Thursday, November 4, 2010

Playing Catch-Up

While most of my recent focus has been on Texas Court of Criminal Appeals opinions, I have not been completely neglecting the various Courts of Appeals.  Below are some of the recent cases that were designated for publication by 1st, 4th, and 14th District Courts of Appeals.   

Mims v. State, 1st District Court of Appeals (Houston), 14 October 2010:

Appellant was convicted of first-degree arson and, after the court found that he used a deadly weapon (Fire), he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.  Appellant challenged the deadly weapon finding, arguing that fire cannot be a deadly weapon because it is not a tangible object and because it is one of the elements of the charged offense.  The Court held that

[A]lthough fire is not a physical object in the same sense as a gun or a knife, it is not intangible either, but rather manifests itself through the tangible aspects of combustion-namely, light, flame, and heat.  [F]ire is a thing which, in the manner of its use or intended use, is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.
The Court also held that the same conduct that supports an element of an offense can also serve to support a deadly weapon finding.  Having rejected both of Appellant’s arguments, the Court affirmed the conviction.

Escamilla v. State, 4th District Court of Appeals (San Antonio), 13 October 2010:

The Court held that the child victim (3 years and 9 months old) was competent to testify regarding sexual abuse by her father.  The Court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting testimony of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) regarding methods of determining anal sexual assault.  Justice Hilbig concurred in the result, but dissented regarding the admissibility of the scientific evidence provided by the SANE.

Pham v. State, 14th District Court of Appeals (Houston), 14 October 2010:

The Court held that appellant had no objective expectation of privacy in a bag of ecstasy pills that he delivered to an accomplice for eventual delivery to a third party.  As such, appellant had no standing to challenge the seizure of the drugs from the accomplice or the later admission in court.