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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Appellant was towing some dirt in a homemade trailer when the trailer unhitched from appellant’s truck, and struck and killed a pedestrian. As a result of this incident, a jury convicted appellant of criminally negligent homicide as charged in an indictment alleging that appellant caused the victim’s death by “failing to properly secure a trailer to his truck.” The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. HOLDING:Affirmed. Appellant claimed on direct appeal that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support his criminally negligent homicide conviction. In rejecting this claim, the court of appeals relied in part on civil cases applying ordinary civil negligence principles after noting that it was unable “to find another opinion of a Texas court addressing the sufficiency of evidence to support a conviction of criminally negligent homicide arising out of a trailer coming unhitched from a truck while being towed.” The state was required to prove that appellant’s failure to perceive a substantial risk of death from his conduct grossly deviated from an ordinary standard of care. In this case, a jury could rationally find that appellant knew that the hitch on his trailer was faulty. For example, the evidence that the trailer hitch had been hammered a number of times in an attempt to get it to latch properly, and testimony that the hitch’s defects were “obvious,” support such a finding. A jury could also rationally find that appellant should have, but failed, to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death from his conduct of knowingly using a faulty trailer hitch without safety chains on a public road. A jury could also rationally find that appellant’s failure to perceive this substantial and unjustifiable risk of death was clearly a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under the circumstances. These findings are sufficient to meet the definition of “criminal negligence” in Texas Penal Code �6.03(d). The state was not required to prove that appellant had a problem with the trailer becoming unhooked or that the trailer had popped off before. The state’s evidence supports a finding that appellant knew that the trailer hitch was faulty, putting him on notice of problems he should have been able to perceive. Imposing criminal liability on appellant on this basis and on the other circumstances presented in this case does not conflict with cases cited in appellant’s brief. The evidence supports a finding that appellant had notice of a condition creating a substantial risk of death which appellant should have perceived. The court cites the New York Court of Appeals’ decision in People v. Boutin, 555 N.E.2d 253 (N.Y. 1990), to illustrate when there is insufficient evidence to support a finding of criminal negligence. That court stated that criminally negligent homicide requires not only a failure to perceive a risk of death, but also some serious blameworthiness in the conduct that caused it. The risk involved must have been substantial and unjustifiable, and the failure to perceive that risk must have been a gross deviation from reasonable care. “This case involves much more than an unexplained failure of a trailer hitch that caused a death. This case also involves”some serious blameworthiness in the conduct that caused it.’” OPINION:Hervey, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous court. Cochran, J., filed a concurring opinion. CONCURRENCE:Cochran, J. “Criminal liability is imposed because he should have been aware of the substantial risk of death that his failure to both note and repair these numerous deficiencies entailed. Had there been only a single deviation from the ordinary standard of care, e.g., had appellant exercised ordinary care but for the failure to attach a safety chain between the trailer and truck, then his conduct in “failing to properly secure a trailer to his truck” might constitute mere simple civil negligence, not criminal negligence.”

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