Tribpedia: Texas Court Of Criminal Appeals

Tribpedia

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the state's highest criminal court. Located in Austin, it consists of eight Judges and a Presiding Judge who are elected by Texas voters to staggered six-year terms. In 2000, Sharon Keller was elected presiding judge of the court.

The court hears all appeals of death penalty cases as well as criminal cases ...

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CCA Offers Guidance to Courts Trying Teens as Adults

Detainees are moved from location to location within the Travis County Juvenile Detention Center in Austin, Texas, Monday, June 24, 2013.
Detainees are moved from location to location within the Travis County Juvenile Detention Center in Austin, Texas, Monday, June 24, 2013.

The state's highest criminal court on Wednesday ruled that a Houston teen should not have been tried as an adult and spelled out better guidance for courts to consider before transferring youth defendants into the adult court system.

Bernhardt "Bernie" Tiede exits the Panola County Court building with his attorney Jodi Cole after his hearing on Feb. 5, 2014 in Carthage. His attorney filed new evidence that could affect his punishment term. He has been serving time since August of 1997 for the murder of Marjorie Nugent.
Bernhardt "Bernie" Tiede exits the Panola County Court building with his attorney Jodi Cole after his hearing on Feb. 5, 2014 in Carthage. His attorney filed new evidence that could affect his punishment term. He has been serving time since August of 1997 for the murder of Marjorie Nugent.

Judge Agrees to Release Murderer "Bernie" Backed by Austin Filmmaker

Nearly two decades after Bernie Tiede shot 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent and tucked her body in a deep freezer, a judge has released him on bond. His release comes with several conditions, one of which involves living in the Austin garage apartment of the filmmaker who made him famous, Richard Linklater.  

State Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee
State Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee

Appeals Court to Weigh Value of Forensic Evidence

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that could determine how courts across the state apply a new law that allows courts to consider changing scientific evidence. In the case of Neal H. Robbins, a medical examiner has said her earlier opinion that he murdered a child could be wrong.

Death row inmate Larry Swearingen during an interview at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas. He was sentenced to death for the murder of Melissa Trotter. He says he is innocent and that she was killed while he was already in jail for other offenses.
Death row inmate Larry Swearingen during an interview at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas. He was sentenced to death for the murder of Melissa Trotter. He says he is innocent and that she was killed while he was already in jail for other offenses.

Court Reverses DNA Testing Decision in Swearingen Case

UPDATED: The state’s highest criminal court on Wednesday reversed a lower court’s decision to allow further DNA testing in the case of death row inmate Larry Swearingen, sending his case back to a district court.

 

One-Third of Criminal Appeals Court Ready to Leave

Texas Weekly

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judges Cathy CochranTom Price and Paul Womack confirmed that they will not run for re-election in 2014. The news sets the stage for the court's biggest change in recent memory. "This is a lot leaving," said Chuck Mallin, appellate chief in the Tarrant County district attorney's office. "It's always a scary proposition, because you don't know what you're going to get."

 

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. 

Megan Winfrey, 25, points at photos of her daughter Danielle Hammond, 7, in her mobile home in Coldspring, Texas, Thursday, May 23, 2013. Megan Winfrey was released from prison after being acquitted of murder earlier this year. The court said that the dog-sniff evidence used to secure her conviction was insufficient.
Megan Winfrey, 25, points at photos of her daughter Danielle Hammond, 7, in her mobile home in Coldspring, Texas, Thursday, May 23, 2013. Megan Winfrey was released from prison after being acquitted of murder earlier this year. The court said that the dog-sniff evidence used to secure her conviction was insufficient.

Out of Prison, Winfrey Struggles Despite Acquittal

Megan Winfrey spent six years — nearly all of the 25-year-old's adult life — behind bars before she was acquitted of murder. Now, the young single mother faces the colossal challenge of starting her life without state compensation for the years she lost in prison.

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.

Ben Spencer, on the left, at the Coffield Prison Unit during a February 2013 interview. Right, Andrew Wattley, the son of Spencer's lawyer, Cheryl Wattley, demonstrates the dim lighting in which witnesses said they identified Spencer in 1987.
Ben Spencer, on the left, at the Coffield Prison Unit during a February 2013 interview. Right, Andrew Wattley, the son of Spencer's lawyer, Cheryl Wattley, demonstrates the dim lighting in which witnesses said they identified Spencer in 1987.

Years After Innocence Finding, Inmate Remains in Prison

A Dallas County judge in 2008 found Ben Spencer innocent of the 1987 robbery and murder for which he is serving a life sentence. The state's highest court disagreed, though, and now Spencer's best hope for freedom may hinge on his admitting remorse for a crime he says he didn't commit.

Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, right, and Sheriff Jim Boutwell speak with reporters.
Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, right, and Sheriff Jim Boutwell speak with reporters.

Michael Morton's Conviction Comes to Define Anderson

Williamson County State District Judge Ken Anderson faces a rare court of inquiry, starting Monday, over his role in the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton. Some who have known Anderson for years say they cannot believe he could do the unethical things he's accused of doing.

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.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals presiding Judge Sharon Keller and Democratic challenger, lawyer Keith Hampton
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals presiding Judge Sharon Keller and Democratic challenger, lawyer Keith Hampton

Democratic Judge Candidate Seeks Republican Votes

Texas Weekly

Democrat Keith Hampton is focusing his campaign to lead the state’s top criminal court on winning over Republicans. That is the key, he says, to defeating controversial Judge Sharon Keller and becoming the first Democrat to win a statewide election since 1994. At least one judicial election watcher says Hampton's got a steep hill to conquer.

Innocence Project to Grade Witness Lineup Policies

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Texas lawmakers passed a law they hoped would prevent faulty eyewitness identifications, which have been the leading cause of wrongful convictions. The Innocence Project of Texas is checking to see if the law is being implemented, and they're planning to issue grades to police agencies statewide.

Courts Found DA Error in Nearly 25% of Reversed Cases

At least 86 Texans' convictions were overturned between 1989 and 2011. A Tribune analysis finds that in nearly 25 percent of those cases, courts ruled that prosecutors made mistakes. In the wake of national controversies over prosecutor misconduct, advocates argue more must be done to hold powerful state lawyers accountable.

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.

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.

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.