Weekly Case Summaries: August 14, 2009

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

Thompson v. Connick

08/10/09 : Cite No. 07-30443 : Brady Liability

Issue

Can a district attorney's office be held civilly responsible for deliberate indifference to its obligation to train employees on their obligations under Brady v. Maryland?

Holding

Yes. The Court held that withholding blood evidence that showed the defendant could not have committed a prior offense could be attributed to the policies and procedures of the entire office, rather than simply the unanticipated action of a single rogue prosecutor.
Read opinion.

Commentary

Ignore this decision at your own peril. This case may reach the United States Supreme Court. But for now, this decision could very well stand for the proposition that a District Attorney's Office is required to make training on Brady v. Maryland regularly available to its attorneys.

Texas Courts of Appeals

Foster v. State - 3rd COA

08/06/09 : Cite No. 03-08-00457-CR : Probable Cause

Issue

Did the trial court correctly deny the defendant's motion to suppress when, after stopping behind an unmarked police car at a red light, revving his engine, and lurching his truck forward two times, he was then blocked by the arrival of a marked police car and eventually arrested for DWI?

Holding

No. There was not reasonable suspicion to justify the stop. The situation did not warrant a detention, and the court commented, "Poor or even rude driving habits do not necessarily translate into traffic violations."
Read opinion.

Dissent

Justice Puryear writes that the majority improperly substitutes its judgment for that of the officer and the trial court and does not acknowledge that an officer may lawfully detain a driver who has committed no traffic offense but is suspected of driving while intoxicated.
Read dissent.

Commentary

What else is a police officer supposed to do? Just ignore obviously aggressive driving behavior by another driver? It was the defendant himself who placed his vehicle so close to one of the officer's vehicles that he could not drive away when the other officer's vehicle arrived. Appellate courts have got to recognize that a police officer should be allowed to conduct even a brief investigation, even if an actual traffic violation has technically not been committed. Hopefully, since there is a dissenting opinion, the Court of Criminal Appeals will accept review of this decision.

Jacobs v. State - 6th COA

08/07/09 : Cite No. 06-08-00048-CR : Post-conviction DNA testing

Issue

Did the trial court correctly deny the defendant's motion for post-conviction testing following his 1997 conviction and life sentence for aggravated sexual assault?

Holding

Yes. Testing hair samples found in the defendant's truck would be useless to provide exculpatory evidence because the hairs did not contain the necessary root material or skin cells. No material existed that could be tested to potentially provide exculpatory evidence.
Read opinion.

Commentary

As of late, the Court of Criminal Appeals has leaned much more towards requiring post-conviction DNA testing. But if the court of appeals is correct that there is nothing in this case to test, the decision should stand.

Texas Attorney General

Opinion for the 79th Judicial District Attorney

08/06/09 : Opinion No. GA-0735 : Bail Bond Board

Issue

May a county bail bond board impose a fee on bonding companies to pay for the cost of employing a bail bond administrator under Occupations Code §1704.101 or any other statute?

Holding

No. A county bail bond board may not impose a fee on bonding companies to pay for the cost of employing a bail bond administrator.
Read opinion.

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