Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Conspiracy to Conspire?

Here’s a quick update on some cases that were released last week. Links to the cases are provided.

Unquestionable Incompetency
Gonzales v. State, (Tex. Crim. App.), June 16, 2010 – Held: A trial judge is not required to conduct a competency hearing on his own initiative after hearing evidence that, due to alcohol or drug abuse, the defendant suffered amnesia with respect to events giving rise to the charged offense.

Cruel, but not Unusual
Davis v. State, (Tex. Crim. App.), June 16, 2010 – Held: Death sentence affirmed. Appellant raises 11 points of error challenging the propriety of the Texas Death Penalty scheme, including the allegation that death by lethal injection is unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment. Having considered and rejected these exact claims in previous cases, the CCA overruled all points of error and upheld the death sentence. (I guess in Texas, the death penalty, while arguably cruel, is by no means unusual.)

A Threat to Society From Behind Bars
Estrada v. State, (Tex. Crim. App.), June 16, 2010 – Held: For a non-parole eligible capital defendant, the relevant question to ask the jury, who is called upon to determine whether the death penalty should be levied, remains “whether there is a probability that the defendant would constitute a continuing threat to society whether in or out of prison.” The CCA rejected defendant’s argument that the issue should be restricted to future dangerousness in prison only (since he would be ineligible for parole). Side note – the death penalty was reversed and remanded on a separate issue (the State presented false and misleading testimony during the punishment phase).

Conspiracy to Conspire
Barrera v. State, (4th Dist.—San Antonio), June 16, 2010 – Held: “Conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping” and “engaging in organized criminal activity though conspiring to commit aggravated kidnapping” are not the same offense for double jeopardy purposes. (Truly a technical distinction with which I do not agree. Good thing there isn’t another offense on the books for “engaging in organized criminal activity by conspiring to engage in organized criminal activity”!)