The 10th District Court of Appeals heard cases at Sam Houston State University.
For the second year in a row, the 10th District Court of Appeals brought real-life cases to the Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom in the College of Criminal Justice to educate students about the criminal and civil justice process in Texas.
The three-member panel, including Chief Justice Tom Gray (BBA ’78) and Justices Rex D. Davis and Al Scoggins, heard oral arguments in four cases involving the death penalty, intoxicated manslaughter, aggravated assault, and wrongful death. The cases are expected to be decided by the judges in the near future. The panel was sponsored by the Junior Fellows, Sam Houston State University’s political science student organization.
“We have carefully selected cases where the issues are relevant to students and involved in the education process at the university,” said Justice Gray.
The 10th District Court of Appeals hears appeals in criminal and civil cases from an 18 county region in Southeast Texas, which includes Bosque, Brazos, Burleson, Coryell, Ellis, Falls, Freestone, Hamilton, Hill, Johnson, Leon, Limestone, Madison, McLennan, Navarro, Robertson, Somervell and Walker counties. The court is headquartered in Waco, but can sit in any of the counties in its jurisdiction.
The judge of the 10th District Court of Appeals include (l to r) Rex D. Davis, Tom Gray and Al Scoggins.
During their appearance in Huntsville, hundreds of students in political science and criminal justice filtered through the courtroom to listen to the offerings. To enhance the educational opportunity, the justices allowed the defense and prosecution to provide a three minute summary of the case to students to help them understand the legal issues at hand.
In Stewart v. Texas, the defendant in a capital murder case was appealing his conviction. Corey Stewart was found guilty of capital murder in the shooting death of a convenience store clerk during a robbery at an Exxon store in College Station. The state waived the death penalty, and Stewart was sentenced to life.
Stewart was challenging a trial court ruling denying his motion to suppress evidence seized from the getaway vehicle, which he claims was illegally stopped by police. He also challenged the admission of his statement, saying that although he was given his Miranda warning, the record contained no evidence that he knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights. Stewart also said the evidence failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had a specific intent to kill the victim and that evidence used in courts was not properly authenticated as exhibits at trial.
In Somers v. Texas, Defendant Aaron Zane Somers was convicted of intoxication manslaughter for killing Michelle Briggs in an auto accident after leaving a fraternity party. His blood alcohol level was above the legal limit. Somers’ appeal was based on an enzyme-multiplied immunoassay (EMIT) test from the victim, which suggested she was under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident.
Somers initially appealed his conviction to the 10th District Court of Appeals, which upheld the case, but the issue was send to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which found the EMIT test was “scientifically reliable.” The Court of Criminal Appeals remanded the case the 10th District Court of Appeals to determine whether the EMIT test was “relevant and admissible” in the Somers’ case.
In State v. Butler, prosecutors were appealing a pre-trial motion that suppressed Defendant Quincy Butler’s statements to a Brazos County grand jury. Before the grand jury, the defendant admitted he shot the victim and had a weapon, but claimed it was an accident. He was indicted on two counts of aggravated assault. Five months later, another grand jury indicted the defendant on unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and deadly conduc .
In a pre-trial motion on his second indictment, Butler charged he had ineffective counsel for allowing him to testify before the grand jury in the first case, and the trial court granted the motion. The state appealed, saying the exclusionary rule doesn’t extend to defense counsel and that that the attorney was under no obligation to tell Butler that grand jury statements could be used in future proceedings.
Finally, in The City of College Station v. Kahlden, the court considered a wrongful death claim against the city of College Station based on a fatal motor vehicle accident that occurred after an officer stopped for debris in the road, setting off a chain reaction crash. The defendant, Patricia Kahldan, the daughter of the accident victim, questioned whether debris in the road constituted an “emergency” and, as such, whether the city was immune based on the general waiver statute. The trial court granted a summary judgment on the case, and the city appealed.
The cases can be followed on the 10th Court of Appeals web site at www.10thcoa.courts.state.tx.us.
“We travel for the education of our audiences rather than just hear cases in Waco,” said Justice Gray. “By getting the factual and procedural background, it makes the educational experience more meaningful to you because you have the background on the cases. We selected cases that can educate you, and cases where they need help with issues.”