Articles Posted in Dallas Criminal Justice

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-

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.

Today’s Dallas Court of Appeals case of the day is- Lowell Merritt vs. The State of Texas!

What happened? From the opinion.

The events leading up to appellant’s indictment on a felony retaliation charge began in July 2007 when appellant’s neighbor reported that appellant “cussed” his wife. After reviewing the report, a Collin County sheriff’s deputy filed a disorderly conduct complaint against appellant in the Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Court of Terry Douglas.

“Will this be on my record?” is a common client concern. After all, in the information age employers, friends, enemies et al, all have access to your complete criminal history with only a few clicks of the mouse. Criminal cases can leave a permanent scar. You can spend a lifetime explaining that misdemeanor pot charge you got in your 20’s. Ergo, it’s important the before you plead guilty and accept that “great” plea offer, you understand the long term effects on your criminal history.

Unfortunately, the idea that a deferred case can be expunged is probably the most common erroneous legal advice given. (Disclaimer- class c/traffic tickets can be expunged after deferred). Many defendants plead guilty thinking, again erroneously, that since a deferred case is dismissed upon a succsefful completion of probation, and leaves no conviction, they should be entitled to an expunction.

Dallas County is seeking to end the confusion with a new written admonishment, which lays out the expunction/non disclsoure ramifications of a deferred plea. I OCR’ed the text so you don’t to read the PDF.

I had another two court day; morning in Dallas, and afternoon in Kaufman. I had a few passes and an open plea in Dallas. I saw a few friends at the courthouse one of whom pointed out a MADD courthouse runner.

MADD sends spies to the courthouse to monitor the DWI cases. I’ve never actually seen one until today. He was an earnest looking young man armed with a notebook. I wonder who he reports to and what he is reporting? If I see him again I’ll ask.

On my open plea- I had a DWI case (don’t tell MADD), the state made a plea offer but we chose to plead open to the judge.

Jury selection is art and science, part Dr. Phil, part Dr. Freud with some law thrown in for good measure. It’s an area law schools provide no practical instruction for, yet no lawyer can try a case without knowing how to select a jury.

What law students are taught is Batson vs. Kentucky.
Batson purported to end the practice of striking jurors based on race or ethnicity. This rule was later swallowed by the exception, but for a shining moment, the right to serve on a jury regardless of your race was protected by the Batson challenge.

What is a Batson challenge?

Kaufman is the county east of Dallas. Geographically we are neighbors, but we each have unique criminal justice systems. As a lawyer who operates in both worlds let me offer a comparison.

First, the part of criminal defense that actually matters is the same in both counties. The law, working the facts, investigating the investigation, etc doesn’t change no matter where you are. I believe there can be an advantage to hiring a local attorney. However, defendants are better served hiring a great defense lawyer, not a local one.

It’s the little things that are different. There is no quicker way to incur the wrath of a clerk or court coordinator than to violate local custom. Forget to hole punch your pages? Forget to have the ADA sign a pass slip? Staple something that shouldn’t be stapled? No soup for you, carpetbagger!

Not all cops are bad. But every department has a few Officer Powells on the force. Besides harassing motorists on their way to the ER Officer Powell also attempted at least one DWI arrest. Allegedly, he (shock!) told conflicting stories at the scene, on the stand, and in his police reports.

From DMN

In one Denton County case, dismissed by prosecutors last year, Powell can be heard on his dashboard video camera acting hostile toward a man he pulled over for speeding.

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