Weekly Case Summaries: February 6, 2009

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Layton v. State

2/4/09 : Cite No. PD 0408-07 : Relevancy

Issue

In the defendant's DWI trial, was evidence that he had been prescribed Xanax and Valium and had taken one of the medications earlier in the day relevant to whether he was intoxicated at the time of his arrest?

Holding

No. Without expert testimony to provide the foundation required to admit scientific evidence, the testimony regarding the defendant's use of prescription medications was not relevant. No evidence of the dosage he took, the time he took it or the half-life of the medication was presented. There was no testimony indicating that the officer making the DWI stop had any medical knowledge about the uses of Xanax and Valium or about the effect of combining the medications with alcohol.
Read opinion.

Dissent

Judge Womack would have allowed admission of the defendant's statements regarding the Valium, and that it was probably not a good idea to have been drinking along with it.
Read dissent.

Commentary

I find it hard to believe that the defendant's admission that he had previously taken Xanax and Valium constituted "scientific evidence," for which the State needed to provide a foundation under Chapter 7 of the Rules of Evidence. This is especially true in light of the fact the State was not relying upon the defendant's admission to support a suggestion that the defendant was intoxicated on narcotics, as well as alcohol. At all times, the State asserted that the defendant was intoxicated based upon alcohol alone. What made the defendant's admission important is that he suggested that the narcotics were prescribed to combat his high blood pressure, which the investigating officer questioned, knowing that those particular drugs are not prescribed for that purpose. The bottom line is that you need to be careful in a DWI trial if evidence is elicited that the defendant may have ingested drugs prior to the time that he was driving. In order for that evidence to be relevant, you may be required to present "extrapolation facts" and be able to reliably show what effect the particular drugs would have had upon the defendant.

Texas Courts of Appeal

Guevara v. State - 4th COA

1/28/09 : Cite No. 04-07-00027-CR : Statements of Co-conspirators

Issue

In the defendant's murder trial, did the trial court improperly admit out-of-court statements made by the defendant's girlfriend to her friend asking the friend to lie and say she had borrowed the gun that was the murder weapon, intending to create an alibi for the girlfriend and the defendant?

Holding

No. The girlfriend's statements were admissible under the co-conspirator exception to the hearsay rule [T.R.Evid. 801(e)(2)(E)] to advance an ongoing conspiracy to hinder the defendant's apprehension rather than statements that were made after the underlying conspiracy to commit murder had been carried out.
Read opinion.

Concurrence

Judge Hilbig took issue with the majority's application of the co-conspirator exception to the hearsay rule. He does not believe the statements were admissible under that exception but would still hold that the error was harmless.
Read concurrence.

Commentary

This is an important case because it emphasizes the fact that the conspiracy, which provides the basis for the admissibility of statements under Rule 801(e)(2)(E), does not necessarily have to be the conspiracy to commit the charged offense.

Chandler v. State - 6th COA

1/29/09 : Cite No. 06-08-00062-CR : Brady violation

Issue

In the defendant's trial for assault on a public servant, did the State commit a Brady violation by failing to preserve a video of the incident alleged to have occurred?

Holding

No. The investigating officer explained that the video system was not equipped to download or save the recording to another disk but was maintained for 60 days and then discarded. He testified that the recording did not clearly show the defendant and that it was not useful in the investigation. Additional evidence showed that all surveillance videos were routinely discarded in 60 days. There is nothing in the record to show bad faith on the part of the State, either by extension through the acts of the sheriff's office or the prosecutor.
Read opinion.

Commentary

The routine discarding of such evidence could be damaging to the State, especially if that evidence helped support the State's case. But the "bad faith" requirement in failure-to-preserve-evidence cases continues to be the rule, and the defense usually cannot show that required bad faith.


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