Weekly Case Summaries: July 27, 2018

Texas Courts of Appeals

In re State of Texas

No. 08-18-00070-CR                         7/18/18

Issues:

May a trial court order the State to make photographic copies of digital child pornography images to admit them into evidence?

Holding:

No. Evidence may not be excluded as irrelevant simply because it is not offered in the format required by the trial court. While a trial court has broad discretion in managing the course of a trial, the court may not dictate the form a party’s evidence must take unless it is required to “ascertain[] the truth, promot[e] judicial economy, and protect[] witnesses.” Here, the court further abused its discretion by excluding the evidence as a punitive measure against the State for refusing to make paper copies of the images. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This case arises from an unusual mid-trial mandamus. The State had to prove that the trial court lacked any discretion as to the format of the evidence the State offered. While this case might be relevant to trial disputes about redaction, video format, and enlargements, prosecutors should read the opinion carefully before going to war over a trial exhibit.

State v. Smith

No. 06-18-00043-CR                         7/24/18

Issues:

Is a report that a man named “Smith” was banging on the complainant’s door and drove off in a “silver Mercedes pickup” sufficient to support reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop?

Holding:

No. Information provided to officers need not point toward an identifiable Penal Code offense but must have sufficient details and reliability to “support the reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is about to occur.” Here, the police report lacked details such as the duration of the banging, how loud it was, the nature of the relationship between the complainant and defendant, whether the defendant had threatened the complainant, or whether the defendant would return. The sparse report gave “no indication of crime being afoot.” Read opinion.

Commentary:

What seems to be missing here are the contents of the 911 call itself. Typically, a caller will either describe an offense or the 911 operator will ask sufficient questions that an offense is identifiable. The absence of information other than “pounding the door” may distinguish this case from Navarette v. California, 134 S.Ct. 1683 (2014) (911 call stating that a pickup truck nearly ran her off the road provided reasonable suspicion for traffic stop) and similar cases.

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