Weekly Case Summaries: May 31, 2013

Supreme Court of the United States

Trevino v. Thaler

No. 11-10189        5/28/13

Issue:

Do rules of federal procedural default bar a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel raised for the first time in a federal habeas proceeding if the State’s appellate procedures and time constraints effectively require the claim to be raised by collateral attack?

Holding:

No. The court expands the limited exception to Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722 (1991) established in Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S. Ct. 1309 (2012) to ineffective assistance claims not brought on direct appeal in Texas. Because Texas rules of appellate procedure, while not expressly barring them, effectively make it impossible to raise such claims on direct appeal, meaningful review is not possible except through collateral attack.
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Dissent (Roberts, C.J.):

The “aggressively limiting language” of Martinez meant the exception created by the opinion was to be limited only to cases where a state has expressly barred a defendant from raising claims on direct appeal.

Dissent (Scalia, J.):

The majority is wrong for the same reasons it was wrong in Martinez: It repudiates longstanding principles of procedural default.

Commentary:

This will affect only federal writs of habeas corpus, and it certainly may have far-reaching effects in that area—and not just in Texas. But this should not impact Texas state cases, except to continue to emphasize that a defendant should raise a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel in an application for a post-conviction writ of habeas corpus, not on direct appeal.

Texas Courts of Appeals

Tucker v. State

No. 04-09-00046-CR        5/22/13 (on remand from CCA)

Issue:

Did the trial court properly deny the defendant’s motion to suppress narcotics seized from his home after a search based on consent given during a traffic stop?

Holding:

Yes. Based on the totality of the circumstances, consent was given voluntarily. The defendant contended his consent was given only because officers detained him for an unreasonable amount of time, improperly questioned him without giving Miranda warnings, and would not allow his young son to get out of the van although it had no air conditioning. However, the trial court reasonably concluded the consent was valid based on the defendant’s admission on cross-examination that his consent was voluntary and the fact that the stop lasted no more than 40 minutes.
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Dissent (Martinez, J.):

The majority failed to sufficiently consider the totality of the circumstances; the record shows the police acted in such a way that a reasonable objective person could view only as coercive.
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Commentary:

This is an en banc decision of the court of appeals on rehearing, but it is a rather straightforward application of rules that give deference to the trial court’s finding that the defendant’s consent was voluntary. It is possible that the Court of Criminal Appeals will want to review this case again, as there is a dissenting opinion. But I would not anticipate a change in the result. This is a good decision upon which to rely if you have a claim from a defendant that coercive circumstances rendered his consent involuntary, but—as with most suppression issues—the battle is usually won when the trial judge rules in the State’s favor.

Smith v. State

No. 06-12-00114-CR        5/24/13

Issue:

Was the defendant’s conviction of the Oklahoma offense of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated properly used to enhance his DWI charge to a third-degree felony?

Holding:

Yes. The offense is substantially similar to the Texas offense of DWI because under Texas law, “operating” a motor vehicle is interpreted very broadly and does not necessarily involve actual driving. The State also offered sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Smith was the defendant in the Oklahoma case by showing the name, date of birth, and Social Security number on the judgment and sentence matched those of the defendant.
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Commentary:

There are probably precious few cases in which you enhance a defendant’s driving-while-intoxicated prosecution with an out-of-state DWI case. But this will be an invaluable decision upon which to rely if that issue comes up. The decision is well-written and contains a good discussion of the broad nature of the word “operator.” 

Ex parte Pharris

No. 14-13-00002-CR        5/23/13

Issue:

Did the trial court abuse discretion in refusing to lower the defendant’s bail from $600,000 to $200,000, an amount he could pay, although the State was not ready for trial within 90 days as required by CCP art. 17.151?

Holding:

No. A trial court has discretion to consider the factors in CCP art. 17.15, including safety of the victim or community, in setting bail under art. 17.151. The court properly considered the fact that the defendant had threatened the prosecutor in the case and solicited help in harming him, as well as the seriousness of the offense charged and the nature of the defendant’s prior convictions.
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Commentary:

Frankly, the bail in this could have been set even higher. The defendant is a serial thief and had already been convicted of stealing over $14 million. It is not often that this high of a bail gets upheld on appeal, but this defendant certainly deserves it.

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