Weekly Case Summaries: April 9, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court

Berghuis v. Smith

03/31/10 : Cite No. 08-1402

Issue:

Was Berghuis's 6th Amendment right to be tried by an impartial jury drawn from sources reflecting a fair cross-section of the community violated?

Holding:

Unanimously, no. Berghuis failed to demonstrate that the prospective-juror-assignment procedure used in his case caused underrepresentation of African-Americans. Read Opinion.

Commentary:

Out of 60 to 100 prospective jurors, only three were African-American. The crime was committed at a bar where all of the 200 to 300 patrons were African-American. This case helps to show just how difficult it is for a defendant to prevail in a "fair cross-section" claim. If you are confronted with one of the rare occasions in which this claim is raised, this opinion will logically carry you through all the requirements.

Texas Courts of Appeals

Williams v. State

03/31/10 : Cite No. 06-09-00133-CR

Issue:

Was the evidence legally sufficient to support enhancement with two prior convictions where the defendant pleaded true to the enhancements but a certified copy of one of the prior convictions introduced as evidence by the State bore the notation that notice of appeal had been given in that case?

Holding:

No, there needed to be additional evidence that the questioned conviction had become final before it could be used as an enhancement. Read Opinion.

Dissent:

Yes. While the record of the prior conviction in question raised a question about its finality, itdoes not "affirmatively reflect" that the enhancement was improper.

Commentary:

The dissenting opinion may help get the attention of the Court of Criminal Appeals on petition for discretionary review, but I kind of doubt it. This just emphasizes the need to look over your judgments and sentences to make sure that they are final. The sad thing is that the introduction of the judgment and sentence into evidence was not necessary because the defendant had entered pleas of "true" to the enhancement paragraphs.

Meyer v. State

04/01/10 : Cite No. 06-09-00166-CR

Issue:

Must the court accept a 253-page brief from a pro se appellant?

Holding:

No, not after the court had provided two opportunities for the appellant to conform his brief to the Rules of Appellate Procedure. Meyer has not complied, and he "is engaged in a dilatory and bad faith abuse of the judicial process." Read Opinion.

Commentary:

Yet another example of the old adage that a person who represents himself has a fool for a client. But 253 pages? Wow.

Sauceda v. State

04/05/10 : Cite No. 07-09-0208-CR

Issue 1:

Was the trial court's written judgment ordering restitution valid?

Holding:

No, an order of restitution must be pronounced orally to support the written judgment, but the trial court omitted restitution when it orally pronounced the sentence in this case. Read Opinion.

Issue 2:

Was the trial court's order that the defendant pay attorneys fees valid?

Holding:

No, an indigent defendant who has been appointed counsel is presumed to lack the financial resources to reimburse a county for his attorneys' fees until proven otherwise.Read Opinion.

Commentary:

If you want restitution to be paid by the defendant, make sure that the trial judge orally pronounces it-on the record-from the bench.

Roberson v. State

04/01/10 : Cite No. 11-08-00161-CR

Issue 1:

Was the arresting officer authorized to detain a car's occupants for further investigation after he had written the driver a ticket, thereby satisfying the initial purpose of the traffic stop?

Holding:

Yes, the officer was authorized to detain the vehicle and its occupants long enough to verify the identities of, and check for any outstanding warrants for, the driver and the passengers, and his continuing investigation of possible drug running-including the use of a drug dog that arrived within minutes of its request-was based on a reasonable suspicion and did not last any longer than necessary to effectuate its purpose. Read Opinion.

Issue 2:

Was the evidence legally sufficient to convict Roberson of engaging in organized activity?

Holding:

No, there was no evidence connecting one of the three occupants of the car to "a combination working together in a continuing course of criminal activity." Read Opinion.

Commentary:

The sufficiency issue is very frustrating because, upon reading the facts of the case, you just KNOW that the driver of the vehicle is involved in the group's forgery activities. We just could not show it. But it is the detention issue that makes this wonderful opinion very helpful for prosecutors. Just because an officer has written and served the traffic citation does not mean that the purpose for the stop has concluded because, in any traffic stop, an officer can also check the occupants of the vehicle for their identities and any outstanding arrest warrants. If that part of the stop is still not completed, the officer can continue the detention without necessarily having additional reasonable suspicion in order to lengthen the detention for another possible offense.

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