Weekly Case Summaries: February 19, 2010

Supreme Court of Texas

In the Matter of R.D.

02/12/10 : Cite No. 09-343

Issue:

Did the juvenile's motion for new trial challenging (1) the sufficiency of the evidence generally and (2) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the deadly weapon finding specifically preserve his complaint challenging the evidentiary basis for the jury's rejection of his affirmative defense of duress?

Holding:

Yes, the jury's delinquency finding subsumed its rejection of the affirmative defense. The intermediate courts must "construe the Rules of Appellate Procedure reasonably, yet liberally, so that the right to appeal is not lost by imposing requirements not absolutely necessary to effect the purpose of the rule." Read Opinion.

Commentary:

This decision was decided in the juvenile defendant's favor. Well, sort of. In some juvenile-law circles, the contention has been made that juvenile defendants should not be required to preserve error on a insufficiency claim by making the claim in a motion for new trial--mainly because adult criminal defendants are not required to preserve error on insufficiency claims. But the Supreme Court has--with this decision--maintained the status quo. While the rules are indeed liberalized, a juvenile defendant is still required to preserve error on an insufficiency claim by making that claim in a motion for new trial. 

Texas Courts of Appeals

Williams v. State - 6th COA

02/10/10 : Cite No. 06-09-00028-CR

Issue:

(1) Was there legally and factually sufficient evidence to support conviction for continuous sexual abuse? (2) Was the defendant's jury instruction on a unanimous verdict improperly denied? (3) Is TPC sec. 21.02 constitutional?

Holding:

(1) Yes, a jury could find 2 or more acts of sexual abuse over span of 30 or more days. (2) The requested charge was substantially the same as the one submitted, which adequately tracked the statute. (3) The challenges to the constitutionality of the statute were not preserved. Nevertheless, in a footnote, the Court expressed concern about the validity of the statute. Read Opinion.

Commentary:

This is one of the first--but not the last--considerations of the continuous sexual abuse statute in a Texas appellate court. You should not be concerned about the constitutionality of the statute, however. As even noted in the court's own footnote, many appellate courts across the nation have upheld similar statutes. And the facts of this case are precisely the reason why the continuous sexual abuse statute was enacted in the first place. A defendant should not be able to exonerate himself by committing multiple sexual abuses of a child victim, so that she cannot sufficiently distinguish among them, and so that the State cannot practically make an election as to which specific act it wishes to seek a conviction.

Reese v. State - 6th COA

02/10/10 : Cite No. 06-09-00159-CR

Issue:

After the defendant absented himself from his DWI trial and was later apprehended, could the trial court stack the defendant's sentence for bail jumping/failure to appear on the sentence for DWI?

Holding:

Yes, the offenses of bail jumping/ failure to appear and DWI were not part of the same criminal episode requiring the imposition of concurrent sentences, and there is no requirement that the sentence in the first conviction be imposed before a sentence in the second conviction can be stacked on the first sentence. Read Opinion.

Commentary:

This is a great decision. Moral to the story if you are a defendant: Don't bail jump. Moral to the story if you are a prosecutor: If your defendant jumps his bail, make sure that you ask for consecutive sentences. A defendant should not be permitted to profit from his criminal conduct, and that is exactly what he would be doing if concurrent sentences were required in this situation. 

Gonzalez-Gilando - 7th COA

02/10/10 : Cite No. 07-09-0290-CR

Issue:

Did the police have authority to conduct a traffic stop which led a drug arrest?

Holding:

No. Evidence that the occupants looked away from officers and turned their hats forward while traveling in an older person's type of car, which was clean, and following road rules does not constitute evidence of criminal activity or reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot. Read Opinion.

Commentary:

You might be saying to yourself, "Self, surely this was not all of the information that the officers had in order to conduct a detention of the defendant." Well, they also checked a database to determine if there was liability insurance on the defendant's vehicle. The court of appeals refused to credit that as a basis for the officers' actions because insufficient information was developed concerning the source, content, and reliability of the database. It is not clear whether this liability insurance database will be sufficient to allow an officer to stop a vehicle. But if you are going to rely upon such a database in order to justify an officer's actions (even in part), make sure that you solve the issues that concerned the court of appeals in this case.

In the Matter of the Expunction of D.R.R. - 8th COA

02/10/10 : Cite No. 08-08-00064-CV

Issue:

Did the trial court properly grant a 17-year-old an expunction on grounds that, as a part of his plea bargain agreement enrolling him in a pre-trial diversion program, he lacked capacity to contract so as to waive his right to an expunction?

Holding:

No. The defendant could contract to plead guilty, so he could also contract to waive his right to an expunction. Read Opinion.

Dissent:

The defendant's minority disability was still intact, so his waiver is voidable. Also, the district attorney's policy of requiring the waiver of the right to expunction seems to contradict the policy behind the expunction statutes. [Text of dissent included with majority opinion above.]

Commentary:

Yes, a plea agreement is a contract. But don't get carried away. If the defendant was right in this case, a juvenile defendant technically could never enter into a plea agreement.

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