, overruled, sustained, denied, move along, or the jury will remember the evidence.” Defendants don’t care about editorial comments or stern lectures, but those may provide a means to attack the court on appeal. While such attacks are unlikely to succeed, they nevertheless exacerbate the cynicism toward the courts among certain groups in society.

Office of the Attorney General

Opinion for the McLennan County Criminal District Attorney

KP-0010                                  3/9/15

Question:

Does §61.003(a)(4) of the Government Code restrict the programs allowed to be considered by jurors for donation of jury reimbursements to juror counseling programs?

Opinion:

No. Under the doctrine of the last antecedent, the phrase “that offers psychological counseling to jurors in criminal cases involving graphic evidence or testimony” should be construed to modify only the immediately preceding phrase—“a program established under Article 56.04(f), Code of Criminal Procedure”—and not as a limitation on the first phrase—“any other program approved by the commissioners court of the county.” Read the opinion.

 

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