Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Defendant has No Clothes!

In perusing the recently published cases of the various Texas Courts of Appeals, I came across Powell v. Texas, a case from the 9th District (Beaumont). If you are in need of a good laugh and you have a few minutes to spare, you should consider reading the full opinion HERE.  I will give you the highlights.

Powell was on trial for assaulting a prison guard. During the trial (while in the holding cell and in open court) the defendant was continually disruptive. The judge admonished Powell numerous times and ended up having to shackle both his arms and feet (there was a skirt around the table so that the jury could not see the shackles). During one of the recesses, Powell ripped his shirt off in the holding cell and use it to wipe his butt. When he returned to court, he could no longer wear his shirt because it had feces on it! The defense counsel offered to retrieve a new shirt from his car, but the judge denied the request. Powell was offered a jacket by the bailiff, but he refused to wear it. For the remainder of the trial that day, Powell sat shirtless in front of the jury, exposing his many tattoos.

On appeal (after Powell received a 65-years sentence), Powell complained that the judge erred by refusing to allow his lawyer to retrieve another shirt for him to wear and for making him endure the remainder of the day shirtless in front of the jury. Applauding the moxy of the trial judge in trying to maintain order in his court, the 9th District Court of Appeals, nonetheless held that the judge committed error by allowing the shirtless spectacle to occur. However, the Court upheld the results, concluding that the State had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the error did not contribute to the jury's verdict.

Word to the wise: If you think that your client might possibly rip off his shirt and use it for toilet paper, bring more shirts with you to the courtroom so that you don't have to delay the trial in order to clothe your client. (More shirts could also come in handy if your client needs to use the restroom later in the day)