Weekly Case Summaries: November 25, 2011

Texas Court of Appeals

Byrne v. State – 4th COA

No. 04-11-00150-CR : 11/16/11

Issue:

Is the strict liability offense of PC §22.011(a)(2(A) (statutory rape) constitutionally infirm under either the federal due process of law or the state due course of law provisions because it lacks a culpable mental state for the age of the child, thereby precluding the affirmative defense of mistake of fact?

Holding:

No, the statute is not facially unconstitutional. The state constitution permits strict liability offenses. Also, under the federal constitution, the offense is not arbitrary or capricious and does not violate a fundamental right. Moreover, federal courts have consistently held strict liability penal statutes for the protection of children from sexual abuse to be valid exercises of state power. Finally, although the issue was not preserved, PC §6.02 does not impose a culpable mental state relating to the victim's age.
Read Opinion 

Commentary:

This appeal doesn't raise any issue that hasn't already been litigated. But the opinion provides a solid summary of the constitutional standard and relevant cases and rejects both state and federal constitutional arguments. Strict liability laws, such as speeding, DWI, running a red light and sexual assault of underage children, are constitutional. 

Desormeaux v. State – 9th COA

No. 09-11-00035-CR : 11/16/11

Issue:

After an acquittal for capital murder, is a defendant's prosecution for injury to a child by failing to obtain medical care barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel?

Holding:

No, not here. The jury in the first trial decided whether the defendant intentionally or knowingly committed an act that caused the child's death. The defendant's failure to seek medical treatment for the child was not necessarily decided. 
Read Opinion 

Commentary:

This case provides quite an example of the complexities associated with prosecuting a parent or caretaker for the death of a child when it is unclear who committed the assaultive conduct and who knew about it but didn't protect the child or seek medical care. The ying and yang of act v. omission is well-discussed in this opinion

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.