Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Can an Affirmative "Deadly Weapon" Finding be Implied?

According to the CCA, in Crumpton v. State, it can.

In a 5-4 opinion with 2 separate dissents, the CCA disregarded its prior holdings in Polk v. State, 693 S.W.2d 391 (Tex.Cr.App. 1985) and LaFleur v. State, 106 S.W.3d 91 (Tex.Cr.App. 2003), concluding that a jury verdict of guilty to criminally negligent homicide (as a lesser-included offense of manslaughter) implies an affirmative "deadly weapon" finding regardless of whether the jury has seen a deadly weapon clause associated with the LIO.

In reaching this decision, the Court relied on Blount v. State, 257 S.W.3d 712 (Tex.Cr.App. 2008) wherein it held that the indictment itself was adequate notice that there would be an issue of use of a deadly weapon. As the dissent points out, however, the thrust of Blount regarded whether the defendant was on "notice," an issue that was not raised in Crumpton.  The appellant in Crumpton argued that the jury was not charged and did not make an express deadly weapon finding when it returned its verdict - the court simply entered a deadly weapon finding as a logical (although not express) result of a guilty verdict to the LIO of criminally negligent homicide (because a homicide necessarily includes use of a deadly weapon or else no one would be dead).

In this case the CCA seems to have checked its reasoning and precedent at the door in order to uphold a conviction at all costs. By examining past CCA caselaw and distinguishing between the issues of "notice" and "express findings," Justice Meyers' dissent should have been the majority opinion.