Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

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Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
CourtOfCriminalAppealsOfTexas.gif
Seal of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Established1841
CountryUnited States
Location Austin, Texas
Coordinates 30°16′34.76″N97°44′28.56″W / 30.2763222°N 97.7412667°W / 30.2763222; -97.7412667
Authorized by Texas Constitution
Decisions are appealed to Supreme Court of the United States
Website http://www.txcourts.gov/cca
The Texas Supreme Court Building houses the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals TexasSupremeCourtBuilding.JPG
The Texas Supreme Court Building houses the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) is the court of last resort for all criminal matters in the State of Texas, United States. The Court, which is based in the Supreme Court Building in Downtown Austin, [1] is composed of a Presiding Judge and eight judges.

Criminal procedure is the adjudication process of the criminal law. While criminal procedure differs dramatically by jurisdiction, the process generally begins with a formal criminal charge with the person on trial either being free on bail or incarcerated, and results in the conviction or acquittal of the defendant. Criminal procedure can be either in form of inquisitorial or adversarial criminal procedure.

Downtown Austin human settlement in United States of America

Downtown Austin is the central business district of Austin, Texas. Downtown is located on the north bank of the Colorado River. The approximate borders of Downtown include Lamar Boulevard to the west, Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and the University of Texas at Austin to the north, Interstate 35 to the east, and Lady Bird Lake to the south.

Contents

Article V of the Texas Constitution vests the judicial power of the state and describes the Court's jurisdiction and sets rules for judicial eligibility, elections, and vacancies.

Jurisdiction

In Texas, the Court of Criminal Appeals has final jurisdiction over all criminal matters (excluding juvenile proceedings, which are considered civil matters), while the Texas Supreme Court is the last word on all civil matters including juvenile proceedings even if a criminal act is involved.

The Court of Criminal Appeals exercises discretionary review over criminal cases, which means that it may choose whether or not to review a case. The only cases that the Court must hear are those involving the sentencing of capital punishment or the denial of bail.

Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is a government-sanctioned practice whereby a person is killed by the state as a punishment for a crime. The sentence that someone be punished in such a manner is referred to as a death sentence, whereas the act of carrying out the sentence is known as an execution. Crimes that are punishable by death are known as capital crimes or capital offences, and they commonly include offences such as murder, mass murder, terrorism, treason, espionage, offenses against the State, such as attempting to overthrow government, piracy, drug trafficking, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, but may include a wide range of offences depending on a country. Etymologically, the term capital in this context alluded to execution by beheading.

Court composition

The Court is composed of a Presiding Judge and eight judges (unlike the Texas Supreme Court which is composed of a Chief Justice and eight Justices). Each judge serves a six-year term beginning January 1 and ending December 31, and they are elected in staggered partisan elections. Although all nine seats are elected at large, the Presiding Judge seat is separately designated from the other seats.

In order to be a judge, a person must be at least 35 years of age, a United States and Texas citizen, licensed to practice law in Texas, and must have practiced law for at least 10 years. A person 75 years or older cannot run for a seat on the Court of Criminal Appeals. [2] A person who becomes 75 during their term of office cannot serve more than four years of their term of office. [3] The Governor of Texas, subject to Senate confirmation, may appoint a judge to serve out the remainder of any unexpired term until the next general election.

Governor of Texas head of state and of government of the U.S. state of Texas

The Governor of Texas is the head of the executive branch of Texas's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Texas Legislature, and to convene the legislature. The governor may grant pardons in cases other than impeachment or in the case of treason, with permission by the legislature. The current Governor is Greg Abbott.

Texas Legislature

The Legislature of the state of Texas is the state legislature of Texas. The legislature is a bicameral body composed of a 31-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives. The state legislature meets at the Capitol in Austin. It is a powerful arm of the Texas government not only because of its power of the purse to control and direct the activities of state government and the strong constitutional connections between it and the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, but also due to Texas's plural executive.

Current judges of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Judgehas no PositionTerm BeginTerm ExpiryParty Affiliationbig c
Sharon Keller
Presiding Judge, Place 1
January 1, 2019December 31, 2024
Republican
Mary Lou Keel
Judge, Place 2
January 1, 2017December 31, 2022
Republican
Bert Richardson
Judge, Place 3
January 1, 2015December 31, 2020
Republican
Kevin Patrick Yeary
Judge, Place 4
January 1, 2015December 31, 2020
Republican
Scott Walker
Judge, Place 5
January 1, 2017December 31, 2022
Republican
Michael Keasler
Judge, Place 6
January 1, 2017December 31, 2020
Republican
Term ends early due to mandatory-retirement provision of the Texas Constitution
Barbara Hervey
Judge, Place 7
January 1, 2019December 31, 2024
Republican
Michelle Slaughter
Judge, Place 8
January 1, 2019December 31, 2024
Republican
David Newell
Judge, Place 9
January 1, 2015December 31, 2020
Republican

Capital punishment

According to a 2000 special article in the Chicago Tribune , from 1995 to 2000, records show that the court has granted new trials in capital cases eight times and new sentencing six times while affirming 270 capital convictions. [4] [5]

<i>Chicago Tribune</i> major daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois, United States

The Chicago Tribune is a daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois, United States, owned by Tribune Publishing. Founded in 1847, and formerly self-styled as the "World's Greatest Newspaper", it remains the most-read daily newspaper of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Great Lakes region. It is the eighth-largest newspaper in the United States by circulation.

On the occasions when the Court of Criminal Appeals grants relief, it sometimes reconsiders. At least six defendants executed since 1995 were granted new trials by the court because the court ruled that fundamental violations of their rights occurred and then had their convictions reinstated after the court changed its mind. [4]

Selection of attorneys for indigent appellants

The appointment of attorneys for indigent defendants in capital cases is a source of controversy. District Court judges appoint lawyers for trial and a defendant's initial appeal. Of the 131 inmates executed under Governor George W. Bush, 43 were represented by an attorney who at some point has been disbarred, suspended or otherwise sanctioned. [4]

The appointment of attorneys for an inmate's final appeals, which allow attorneys to move beyond what occurred at trial and investigate for new evidence, has also proved troublesome. Attorneys at this stage can argue, for instance, that prosecutors improperly concealed evidence favorable to the defendant. [4]

Before 1995, appellants were not guaranteed an attorney for final appeals. In 1995, Texas revamped its system with a new law that collapsed the layers of appeal and set strict filing deadlines seeking to ensure that defendants received one full, fair set of appeals. The state agreed to pay for court-appointed attorneys to handle the final appeals for Death Row inmates. The Court of Criminal Appeals got the job of making these appointments. While assigning attorneys in about 300 cases, the Court of Criminal Appeals tapped some with questionable credentials or little experience. [4] [5]

For at least eight Death Row inmates, the court handpicked an attorney who previously had been sanctioned by the State Bar of Texas for misconduct, including one attorney who was still on probation. He was among four attorneys appointed by the court who had been disciplined more than once. In a ninth case, the attorney was sanctioned shortly after his appointment. The misconduct ranged from relatively minor infractions to serious violations. They included failing to show up in court, lying to the State Bar of Texas or to a judge, and dismissing a client's legal claim without the client's permission or knowledge. [4]

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References

  1. Home page Archived 2008-12-19 at the Wayback Machine .. Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Accessed October 27, 2008.
  2. "80(R) HJR 36 - Enrolled version - Bill Text". state.tx.us.
  3. Proposition 14 - Justice Mandatory Retirement Amendment Pros and Cons Texas Constitutional Amendment on November 2007 Ballot Archived 2007-11-11 at the Wayback Machine .
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Mills, Steve; Armstrong, Ken (June 12, 2000). "Gatekeeper Court Keeps Gates Shut" (PDF). Chicago News Tribune. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
  5. 1 2 Bright, Steven E. (July 1999). "Death in Texas - Yale Law School" (PDF). The Champion. Retrieved 2009-09-23.

Further reading