In a recent Texas criminal case, the defendant appealed the trial court decision, arguing that his conviction was the result of discovery violations, and false evidence, and was based on insufficient evidence. The defendant was convicted of possession of a controlled substance in Penalty Group 2, in an amount greater than or equal to one gram but less than four grams. The trial court then sentenced him to six years of incarceration.
Facts of the Case
The defendant was arrested for possessing vape cartridges containing what law enforcement officers believed to be THC. Following his arrest, the officers sent the confiscated cartridges to a laboratory under contract with the State of Texas. Ultimately, evidence and testimony from members of the laboratory resulted in the successful conviction of the defendant by the State. In particular, the laboratory’s director, Kelly Wouters, played a vital role in the State’s case.
While Wouters testified as a surrogate witness for the work and analysis performed by other people in the laboratory, questioning by the State gave the impression that Wouters himself had performed certain aspects of the hands-on analysis and tasks. When pressed on the issue, Wouters stated that he was in charge of supervision for those tasks, though he admitted that he was not personally in a position to know if a worker was violating protocols. Additionally, Wouters attempted to establish through his testimony that he personally participated in the laboratory quality control measures when it came to the analysis of the evidence in this case. In fact, he was not present for the lab testing or the implementation of quality control measures when it came to the examination of evidence in this case. Additionally, the State did not identify the specific employees that conducted the laboratory analysis that Wouters claimed to be responsible for.
The defendant’s attorney emphasized the importance of the laboratory records to the State, but the existence of additional laboratory workers was revealed only just prior to the beginning of the trial and the State downplayed the role that those workers played in the testing process. Additionally, based on testimony by an expert witness called by the defendant, the 39-page laboratory packet provided by the State was “grossly insufficient” and “significantly lacking” when it came to making meaningful conclusions from the data. Finally, the State’s laboratory expert testified that due to chemical tendencies, the content within the pods would convert to the illegal THC that was being tested for.
As a result of the facts presented during the trial, the defendant filed an appeal stating the following six issues. (1) The State withheld evidence establishing the surrogate role of their laboratory expert, denying the defendant his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers, (2) the State withheld evidence establishing the surrogate role of their testifying laboratory expert, denying the defendant the opportunity to object to the admissibility of scientific evidence, (3) the State withheld evidence of individuals performing significant laboratory roles, denying the defendant his Fifth and Sixth Amendment right to present a complete defense, (4) the State withheld evidence of flawed laboratory methodologies, denying the defendant his Fifth Amendment right to defend himself with the basic tools of an adequate defense, (5) the State created a false impression that their surrogate laboratory witness performed work he had not, resulting in a conviction resting upon false evidence, violating the defendant’s due process rights, and (6) the trial evidence is insufficient to show the defendant possessed a chemical mixture with a 0.3 percent THC given that the chemical mixture confiscated from the defendant increased after it was confiscated. As a result, the defendant’s claim requested that the appellate court reversed his conviction and render a judgment of acquittal or alternatively reverse and remand the decision, requiring the State to properly follow the rules of the court.
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