Weekly Case Summaries: December 7, 2018

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Jenkins v. State

No. PD-0086-18                       12/5/18

Issue:

Is an indictment that does not state the name of the accused in the body void on its face?

Holding:

No. Although Code of Criminal Proc. Art. 21.02 requires an indictment to contain the name of the accused, this defect does not automatically render the indictment void. A defective indictment may still be valid if “the face of the charging instrument is clear enough to give [a defendant] adequate notice of the charge against him.” Here, the defendant was given adequate notice by the caption of the indictment containing his name, address, and SID number. Read opinion.

Concurrence (Keller, P.J.):

“It is good that the Court holds that Cook has been implicitly disavowed by our more recent cases. Unfortunately, I cannot join the Court’s opinion because it is mistaken in describing our holding in Cook. … The Court errs in accepting the premise that a conviction is void if the charging instrument fails to name a specific person. As unsound as Cook was, even it did not go that far. Under the Court’s opinion, the conviction in this case would be void if Appellant’s name had not happened to appear elsewhere on the charging instrument. This is just the kind of result that the 1985 amendment to Article V, Section 12(b) of the Texas Constitution, and the enactment of [Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 1.14(b)] were intended to eliminate.” Read opinion.

Concurrence (Yeary, J.):

“I join the Court’s opinion today, with only one small caveat. The Court says: ‘In this case, the indictment did not “contain the name of the accused.”’ Majority Opinion at 11. This statement is true only as measured against the ‘specific formal requisites’ spelled out by statute. It is not an accurate statement, however, as measured against both Teal’s and Kirkpatrick’s assessments of the constitutional understanding of an indictment, which would include the broader ‘face’ of the indictment. If, when looking to ‘the indictment as a whole’—the ‘face’ of the indictment—it is possible to identify the name of the defendant,’ then we should just acknowledge that—for constitutional purposes—the indictment does ‘contain the name of the accused.’” Read opinion.

Commentary:

Do not read from the majority opinion that it is OK to omit the defendant’s name from the actual body of the indictment and just refer to the defendant as the “defendant.” It is not OK (at least according to the majority opinion). The fundamental issue in this case is whether that error is a “defect” to which the defendant must object or whether that error renders the indictment “void.” The court held that it was a defect. Because prosecutors should name the defendant in the body of the indictment, as required by Art. 21.02 at the very least, this issue should be rare. The most important thing about this decision may be that it will prevent a defendant or a court from further relying upon Cook v. State, which the court has disavowed.

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