Tribpedia: Court Of Criminal Appeals

Tribpedia

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the state's highest criminal court. It hears all appeals of death penalty cases as well as criminal cases decided at the 14 mid-level appellate courts in the state.

The court has eight justices and one presiding justice who are elected to six-year terms.

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News App: Expanding the Ethics Explorer

We've expanded the elected officials in our Ethics Explorer to include the nine judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the 15 members of the State Board of Education. We've also updated our existing analysis on members of the Legislature to include bills authored and sponsored during the 83rd legislative session. 

New Law Gives New Hope to Death Row Inmate

Convicted of stomping a 19-month-old baby to death, Robert Avila faces execution in January. Under a law passed this year that allows for new trials in cases where forensic science has advanced, Avila hopes to bring to court new scientific evidence that his lawyers say shows that the child's death could have been a tragic accident. 

After Drug Lab Scandal, Court Reverses Convictions

The Court of Criminal Appeals continued to reverse more convictions of drug offenders on Wednesday after investigators from the Texas Forensic Science Commission found that a former employee with a Department of Public Safety crime lab in Houston may have fabricated the results of thousands of drug tests.

In 1981, Max Soffar was sentenced to death for the murder of three people at a Houston bowling alley. Soffar, who has spent three decades on death row, says his confessions were coerced. Prosecutors say that the case against him is solid, and police officers deny accusations of coercion.
In 1981, Max Soffar was sentenced to death for the murder of three people at a Houston bowling alley. Soffar, who has spent three decades on death row, says his confessions were coerced. Prosecutors say that the case against him is solid, and police officers deny accusations of coercion.

Inmate's Case Adds to Debate on Recorded Interrogations

In 1981, Max Soffar was sentenced to death for murdering three young people. Prosecutors point to a recorded confession as proof of his guilt, while Soffar says the confession was coerced. In the meantime, Texas lawmakers are renewing a push to require police officers to record interviews in cases of violent crime.

Video: Errors in Judgment: Seeking Solutions

Michael Morton’s exoneration last year brought to a crescendo in Texas calls for change in the way that prosecutors are regulated. Morton, prosecutors and defense lawyers discuss whether there is a need for more accountability for state lawyers and how it ought to be accomplished.

Manuel Velez was convicted of killing his girlfriend’s infant son in 2005.
Manuel Velez was convicted of killing his girlfriend’s infant son in 2005.

Death Sentence Thrown Out in 2005 Murder Case

A death sentence was reversed for Manuel Velez, who is convicted of first-degree murder for the death of his girlfriend's son. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the sentence because of inaccurate expert testimony given during Velez's sentencing.

Michael Morton stands in a Williamson County courtroom with his attorneys, John Raley of the Houston law firm Raley & Bowick, and Nina Morrison of the New York-based Innocence Project. Morton was officially exonerated Dec. 19, 2011 after spending nearly 25 years in prison for his wife's murder.
Michael Morton stands in a Williamson County courtroom with his attorneys, John Raley of the Houston law firm Raley & Bowick, and Nina Morrison of the New York-based Innocence Project. Morton was officially exonerated Dec. 19, 2011 after spending nearly 25 years in prison for his wife's murder.

Texas Among Top 3 States in Total Exonerations

Researchers at two law schools Monday released an unprecedented listing of all the exoneration cases from the last 23 years. Only two states had more exonerations than Texas, according to the report. We have a graph breaking down the exoneration cases in Texas by types of crimes, and we have a list of all the Texas exonerees.

Court Stays Execution of Mentally Ill Inmate

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday stayed the execution of Steven Staley, who was convicted of a 1989 robbery and murder at a Fort Worth Steak and Ale restaurant. The case raises ethical and constitutional questions about whether the state can force inmates to take medicine so that they can be competent for execution.

Top Criminal Court to Hear Hank Skinner's DNA Plea

The latest installment in death row inmate Hank Skinner's decade-long quest for DNA testing comes today as his lawyers argue to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that a change in state law should allow the tests he hopes will prove he is innocent. State lawyers argue that Skinner had his chance at DNA testing and is just trying to delay the inevitable.

Woman Challenges Murder Conviction, Scent Lineup

Lawyers for Megan Winfrey will argue to the state's highest criminal court on Wednesday that the 24-year-old woman should be exonerated of the 2004 murder of a high school custodial worker. They say the conviction was based largely on unreliable evidence from a scent lineup.

Michael Morton hearing on February 10, 2012 at the Williamson Co. Courthouse.
Michael Morton hearing on February 10, 2012 at the Williamson Co. Courthouse.

Rusty Hardin Picked for Prosecutor in Morton Case

A Houston lawyer with a long list of high profile clients has been tapped to be the prosecutor in the court of inquiry into possible misconduct in the case of Michael Morton, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1987.

John Bradley, Williamson County District Attorney in Georgetown, TX Friday November 11, 2011. Bradley is responsible for prosecuting felony criminal offenses that are committed in Williamson County.
John Bradley, Williamson County District Attorney in Georgetown, TX Friday November 11, 2011. Bradley is responsible for prosecuting felony criminal offenses that are committed in Williamson County.

State Bar Dismisses Bradley Misconduct Grievance

The State Bar of Texas has dismissed a grievance filed against Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley in the  case of Michael Morton, whose wrongful conviction for murder was reversed last year.

The Cues Voters Use to Elect Unknown Candidates

Most voters probably don't know a thing about Elsa Alcala. She's running to keep a seat on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that Gov. Rick Perry appointed her to this year. Not knowing anything about her won't stop many people from voting for Alcala, though. Every election, voters choose and reject dozens of candidates they know nothing about. 

The Weekly TribCast: Episode 105

On this week's TribCast, Ross, Reeve, Brandi, and Jay review the latest criminal justice headlines, consider the difference between news and gossip in light of the latest Herman Cain developments, and explain what's going on with redistricting.

Former Williamson County district attorney Ken Anderson on his way to give testimony in the Michael Morton case.
Former Williamson County district attorney Ken Anderson on his way to give testimony in the Michael Morton case.

Former Assistant DA Deflects Blame in Morton Case

Mike Davis, a former assistant district attorney in Williamson County, pointed the finger for any alleged wrongdoing that led to the prosecution of Michael Morton directly at his former boss, Ken Anderson. Davis' testimony came as part of an ongoing investigation into whether officials withheld information that could have prevented Morton's 1987 murder conviction.

Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife.
Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife.

Morton Investigator, Medical Examiner Testimony Public

Testimony from the Williamson County sergeant who led the investigation that resulted in Michael Morton's wrongful conviction was made public Friday, along with statements of the medical examiner refuting allegations prosecutors made during the trial about scientific evidence that proved Morton was the killer.

Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge today agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife. Recently tested DNA indicates another man committed the 1986 killing.
Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge today agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife. Recently tested DNA indicates another man committed the 1986 killing.

Ex Morton Prosecutor Loses Testimony Fight

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied a request from former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson to keep him from providing testimony in an investigation of what led to the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton.

Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife.
Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife.

Morton Prosecutor Says He is Victim of a Media War

Mike Davis, one of the original prosecutors in the 1987 murder case against Michael Morton, said in court filings today that he is the victim of a media and political war between the exonerated man's lawyers and Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley. In a 17-page motion, he apologized to Morton for the 25 years he spent wrongfully imprisoned.