Weekly Case Summaries: May 25, 2012

Court of Criminal Appeals

Ex parte Chavez

No. AP-76,665 : 05/23/12

Issue:

In an aggravated robbery case, were the defendant’s due process rights violated when the State unknowingly offered false evidence that he was the triggerman, and after trial, another participant confessed to shooting the victim and that the defendant was actually the driver of the getaway car?

Holding:

No. Although the testimony was false, the applicant was unable to show a reasonable likelihood that the testimony affected the jury’s assessment of punishment.
Read Opinion 

Dissent (Keller, P.J.):

The claim should be dismissed rather than denied on the merits because CCP art. 11.07, §4(a) was not satisfied.  Presiding Judge Keller wrote separately to review the differences in the way claims are treated depending on whether testimony is perjured or merely false, and whether the State knew or did not know of that fact.
Read Dissent 

Dissent (Price, J.):

This subsequent writ application should be dismissed because the applicant failed to make a prima facie case that the false testimony was material.
Read Dissent 

Commentary:

So, defendant lies on stand at trial (“I was home asleep when this happened.”) and deprives his lawyer of the truth regarding his involvement (“I was not the shooter.”) but should now be able to complain that he was falsely identified as the shooter at a home invasion and got excessive punishment? Thankfully, the CCA takes a realistic view of the defendant’s criminal history and finds any mistakes were harmless. How about a new indictment for aggravated perjury?

State v. Mazuca

No. PD-1035-11 : 05/23/12

Issue:

Did the discovery of an outstanding arrest warrant in between an illegal traffic stop and the seizure of contraband serve as an intervening event sufficient to attenuate the taint of the initial stop?

Holding:

Yes. The behavior of the arresting officers, although clearly unlawful at the outset, was not so purposeful and flagrant that the discovery of the defendant’s outstanding arrest warrants did not serve to break the causal connection between the illegal stop and the discovery of the ecstasy.
Read Opinion 

Dissent (Meyers, J.):

The practical effect of this holding is to encourage police officers to unlawfully stop motorists in the hope an arrest warrant will be discovered in the process.
Read Dissent 

Dissent (Johnson, J.):

The trial court correctly suppressed the evidence because everything obtained during the highly improper traffic stop was fruit of the poisonous tree.
Read Opinion 

Commentary:

This is a significant attenuation case that properly recognizes the intervening value of the discovery of a warrant. Judge Meyers’ dissent suggests he has a rather biased view of how officers handle investigations. 

Texas Supreme Court

In re Allen

No. 10-0886 : 05/18/12

Issue:

Was the applicant entitled to compensation for wrongful imprisonment under the Tim Cole Act after the Court of Criminal Appeals granted habeas relief on a Schlup­-type claim of actual innocence?

Holding:

Yes. The Legislature intended the legal term “actual innocence” to include both Herrera and Schlup claims in the TCA.
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Commentary:

Not surprising to see that the Supreme Court has taken a generous view of Legislative intent regarding compensation for innocence claims.

In the matter of M.P.A.                                

No. 10-0859 : 05/18/12   (9-0)

Issue:

Is a juvenile habeas applicant entitled to relief on his claims of: 1) actual innocence because of the witness’s recantations, 2) ineffective assistance of counsel due to the failure to investigate, woodshed a witness, advance arguments, or call an expert, or 3) the presentation of false testimony?

Holding:

No relief on the first two claims, but the false testimony by the State’s expert witness—Dr. Frederick Willoughby, a licensed psychologist and registered sex offender treatment provider—contributed to his sentence, so the applicant is entitled to a new disposition (sentencing) hearing.
Read Opinion

Commentary: 

Consistent with an increased focus nationally on having courts serve as cautious gatekeepers for the admission of expert testimony, the Supreme Court takes a close look at the research cited by this expert. If your expert cites any studies in support of his expert opinion, ask for a copy before trial and read them. And demand to see those studies from opposing experts. Then challenge them in a voir dire hearing outside the presence of the jury before the testimony takes place. In other words, don’t believe everything your hear.

Texas Court of Appeals

Krause v. State

No. 14-11-00884-CR : 05/22/12

Issue: 

Did a trial court improperly deny a motion to suppress where an “emergency medical technician-intermediate” obtained the defendant’s blood?

Holding:

Yes; it was undisputed that the person who took the defendant’s blood was a licensed “emergency medical technician-intermediate” and worked in the emergency room of a hospital. Under Chapter 724 of the Texas Transportation Code, “emergency medical services personnel” are expressly excluded from being “qualified technician[s]” who can take a blood specimen without a warrant at the request or order of a peace officer.
Read Opinion

Commentary: 

What, pray tell, is the social interest being protected by suppressing evidence obtained in a medically sound manner that complies with the Fourth Amendment and merely violates a technical rule designed to protect certain hospital personnel from spending time and money on evidence collection for police? This case is a very good example of the sometimes absurd results we see from the Texas statutory exclusionary rule. There is nothing here involving police misconduct or a wrongful invasion of privacy. Perhaps the Legislature can be convinced to stop excluding medically trained hospital employees from collecting blood for police, especially since that same collection if done for a medical purpose is perfectly admissible.

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