In a recent case before the First District Court in Texas, the defendant asked that his guilty verdict be reversed because of an error in the notes that the trial court gave the jury. Originally, the defendant was charged with aggravated assault after he allegedly injured a fellow inmate in prison, and his case went to trial. After receiving a guilty verdict and a subsequent sentence, the defendant appealed to the higher court.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was incarcerated for another crime, and he was in the routine of playing cards with his bunkmate most evenings while they were both in prison. During one game in particular, the defendant and his bunkmate argued about who won their game of poker, and a fight ensued. While the defendant and the bunkmate had different stories as to what exactly happened next, the bunkmate ended up severe injuries, including a broken nose and the loss of sight in one eye.
According to a prison employee, the bunkmate’s injuries were the worst he had ever seen while working for the prison. The State charged the defendant with aggravated assault, and he pleaded not guilty. The case then proceeded to trial.
A jury found the defendant guilty as charged, and he appealed promptly. In his appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court judge made an error when handing the jury members instructions before they went to deliberate. Apparently, the judge made handwritten markings on the jury’s instructions, and he circled and underlined certain facts that unnecessarily biased the jury during their deliberations. Because of this error, said the defendant, the guilty verdict was unfounded.
The higher court examined the document and was unable to conclude that the trial court judge had biased the jury in any way. There was no evidence on the record that the judge was the person that wrote on the instructions in the first place, nor that the jury members received the document the judge had marked up. It was just as likely, said the court, that jury members received a freshly typed document and that the copy with handwritten notes was mistakenly filed in the record. Either way, there was no evidence that the jury was swayed by the notes, and the court thus denied the defendant’s appeal.
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