Weekly Case Summaries: September 2, 2016

Texas Courts of Appeals

Johnson v. State (2nd COA)

No. 02-15-00101-CR        8/25/16

Issue:

Is a co-defendant’s status as a confidential informant for a police department material evidence that the State should have turned over to the defense under Brady?

Holding:

Not in this case. Impeachment evidence of a deal between the police department and co-defendant would not have put the case in a light different from that shown by the evidence presented so as to undermine confidence in the defendant’s guilty verdict for aggravated robbery. Read opinion

Commentary:

The key in this case was that there was no real distinction between the defendant’s statement to the police and the testimony of the co-defendant (the defendant’s girlfriend). Therefore, any attempt at impeaching the co-defendant would have been fruitless to the defendant’s case. It also appears that the defendant’s trial attorney learned of the possible deal between the co-defendant and law enforcement in time to deal with it at trial. This case is probably bound to its facts. In most cases, courts would require the prosecution to learn about and disclose such deals to the defense well in advance of trial.

Harrell-Macneil v. State (7th COA)

No. 07-15-00009-CR        8/25/16

Issue:

Does a blood draw violate the 4th Amendment if the warrant specifies that blood be drawn at “a hospital” and blood is instead drawn at the county jail by a licensed vocational nurse employed by the sheriff’s office?

Holding:

No. The Court agreed with the 3rd Court of Appeals in Bailey v. State, No. 03-13-00566-CR, 2014 Tex. App. LEXIS 8711 (Tex. App. — Austin Aug. 8, 2014, no pet.) (not desig. for pub.) that, while different from the language used in the warrant, the location of the blood draw was reasonable and performed using reliable and sanitary procedures recognized by the scientific community.  Read opinion

Commentary:

This decision, as well as the decision upon which it relies, is unpublished. So it will be interesting to see if the Court of Criminal Appeals will review these courts’ resolution of this issue. But in the meantime, this decision will be a good one upon which to rely in a blood search warrant case where the location of the blood draw differs from that specified in the warrant.

Texas Attorney General

KP-0111      8/25/16

Issue:

May a commissioners court may impose a vehicle policy that regulates the use, deployment, recording, and tracking of vehicles used by the sheriff?

Summary:

A commissioners court may enact county vehicle policies applicable to a vehicle used by the sheriff only to the extent that it does not unreasonably interfere with the sheriff’s constitutional or statutory duties. Whether the sheriff or the commissioners court possesses final policymaking authority with respect to a specific vehicle policy will depend on specific facts and applicable law, the determination of which is not within the scope of an attorney general opinion.

A county auditor may access county records pertaining to the use of county vehicles and impose vehicle use requirements on other county officers only in aid of the auditor's fiscal examination and reporting duties and only to the extent the requirements do not unreasonably interfere with the officer's constitutional or statutory duties. Read opinion

Commentary:

This opinion does not resolve any particular factual disputes, but it thoroughly provides all the relevant statutory and constitutional provisions, as well as the numerous attorney general opinions that have been issued on similar issues. Look to this opinion if you have this or a similar issue come up.

RQ-0125-KP    8/29/16

Issue:

Access to court records containing criminal history record information that is subject to an order of non-disclosure under chapter 411 of the Government Code, requested by Williamson County Attorney Dee Hobbs. Read request

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