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During criminal trials in Texas, it is not uncommon for either party to use demonstrative evidence such as video or audio recordings, or charts or drawings, to make issues clearer for the jury and to help the jury understand the evidence. The jury is still required to determine whether a defendant is guilty based on the factual evidence presented, however. Thus, if the State presents demonstrative evidence that induces the jury to come to a decision based on matters not in evidence, it can result in an unfair verdict. A Texas appellate court recently analyzed when demonstrative evidence goes too far, in a case in which the State showed a video of a lion at the zoo trying to eat a baby during a robbery trial. If you are currently charged with robbery or any other crime it is essential to retain a knowledgeable Texas criminal defense attorney to defend you against the charges you face in hopes of allowing you to retain your rights.

The Alleged Robbery and Subsequent Trial

Allegedly, in 2015, the defendant entered a convenience store and when no one else was around went up to the cashier and stated it was a “stick up” and that he had a weapon. He never showed the cashier a weapon, however. He then demanded money from the cashier and took food and beverages as well before walking out. He was apprehended a short time later with the items and money he stole in a backpack. He did not have any weapons when he was stopped. He was subsequently charged with robbery.

It is reported that during the punishment phase at trial, the State showed a video of a lion behind glass at the zoo appearing to attempt to eat a baby. Defense counsel objected to the use of the video, but the objection was overruled. The State then likened the defendant to the lion, suggesting he posed a threat outside of jail and should receive an enhanced sentence. The defendant was subsequently sentenced to 50 years in prison, after which he appealed.
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A Wisconsin DUI case in which police officers ordered the blood of an unconscious man be drawn for evidence without first getting a warrant was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Prosecutors argued that drawing the blood of unconscious drivers helps convict those who kill thousands of people a year in alcohol-related car accidents, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. They said the process of getting a warrant is too inconvenient and that Wisconsin’s implied consent law does not require officers to get a warrant before drawing the blood of those suspected of driving while intoxicated, including individuals who are unconscious at the time.

Prior convictions can have a detrimental impact during sentencing for a subsequent crime. For example, if a person who was previously convicted of a crime of violence is then convicted of another crime, he or she may face an enhanced sentenced due to the prior conviction. A federal appellate court recently analyzed whether an assault of a peace officer constituted a crime of violence so as to allow an enhanced sentence, in a case arising out of Texas. If you are charged with assault or a related crime it is in your best interest to speak with a skilled Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as you can to discuss your case.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

Allegedly, the defendant, who gained entry into the country illegally, was serving a sentence of five months in jail for multiple charges. During his sentence, he reportedly became angry after he requested a toothbrush and kicked a correctional officer in the genitals. He was charged with assault on a peace officer, to which he plead guilty. He was sentenced to three years in prison and then was deported. He re-entered the country after which he was charged with and convicted of unlawful re-entry.

Reportedly, an enhanced sentence was recommended, in part due to his prior assault conviction, which the court classified as a crime of violence. The defendant objected to the classification of an assault on a peace officer as a crime of violence. Specifically, the defendant argued that under Texas law, assault can be committed recklessly and does not require force as an element. His objection was denied, and he was sentenced to 38 months in prison, after which he appealed.

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HOUSTON (CN) – Unsealing a 43-count indictment, federal agents said they arrested 43 people Wednesday morning and seized millions of dollars from a Houston home, breaking up a cocaine-and-heroin trafficking operation involving an associate of the Gulf Cartel.

Houston DEA Special Agent in Charge Will Glaspy said the main target of the dragnet, dubbed Operation Wrecking Ball, is Mexican national Carlos Alberto Guajardo. Though Guajardo is the first of 56 people named in the indictment, he is still at large.

In any family law dispute, it is in the best interest of the parties involved if they can  come to an amicable agreement as to how issues should be resolved. Settlement agreements in family law cases are also viewed favorably by the courts. Under Texas law, if the parties in a divorce action enter into a mediated settlement agreement (MSA), the agreement is like any other contract in that the terms of the agreement are binding upon the parties. Similarly, the court must respect the terms of an MSA in issuing a divorce decree.

If the courts enter a decree that is contrary to the terms of an MSA, it can result in a reversal of the decree, as was illustrated in a recent case decided by a Texas appellate court. If you are considering pursuing a divorce, it is in your best interest to meet with a seasoned Texas family law attorney to discuss your options for pursuing your desired result.

Terms of the Mediated Settlement Agreement

Reportedly, the parties were married for six months when the husband filed a petition for divorce. The petition alleged, in part, that the parties were the parents of two children of the marriage. The wife filed a general denial in response to the petition. The parties then entered into an MSA which stated, in part, that the husband would continue the adoption process of the first minor child, and that the wife consented to the adoption. The MSA also stated it was not subject to revocation. The husband subsequently filed a motion to enter a final divorce decree. The wife retained new counsel who then filed an amended answer, denying the husband’s parentage of the first minor child. The court held a hearing as to the child’s parentage, and ultimately entered a decree stating that the parties were the parents of both children. The wife appealed.

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When she died alone in her hotel room after her father’s birthday party, Autumn Rupkey’s blood alcohol level was nearly 0.5—more than five times the legal limit in Texas.

Alcoholic drink
“I have never seen a case with a blood alcohol level this high,” said plaintiffs lawyer Quentin Brogdon, who’s handled civil dram shop cases for 30 years and prosecuted drunken-driving cases for two years. “It’s amazing she was even walking around at the end.”

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The Justice Department today announced that PRG Real Estate Management and several related entities have agreed to pay up to $1,590,000 to resolve allegations that they violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by obtaining unlawful court judgments against military tenants and by charging improper lease termination fees. This settlement is the largest ever obtained by the Department against a landlord or property management company for violations of the SCRA.

Under the settlement, PRG will pay up to $1,490,000 million to compensate 127 servicemembers who had 152 unlawful default judgments entered against them and $34,920.39 to compensate 10 servicemembers who were charged early lease termination fees in violation of the SCRA. PRG will also pay a civil penalty of $62,029 to the United States. The settlement also requires PRG to repair the credit of affected servicemembers, provide SCRA training to its employees and develop new policies and procedures consistent with the SCRA.

Under Texas law, if the evidence is insufficient to convict a defendant of a crime, he or she may be convicted of a lesser included offense. In some cases, a defendant may choose to enter into a plea bargain to a lesser included offense to avoid a possible conviction for the greater offense. Typically, either the State or the defendant will ask the court to submit an instruction to the jury regarding a lesser including offense.

As a Texas appellate court recently held, however, the court may choose to provide the jury with an instruction as to a lesser included offense regardless of whether either party requested the instruction. If you face criminal charges, you should retain a capable Texas criminal defense attorney to help you fight to protect your rights.

The Defendant’s Charges and Trial

Allegedly, the defendant was stopped by the police while he was on a bus. He submitted to a pat-down, which ultimately led to the revelation that he was carrying 332 grams of cocaine. He was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, to which he plead not guilty. The defendant did not testify at his trial but did not dispute that he possessed the cocaine. Rather, the contested issue at trial was whether the defendant intended to distribute the cocaine. During his closing, the defendant’s attorney argued that because the State had not produced sufficient evidence that the defendant intended to distribute the cocaine, the defendant was not guilty of the charged offense.

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Under Texas law, if a person is convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI), in addition to any sentences or fines imposed following the conviction, he or she may face increased penalties for any subsequent DWI convictions.

A Texas Court of Appeals recently clarified, however, that while prior DWI convictions may be considered during the sentencing phase of any DWI conviction, the State is not permitted to introduce evidence of prior DWI convictions as an element of the offense charged during a trial to assess guilt or innocence. If you are charged with a DWI, you should consult a seasoned criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your available defenses.

The Defendant’s Trial

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with DWI. The information stated that she committed the offense of DWI on October 25, 2014. Additionally, it stated that on June 12, 2012, she was convicted of a DWI and therefore, the current offense was elevated from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor.

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In 2015, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that Moore did not have an intellectual disability and was eligible for the death penalty. The Supreme Court vacated the decision. The appeals court reconsidered but reached the same conclusion in 2018. The Supreme Court again reversed, noting evidence that “Moore had significant mental and social difficulties beginning at an early age. At 13, Moore lacked basic understanding of the days of the week, the months of the year, and the seasons; he could scarcely tell time or comprehend the standards of measure or the basic principle that subtraction is the reverse of addition … because of his limited ability to read and write, Moore could not keep up with lessons. … Moore’s father, teachers, and peers called him ‘stupid’ for his slow reading and speech. After failing every subject in the ninth grade, Moore dropped out of high school … survived on the streets, eating from trash cans.” The court of appeal employed the correct legal criteria, examining: deficits in intellectual functioning—primarily a test-related criterion; adaptive deficits, “assessed using both clinical evaluation and individualized . . . measures”.; and the onset of these deficits while the defendant was still a minor. The court focused on adaptive deficits and found the state’s expert witness more credible and reliable than the other experts The Supreme Court held that the opinion repeated the analysis previously found improper; it relied, in part, on prison-based development, considered “emotional problems, ” and employed some “lay stereotypes of the intellectually disabled.” Moore has shown he is a person with intellectual disability.

Read the full opinion HERE.

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