Articles Posted in Criminal Appeals

The Supreme Court heard arguments in McNeely vs Missouri this week. The issue was whether the 4th Amendment’s requirement for a warrant actually applies to DWI blood draws. The defendant in Mcneely refused to give a breath specimen, so the police just held him down and took his blood, which was allowed by statute in Missouri.

This should be a straight forward issue; the State shouldn’t be able to simply over turn the bill of rights by statute.. Blood draws are a search, a very intrusive search at that, and we require warrants for searches. Of course, DWI and drug prosecutions are the tip of the spear when it comes to destroying the bill of rights. We’ve lost more freedom to save dope convictions and DWI cases than we’ll ever get back.

The Government in McNeely argued that every DWI is an emergency, so they shouldn’t have to get a warrant. That’s a pretty broad definition of emergency and it really makes the government look lazy. I’m sure it would be easier to just ignore the 4th Amendment and let the conviction machine run unabated. But that’s the point, we require warrants because we can not trust the government to do the right thing. We want to limit the power of government to act without oversight.

You know, I can be pretty hard of appellate decisions I don’t agree with. One of my main sources of blog inspiration is outrage at the loss of civil liberties through appellate decisions. It’s only fair that I point out when our State’s highest criminal court does something right, and today is that day.

Today’s case of the day is Leonard vs. State, the Sequel!

What happened?

Today the Dallas Court of Appeals reversed a sexual assault of a child conviction. The case is Wiseman vs. State. This case highlights the limits of expert testimony on the issue of honesty. Basically, an expert can’t offer an opinion that certain groups of people lie, or certain groups tell the truth.

The expert testified that only 2% of children make up sexual assault allegations, and that most of those false allegations are from child custody cases. Fortunately, even in convict-at-all-Texas we don’t allow trial by statistics.

What’s the law on sexual assault experts? From the opinion-

What happens when an inmate sues the sheriff for open records information?

Today’s case of the day is In Re Brian Edwards Johnson-

In 2008 Brian Edwards Johnson was incarcerated in the Kaufman County jail and sustained an injury. Not sure why he was in jail, or what the injury was. In 2011, Johnson was still an inmate (not sure where) and he filed an open records request to obtain records regarding the 2008 injury. The Sheriff denied the request and asked the AG to rule on the issue. The AG agreed with the Sheriff. Johnson filed suit and appealed to the 5th District in Dallas.

A Kaufman County conviction for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender was reversed last week for factual insufficiency. Basically, it appears the State indicted the defendant under the wrong section of the code of criminal procedure. Factual insufficiency reversals are pretty rare, so let’s walk through how the court reached it’s decision.

Today’s case of the day is- Roberts vs. State.

What happened?

I’m amazed on how banal DWI blood warrants have become. Maybe I shouldn’t be. Look how far we’ve come in just a few shorts years. The TSA molests plane passengers without cause, and it’s largely a non-issue. The police can demand that you give them your blood, and few seem to care. We’ve had DPS drones deployed for while (since discontinued) and… no one cared. I’m wondering what it willl take before privacy and liberty enter our political lexicon. Is there anything the public won’t suffer in the name of public safety? Moving on.

Let’s talk blood warrant appeals. Today’s CCA case of the day is Sanchez vs. State-

What happened? A judge from Montgomery county signed a warrant to take Sanchez’ blood in Harris County.

Here’s a paragraph that makes my libertarian blood boil.

So, while the initial stop itself was illegal (emphasis mine), Grijalva never went beyond the bounds of what would have been constitutionally permissible had the stop in fact been justified at its inception. Under these circumstances, applying the law, as we have explicated it in this opinion, to the undisputed facts of the case in our de novo review, we conclude that the behavior of the arresting officers, although clearly unlawful at the outset, was not so particularly purposeful and flagrant that the discovery of the appellee’s outstanding arrest warrants may not serve to break the causal connection between the illegal stop and the discovery of the ecstasy in the appellee’s pants pocket, thus purging the primary taint.

The cops acted illegally, but that’s ok. Ugh.

Today’s case of the day is Mazuca vs. State, from El Paso.

One reason Texas convicts so many innocent people is our lax standards for allowing the State to admit “scientific” evidence at trial. Given the State’s nearly limitless resources for experts, supply is racing to catch up with demand, whether or not the science is sound or not.

Trial courts are supposed to be the gatekeepers of scientific evidence and limit what the jury can hear. That sounds great in theory, but in practice the State almost always gets in whatever “expert” they designate. It was this atmosphere that allowed the complete bullshit “science” of “dog scent lineups” to pollute our courtrooms.

The latest victim of junk science is Michael Arena. Michael was wrongfully convicted (his “victim” has completely recanted, stating that she was coerced by her mother to lie) of sexual assault, and sentenced to 20 years.

I often have a hard time quickly explaining to my non-lawyer friends exactly how the appeals system is stacked against criminal defendants. Fortunately today’s case, Barnes vs. State, crystallizes how the constitutional rights of defendants are effectively waived through nonsense technicalities. It’s a Kaufman County Drug case, appealed to the 5th District in Dallas.

What happened?

Barnes filed a motion to suppress claiming the police investigation was unconstitutional. Specifically, Barnes sought to exclude statements made during the investigation. This motion was denied (as are most motions to suppress).

Today’s case of the day is Michael Scott Page vs. The State of Texas. It’s a Kaufman County weapons case that was appealed to the 5th Circuit in Dallas.

What happened?

Michael was out on bond (agg assault). While on bond Michael told his neighbor he we was going to blow up the courthouse. Michael’s neighbor called the police and relayed the details of this conversation. Michael’s bond was then declared insufficient (a topic for another post) and an arrest warrant was issued.

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