Articles Posted in Evidence

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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In Texas, the State must produce sufficient evidence of a crime to support a defendant’s conviction. If a defendant is convicted despite insufficient evidence, he or she may be able to have his or her conviction overturned. For some crimes, such as assault of a family member, a defendant can be convicted based solely on the victim’s testimony.

This was explained in a recent case in which a Texas appellate court upheld the defendant’s assault conviction, despite the fact that the only evidence of the assault was the victim’s testimony. If you are facing assault charges, you should meet with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to formulate a plan for your defense.

The Alleged Assault and Trial

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with assault causing bodily injury to a family member. During the trial, the defendant’s wife testified that she and the defendant were in a car when they began arguing. At one point, the defendant threatened to hit his wife. The defendant then pulled over and struck his wife. He began driving again but pulled over a second time and pulled his wife out of the car and threw her to the ground and kicked and hit her. The defendant then left the scene and the wife called 911. During the 911 call, she reported that she and her husband were arguing and the defendant hit her in the head. The wife also testified that she felt pain due to her injuries.

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For many crimes, in addition to proving that the defendant committed an illegal act, the state must prove the defendant’s state of mind at the time the act was committed to convict a defendant of a crime.  In most cases, the state will show intent by producing evidence that allows the fact finder to infer the defendants’ state of mind at the time a crime was allegedly committed.

Recently, in Johnson v. State of Texas, the court found that the state had produced sufficient evidence of the defendant’s intent to commit theft, based on communications and transactions the defendant had with his victims. If you are facing theft charges, you should consult an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney to discuss what evidence the state has in support of the charges against you and to assess the most appropriate action going forward based on the facts of your case.

Defendant’s Contracts and Transactions

Reportedly, the defendant ran a mortuary. He did not perform cremations at his place of business but subcontracted that work to other entities. It became evident that he was accepting payments for cremations that were not performed when the defendant’s landlord visited his place of business and found several decaying bodies. The defendant was subsequently charged with two counts of theft for taking money to perform services that were never performed. A jury convicted the defendant of the charges, after which he appealed. On appeal, the court of appeals found insufficient evidence to sustain the convictions and, therefore, reversed the convictions. The state then petitioned the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas for review.

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In Texas criminal courts, the state must advise the jury of the charges a defendant faces and the elements of any charge. If the charges submitted to the jury are improper, it can result in an unjust conviction or inappropriate sentence. In Walker v. Texas, the Court of Appeals of Texas held that instructing a jury on the issue of assault with a deadly weapon in a case where the defendant only used his hands during the assault was not an error, because hands could be used as deadly weapons. If you face assault charges, it is important to obtain an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney to thoroughly explain all the charges and help you prepare a strong defense.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant and his alleged victim lived together for three years. They began arguing, after which the defendant allegedly grabbed the victim, threw her across the room, and placed his arm across her neck. The defendant only used his hands during the assault. The victim later testified that she wanted the defendant to stop hurting her but she was not fearful that he was going to kill her. The day after the assault, the victim met with police and sought treatment for her injuries. The police investigated the incident and ultimately charged the defendant with third-degree felony assault family violence. During the trial, the investigating officer testified that hands could be used as deadly weapons.

Allegedly, at the end of the trial, the jury was provided with instructions that included an issue regarding the defendant’s use of a deadly weapon. During deliberations, the jury stated it reached a unanimous decision on the assault charge but not on the deadly weapon issue. The state ultimately waived the deadly weapon issue and the jury convicted the defendant on the assault charge. The defendant appealed. On appeal, his conviction was affirmed.

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WASHINGTON (CN) – Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor teamed up for a dissent Monday after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal over forensic witnesses in criminal trials.

breathalyzerEarly on in the 4-page opinion, Gorsuch quotes precedent to laud cross-examination as possibly “the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

“The Constitution promises every person accused of a crime the right to confront his accusers,” Gorsuch wrote.

In a Texas criminal trial, a jury deliberating on a suspect’s guilt is given instructions as to the elements of the crime the suspect is charged with, and advised they must find each element is satisfied to find the suspect guilty. As shown in Niles v. Texas, where a jury is not properly informed of the charges a suspect faces, a suspect can be wrongfully convicted and unjustly sentenced for a crime he or she did not commit.  As such, if you are facing criminal charges, it is essential to retain a Texas criminal defense attorney who will ensure the jury is properly instructed as to the crimes alleged, to prevent an inappropriate conviction.

Facts of the Case

The suspect was a Houston firefighter. Allegedly, during a shift it was revealed that the suspect did not have a valid driver’s license, and he was ordered not to drive and directed to get a valid driver’s license before his next shift. In response, he purportedly stated he was going to start shooting people, and later stated he was going to kill everyone in the fire station. The suspect had several guns in his vehicle and explained in detail the manner and order in which he would kill people. The suspect made similar comments on other occasions, after which he was advised not to return to the fire station.

As with any contract, parties drafting a pre-marital agreement prior to getting married should take the utmost care to ensure they fully understand the terms of the agreement and how their conduct can affect their right to recover under the agreement. The Texas courts favor the right to contractual freedom, and it is very difficult to get them to overturn a pre-marital agreement. In the Matter of the Marriage of I.C. and Q.C., the Texas Supreme Court recently denied a wife’s request to rescind a pre-marital agreement due to husband’s failure to make required payments, and found that her effort to rescind the agreement resulted in a forfeiture of her right to certain assets. If you are held to a pre-marital agreement and are considering ending your marriage, a Texas family law attorney can assist you in understanding the terms of your agreement and how certain actions can impact your right to distribution of marital assets.

In The Matter of the Marriage of I.C. and Q.C., wife and husband signed a pre-marital agreement that stated wife would receive a lump sum payment of $5 million if the parties divorced. The agreement contained a clause that stated, in part, if wife tried to invalidate the agreement she would forfeit her right to the lump sum payment.

Husband filed for divorce. Wife petitioned to enforce the agreement, which required husband to make certain payments to wife. Husband fell behind in payments, and wife petitioned the court to require him to pay past due amounts, which the court granted. Wife then filed a counter-petition for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and requested rescission of the agreement. In response, husband filed a declaratory judgment asking the court to rule that by seeking rescission wife waived her right to the lump sum payment, and filed a motion for summary judgment on his declaratory judgment. Following a trial, a jury found wife’s request to rescind the agreement was excused due to husband’s breach by failure to make payments. Husband requested a new trial, which the court granted. The court subsequently granted husband’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether wife waived her right to the lump sum payment. Wife petitioned the Supreme Court of Texas for review, which they granted.

Under Texas law, a party seeking to introduce evidence at a trial must comply with statutory requirements. Texas criminal defense attorneys frequently object to the admission of evidence that was obtained illegally, and are able to prevent such evidence from being used against their client. Recently, the question arose as to whether the state has to prove statutory compliance where there is no inference the evidence it seeks to introduce was obtained in violation of a statute. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas addressed this issue in White v. Texas, and ultimately held that the question could not be answered with a bright-line rule. As such, it remains unclear who bears the initial burden of proof regarding whether evidence was obtained in compliance with applicable statutes.

In White, Defendant was charged with organized criminal activity and money laundering. At his trial, the prosecution introduced an audio recording of a conversation between Defendant, his co-defendant, and an individual named Brandon, in which they discussed a plan to steal funds from a client. Defendant objected that the recording was inadmissible because it was obtained in violation of illegal wiretapping laws. The court overruled his objection and Defendant was convicted. He appealed, arguing that because the state failed to prove the recording was obtained legally his conviction should be overturned. The Fifth Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. On further appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas found the recording was not barred by the rule of criminal procedure prohibiting illegally obtained evidence and affirmed Defendant’s conviction.

In evaluating whether Defendant’s conviction should be overturned, the Court of Criminal Appeals stated that while the proponent of evidence generally must prove to the court the basis for its admissibility, the burden is not triggered unless a specific objection is made to the evidence.  The court noted that the court of appeals erroneously placed the burden of proof regarding the admissibility on Defendant rather than the state, but nevertheless held the recording was admissible based on the evidence as a whole. Specifically, the state presented uncontroverted witness testimony regarding the fact that Brandon, one of the parties to the conversation in the recording, made the recording and provided it to the state, prior to any objection as to its admissibility. As such, since the state presented evidence the recording was obtained legally and Defendant did not present any evidence to the contrary, the court held the recording was properly admitted.

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