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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The 15-year-old defendant was involved in a robbery and murder at his father’s machine shop. One of his father’s workers was killed, though the defendant claimed he did not have anything directly to do with the murder. The defendant was charged with capital murder. The prosecution presented 11 different ways in which the defendant could be found guilty. Issues also arose concerning the voluntariness of the defendant’s confession, the law of parties, two lesser-included offenses and conspiracy law. After both sides had presented all of their evidence in the guilt stage, the trial judge announced that he was limiting closing arguments to 20 minutes per side. The defendant’s attorney objected, saying he would need more time to address all of the state’s theories, but he was overruled. The attorney also asked for an additional three minutes after he finished and after the state’s arguments. Those requests were denied. The jury deliberated for 5.5 hours before returning a guilty verdict. The defendant was later sentenced to life in prison. The defendant challenged the trial court’s order limiting closing arguments to 20 minutes per side. The 14th Court of Appeals in Houston affirmed, though it noted that the defendant’s attorney had done an admirable job trying to get everything in under 20 minutes, and that the trial court came “precariously close” to crossing the line. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded to the appellate court for a harm analysis. The court notes that though there is no explicit guarantee of closing arguments, the right is implied through Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 36.07 and 36.08. Article 36.07 gives trial courts broad discretion regarding the order of arguments, while Art. 36.08 prohibits a trial court from restricting arguments in felony cases to less than two on each side. The right to have a closing argument would be hollow if there was not also a right to have a reasonable time to make it. Examining how lower courts have interpreted Court of Criminal Appeals precedent on the length of closing arguments, the court fashions a nonexclusive list of factors to apply on a case-by-case basis: 1. the quantity of the evidence, 2. the duration of the trial, 3. conflicts in the testimony, 4. the seriousness of the offense, 5. the complexity of the case, 6. whether counsel used the time allotted efficiently, and 7. whether counsel set out what issues were not discussed because of the time limitation. As to the first three factors, the trial was only two days long, but 11 witnesses testified, and there were significant evidentiary conflicts. As to the next two factors, this was a capital murder trial involving a very serious offense, there were 11 ways in which the defendant could be found guilty, and there were two lesser-included offenses and other complex issues. As to the sixth issue, the court finds the defendant’s attorney used his time effectively and did not engage in improper argument or waste time with needless repetition, yet he was still unable to cover all of the state’s theories of guilt or all of the factual conflicts raised by the testimony. OPINION:Tom Price, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Meyers, Johnson, Holcomb, and Cochran, JJ., joined. Meyers, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Holcomb and Cochran, JJ., joined. Womack, J., concurred. Keasler, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Hervey, J., joined. Keller, P.J., dissented. CONCURRENCE:Lawrence E. Meyers, J. “The factors enumerated by the majority provide a useful guideline for determining whether the trial court abused its discretion in limiting the time for argument and I agree that this was the proper method for deciding this case. However, I also agree with [the dissent in the court of appeals] that the limitations placed on counsel in this case effectively deprived Appellant of the full representation of counsel and thus infringed on his rights under the Sixth Amendment.” DISSENT:Mike Keasler, J. The dissent calls the majority’s conclusion “breathtaking,” and says it assumes that due to the “nonexclusive” nature of the factors enumerated by the majority that this court will have “leeway to whimsically add more factors later when we second guess” trial court decisions. The dissent notes that one of the cases relied on by the majority is 110 years old. The dissent says there might be a case where a trial court could abuse its broad discretion in this area, but that this is not such a case. Because the majority’s opinion takes away some of that discretion, the dissent predicts that Texas trial courts will be more reluctant to limit arguments, lest they be reversed. Instead “the safer practice will be to not limit lawyers at all, thereby letting them harangue the jury until they are brain dead.” It’s not too much to ask lawyers to be concise, the dissent adds, and the good ones are. “About fifty years ago a preacher (whose name, despite extensive research, I have not been able to find) wrote in an article about sermons, ‘You can’t save souls after twenty minutes.’ Twenty minutes was enough for argument in this case, too. Because the majority finds otherwise, I dissent.”

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