Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
No. PD-0449-21 9/21/22
Did the trial judge incorrectly cause harm to the defendant by submitting a jury instruction that included the definition for “intentionally” as it related both to the nature of the defendant’s conduct in murdering the victim by strangulation and the result of his conduct?
No. “Assuming the jury charge provided an erroneous definition for ‘intentionally’ because it was improperly tailored to the result-of-conduct offense at issue, we conclude that on this record, [the defendant] was not harmed by any such error.” Read opinion.
With this case, the CCA reminds us that definitions and instructions in the jury charge must limit the scope of the four distinct culpable mental states to the particular “conduct element” of the alleged crime (i.e., restricted to: 1) nature of conduct; 2) result of conduct; or 3) the circumstances surrounding the conduct, as appropriate). Here, although the abstract definition of “intentionally” was improperly overbroad, the CCA deemed the error harmless because, among other factors, the application paragraph clearly directed the jurors to the correct portion of the definition. Because an error in one portion of a jury charge can often be ameliorated by other, correct portions of the charge, please carefully review jury charges in their entirety and help the trial court provide the jury with the most accurate and appropriate charge possible.
Nos. WR-91,197-01 & -91,197-02 9/21/22
Is a defendant convicted of multiple charges of indecency with a child by exposure in the same proceeding required to register as a sex offender for life?
Yes. Code of Criminal Procedure Article 62.101(a)(4) does not require that one conviction be final before the second conviction is received. “Thus, a sex offender can be required to register for life if he or she receives two separate convictions for the offense of indecency with a child, even if they are adjudicated in the same proceeding.” Read opinion.
Concurrence (Yeary, J.):
The concurrence agrees with the plurality opinion except for: 1) the way it framed its approach to statutory interpretation, and 2) “what I consider to be an incorrect construction of Section 12.42(d) of the Texas Penal Code. Read concurrence.
Dissent (Keller, P.J.):
The Court’s holding “is at odds with the general principle that judicial acts occurring on the same day are considered to have occurred at the same time. … Moreover, the Court’s holding imposes a burden on registration authorities that the legislature almost certainly did not contemplate: the need to review a court-reporter’s record to determine how long someone is required to register.” Read dissent.
Dissent (Walker, J., joined by Keller, P.J.):
“Under the majority’s reasoning, the convictions would have to occur ‘simultaneously’—at the same, exact, discrete point in time—to not be considered ‘before or after’ one another. The problem with the majority’s reasoning is that it does not actually leave room for two convictions to occur simultaneously, as there will always be aspects of one case that will be articulated before the other.” Read dissent.
If you’re looking to dive into statutory interpretation of the phrase “before or after” in Article 62.101(a)(4), this is the case for you. Notably, though, the CCA explains in its opinion that application of this case will be limited to only two situations: 1) when, as here, a defendant receives a conviction for indecency with a child by exposure, along with another reportable conviction or adjudication received on the same day or in the same proceeding; and 2) when a defendant receives a conviction for unlawful restraint, abduction, or aggravated kidnapping (without the intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually) committed against a child, along with an additional reportable conviction or adjudication received on the same day or in the same proceeding. Thus, this case will not affect cases in which a defendant receives reportable convictions or adjudications on different days or in separate proceedings, wherein it was already clear that the defendant would be subject to a lifetime sex-offender-registration requirement.
Texas Attorney General Opinions
Does a magistrate have authority to modify a bond set by a magistrate in a different county where the accused was arrested?
A court would likely conclude that a magistrate who issued an arrest warrant executed in another county may, until charges are filed in the appropriate court, modify a bond set by a magistrate from the arresting county under Code of Criminal Procedure Article 17.09, §3. Article 17.09 does not expressly condition the authority to modify bonds on whether the new bond conditions sought are mandatory or discretionary. Read opinion.