Friday, March 29, 2013

Reciprocal Discovery Bill Becomes Less Reciprocal

I reported earlier about proposed legislation that would require both prosecutors and defense lawyers to provide discovery in advance of trial in criminal cases. Well, now the bill is going in a surprising direction and the changes have even more surprising origins:

At the hearing before the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Tuesday of this week, Rep. Moody laid out a version of the discovery bill that wouldn’t require the defense to make any disclosures. Shannon Edwards of TDCAA (the prosecutors’ association), in a comment on the Grits coverage of this saga confirmed that the prosecutors’ association was behind this change. Hard to imagine, but I guess we’ll see.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

More Bad Bills at the Lege

It continues to shock me when the legislature churns out truly stupid, short-sighted legislation. HB's 23 & 133 are great examples. See my website for more.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Evisceratimg the Rules of Evidence

Wow, this is a dumb bill being kicked around the Lege this year. Check it out.

Reciprocal Discovery Bill at the Lege

Check out the post I've got up on a bill being discussed at the Lege this year that would have a huge impact on the criminal justice system.

Truth Serum Fantasy

I've started blogging on my website, I've got a post up about a ridiculous story about the theater shooter in Aurora, Colorado back in 2012. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Witnesses Coached

All lawyers have heard of wood-shedding a witness - to prepare a witness for testimony in such a way as to coach him/her or suggest how he/she should testify in order to best help your case. Any diligent lawyer should prepare his witness for testimony; you'd be crazy not too (witnesses often say the craziest things). As the law school adage goes: "don't ask a question you don't know the answer to." How can you ask any questions if you don't know how your witness will really answer???

But it's easy to cross the line into coaching/woodshedding a witness. An article on the Oklahoma Bar Journal website says it well:
While appropriate to encourage a witness to look at the jury or judge, to speak clearly and act confident while testifying, going much beyond that may lead to unintended consequences. A suggestion that a witness who may not be all that certain of a particular fact to change that demeanor in order to appear more assertive may very well cross that boundary from simply “preparing” a prosecution witness to impermissible “coaching” or “wood shedding” of that witness.
The Dallas Morning News has an article today on the case against Richard Miles for murder. At the trial, a witness, Marcus Thurman, identified Miles as the man who shot the victim. In a sworn statement taken this January, Thurman now says he didn't identify Miles because he recognized him as the shooter. In fact he says he didn't recognize Miles. Thurman says he identified Miles in court because the prosecutor, Thomas D'Amore, coached him to do so.

I've seen Thomas D'Amore around the courthouse but I don't know him, so I have no way of shedding any light on whether this is likely to be true or not. I can say that if this is true it's beyond unacceptable.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

CCA Review - Introduction

Okay, on a previous incarnation of this blog, I summarized, explained, and (often) critiqued rulings issued by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA).

In Texas, there is no "Supreme Court" for criminal cases. The Texas Supreme Court is the highest Texas court when it comes to civil cases. It does not hear criminal cases. The CCA is the highest Texas court for criminal cases. You think that is weird? In New York the "Supreme Court" is the trial level court. Now that's weird.

So now that I've restarted the blog, I'm getting back on top of these CCA opinions. They generally come out once a week; I'll try to get to them as quickly as possible. Of course sometimes I'll be busy with trial or on vacation et cetera, but I'll get them out. Also, I'll be writing these for a lay audience. I imagine I'll get lawyers reading these posts, but I'm pretty sure the bulk of my audience will be non-lawyer. I'll write accordingly by not assuming you already know legal procedure and terminology. I won't write about every single case that comes down, just the ones that I deem interesting for legal or social reasons.