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As 2019 began, the Bexar County Courthouse saw a lot of new faces in the courtrooms. In November’s election, the County saw blue wave of democratic candidates winning their elections.

In the Bexar Cojudge-gavel-1461291738X4g-300x200unty Criminal Courts, the following new county court judges are now on the bench:

County Court at Law 1: Judge Helen Petry Stowe took the bench prior to November’s election after the incumbent abruptly resigned. She was appointed by the commissioner’s court. Judge Petry Stowe went on to win the election.

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If you are not successful on either the direct appeal or the Petition for Discretionary Review, the next step would be a state writ of habeas corpus. Also, if you were not given permission for appeal, you may be able to go directly into a writ of habeas corpus.

In Texas, there are several types of post-conviction writs. What kind you will need to file will depend on what the outcome of your case was and what sentence you received.

But, a writ of habeas corpus is latin for “you have the body”. It is a legal vehicle to get back into to court and tell the State of Texas that you are illegally detaining an individual in violation of the constitution. The “great object” of the writ of habeas corpus “is the liberation of those who may be imprisoned without sufficient cause.” Ex parte Watkins, 28 U.S. 193, 202, 7 L. Ed. 650 (1830)

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After you or a loved one is convicted of a criminal offense in Texas, it may be a very stressful and emotional time. But, it is important to remember that there are important deadlines that must be met in order to start the appeals process, if the defendant has the right of appeal. You need retain an experience criminal appellate attorney as soon as possible.

Certificate of Right of Appeal

In Texas, you must have permission from the judge to appeal. A judge will give you permission to appeal if you were convicted at a jury trial and did not waive your right of appeal before sentencing.

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Recently, the governor of California signed a law that narrows their version of the felony murder law. Similar to Texas’s law of parties, California allowed accomplices to murder to be punishedcrime-scene-tape even if they were not present when the murder occurred. In Texas, chapter 7.02 of the Texas Penal Code provides that a party is responsible for the conduct of another if, during the attempt to commit one felony, a party to the conspiracy commits another felony, then all parties to the conspiracy are guilty even if they had no intent to commit the other felony. Thus, for example, two individuals conspire to rob a bank, but agreed that no weapons would be used. Actor A, unbeknownst to Actor B, enters the bank with a gun while Actor B sits in the getaway car. While inside, Actor A shoots and kills someone. In Texas, Actor B would be responsible for the murder just as Actor A is responsible.

California’s SB 1437 changes California law so now only those who actually committed murder, intended to murder, or aided in the murder itself can prosecuted for murder.

Four states, Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio have abolished felony murder from its penal code. In 2017, a court in Massachusetts narrowed the application of felony murder and required that the actor must have the malice required for murder.

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Texas HB 3016 amends the Texas Government Code and now allows certain nonviolent misdemeanors to be eligible for a nondisclosure. When certain conditions are satisfied, the new law allows for some individuals convicted of a DWI to receive a nondisclosure.

DWI Cases: Who is Eligible for a Nondisclosure?

You may be eligible for a nondisclosure if you were convicted of a first DWI, your blood alcohol was less than 0.15, there was no accident involving another individual, and you have satisfied the proper waiting period. If you were ordered to have ignition interlock on your vehicle for at least six months, you must wait two years. If you did not have ignition interlock on your vehicle, then you must wait five years.

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camera-1-300x201In 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a challenge to the constitutionality of Texas’s law on improper photography or visual recording. Texas Penal Code § 21.15(b)(1) was found unconstitutional on its face in Ex parte Thompson, [Sept. 17, 2014], “to the extent it proscribes the taking of photographs and the recording of visual images…” The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found this section of the penal code violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment of the United States ConstitutionEx parte Thompson was a criminal case out of Bexar County, Texas.

The First Amendment, made applicable to the State’s through the Fourteenth Amendment, protects individual’s right to exercise free speech. In Thompson, the Court of Criminal Appeals reasoned that a photographer’s camera is equivalent to a painter’s paintbrush and the content should thus be regulated the same in the First Amendment context.

The Court of Criminal Appeals found that the statute prohibited content based material, thus the statute was reviewed under the strict scrutiny standard. Subsection (b)(1) was a sort of catch-all provision that violated all forms of photography and visual recording—even innocent ones.

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At a summit addressing the opioid addiction problem in the United States, Trump suggested executing drug dealers. These comments came after other speakers, including members of his cabinet, discussed focusing on treatment and therapy to combat the problem. Some speakers also focused on disrupting the supply coming into the United States from countries like China and Mexico. Trump then repeated his death penalty ideas a few weeks later at rally in Pennsylvania. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already issued a policy to his prosecutors to seek the harshest penalties in drug cases. In the past Trump has condoned Singapore’s use of the death penalty in drug cases. Trump has also praised the controversial President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte for his use of extrajudicial police killings to wage his war on drugs.images

Many opioids, however, are made legally by manufacturers and then distributed by doctors to their patients for treatment purposes. On the other hand, illegal drugs such as heroin also belong to the opioid class of drugs.

Some counties around the country, such as Bexar County, Texas, have elected to sue opioid manufacturers and distributors. The suit is targeting big pharma companies such as Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon and Johnson & Johnson. Express-News reported that, “The county named a combination of 11 manufacturers, promoters and distributors to be sued, though the list is not exhaustive.”

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482515106-300x200A very strange and appalling case out of a Fort Worth, Texas district court has made national news, but this time its not for the actions of the defendant. Judge George Gallagher from Tarrant County, Texas, ordered his bailiff to electrocute Terry Lee Morris with a stun belt when he would not directly answer the judge’s questions. The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that the stun belt “delivers a 50,000 volt electrical shock to the wearer when activated.” Chavez v. Cocktrell, 310 F.3d 805, 807 n.1 (5th Cir. 2002). Morris was ultimately shocked three times.

Morris, who was on trial for soliciting sexual performance from a minor, was trying to object with the court proceeding with the trial and would not answer the judge’s questions directly. Morris was complaining that he had a pending lawsuit against the judge and his defense counsel in the case.

Gallagher ordered his bailiff to shock Morris. After the first shock, this exchange followed:

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Testimony in Shawn Luis Puente’s capital murder trial started today in Atascosa County, Texas. Puente is accused of killing San Antonio Police Officer Robert Deckard. Puente and his girlfriend are alleged to have led Deckard, along with other officers, on a high speed chase from San Antonio down to Wilson County after they robbed a convenient store in San Antonio.

Officer Deckard was shot in the head during the chase on December 7, 2013. He died 13 days later in the hospital. He was only 31 years old.If convicted, the State of Texas is seeking the death penalty. The jury will have to decide to sentence Puente to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Puente’s girlfriend, Jenevieve Ramos, will go trial at a later date and the state is also seeking the death penalty in that case as well.

During opening statements today, defense counsel apparently told the jury that Puente shot the fatal shot, but asked the jurors to not make a quick decision. Counsel explained that her client was a meth addict and on a drug binge on the night of the shooting.

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A 12-year-old girl that attends Roy J. Smith middle school in Killeen, Texas was arrested for making terroristic threats on social media rape, shoot, and torture other students at her school. The threats the student made on social media prompted thousands of students and their parents to be too scared to attend school on Wednesday. In fact, over 4,000 students missed school.computer-keyboard-1242933-300x226

Students, family, and friends are encouraged to report these types of threats from students on social media; especially in the wake of yet another mass school shooting. However, these types of threats on social media, although very concerning, raise First Amendment freedom of speech protections as well as intent to commit a crime. Similar cases have been addressed recently by the Supreme Court of the United and the Texas Appellate Courts.

In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Elonis v. U.S. that the Government  was required to but failed to prove that Elonis, who was going through a divorce and posted threats to kill his wife, had the intent to kill his wife. The Supreme Court did not reach the First Amendment issue that was raised. In 2017, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals also addressed the constitutionality of Texas Penal Code 22.07, the Terroristic Threats section. In denying his pretrial writ of habeas corpus, the Court of Criminal Appeals found that Carter was actually challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, which cannot be raised in a pretrial writ. Justin Carter’s case has been say for trial in May 2018.