Weekly Case Summaries: March 16, 2018

Texas Courts of Appeals

Spiers v. State

No. 14-16-00892-CR        3/8/18

Issue:

Can the cumulative force of non-accomplice evidence satisfy the corroboration requirement of Code of Crim. Proc. Art. 38.14 when no individual piece of evidence would do so?

Holding:

Yes. To determine if corroboration evidence is sufficient, accomplice testimony is eliminated and the remaining record is considered to see if there is any evidence connecting the defendant to the commission of the crime. Evidence of the defendant’s motive and opportunity are insufficient on their own to corroborate accomplice testimony but may be considered with other evidence, such as suspicious circumstances, strange behavior, or evidence that the defendant was near the scene of the crime. Even circumstances that appear insignificant when considered separately may cumulatively amount to sufficient evidence of corroboration. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This is a very fact-intensive decision, as is often the case with accomplice witness cases. None of the individual pieces of non-accomplice evidence in this case was particularly strong or noteworthy. But this case shows well how all of that non-accomplice evidence can be considered together to connect the defendant to the commission of the offense. Prosecutors relying upon accomplice witness testimony and circumstantial evidence should definitely read this decision.

Announcements

The Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Texas is holding its annual Animal Law Institute conference on Friday, April 27 in Austin. The conference is on animal cruelty and topics include the link between domestic violence and animal abuse, Texas animal cruelty laws 101, preparing and prosecuting animal cruelty cases, animal hoarding, dog fighting, ag gag laws, passing animal cruelty laws in Texas, and ethics. More information available here.

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