Texas Court of Appeals
Byrne v. State – 4th COA
No. 04-11-00150-CR : 11/16/11
Is the strict liability offense of PC §22.011(a)(2(A) (statutory rape) constitutionally infirm under either the federal due process of law or the state due course of law provisions because it lacks a culpable mental state for the age of the child, thereby precluding the affirmative defense of mistake of fact?
No, the statute is not facially unconstitutional. The state constitution permits strict liability offenses. Also, under the federal constitution, the offense is not arbitrary or capricious and does not violate a fundamental right. Moreover, federal courts have consistently held strict liability penal statutes for the protection of children from sexual abuse to be valid exercises of state power. Finally, although the issue was not preserved, PC §6.02 does not impose a culpable mental state relating to the victim’s age.
This appeal doesn’t raise any issue that hasn’t already been litigated. But the opinion provides a solid summary of the constitutional standard and relevant cases and rejects both state and federal constitutional arguments. Strict liability laws, such as speeding, DWI, running a red light and sexual assault of underage children, are constitutional.
Desormeaux v. State – 9th COA
No. 09-11-00035-CR : 11/16/11
After an acquittal for capital murder, is a defendant’s prosecution for injury to a child by failing to obtain medical care barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel?
No, not here. The jury in the first trial decided whether the defendant intentionally or knowingly committed an act that caused the child’s death. The defendant’s failure to seek medical treatment for the child was not necessarily decided.
This case provides quite an example of the complexities associated with prosecuting a parent or caretaker for the death of a child when it is unclear who committed the assaultive conduct and who knew about it but didn’t protect the child or seek medical care. The ying and yang of act v. omission is well-discussed in this opinion