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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Billy Ray Johnson, a 42-year-old mentally retarded man, had been invited to a late-September drinking party in rural Cass County. The other party-goers ranged from their late teens to their early 20s. After a dispute arose over a change in the type of music being played, Colt Amox punched Johnson once in the face, knocking him unconscious. James Cory Hicks was, at the age of 23 or 24, the eldest person present, except for Johnson. Hicks had arrived at the party after midnight, after finishing his shift as a Cass County jailer. When most of those present suggested taking the unconscious Johnson to either the hospital or the police, Hicks nixed the idea, saying he was worried about losing his job or his children, or getting in trouble for drinking alcohol with underage persons. After lying on the ground for approximately an hour, the still unconscious Johnson was put in the back of Amox’s truck, and a convoy formed. At least two witnesses testified that Hicks led the convoy. Dallas Stone and Wes Owens said Hicks told them that, when Hicks stopped his vehicle, they should put Johnson on the side of the road. At a county road leading to a local dump, in the early morning hours of Sept. 28, 2003, Johnson was removed from Amox’s truck and placed in a small sandy area about 10 feet from the roadway. Owens said he suggested the road because he thought Johnson’s family lived in the area. About 5 a.m., Hicks contacted local law enforcement and told them he and Owens had been driving around and came across Johnson’s body lying on the side of the road. Hicks subsequently changed his story, saying Amox had hit Johnson and acted alone in moving the victim. Johnson was finally taken to the Linden Hospital the morning of Sept. 28. He was diagnosed with a subarachnoid hemorrhage, consistent with a blow to the head. Johnson did not fully regain consciousness for two or three days. Hicks was charged with intentionally or knowingly causing serious bodily injury to a disabled person; intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to a disabled person, having chosen the victim based on his race or mental disability; and intentionally or knowingly causing bodily injury to Johnson by omission. The jury acquitted Hicks on the first two counts, and found him guilty on the third. As required by law based on the jury’s assessment, the trial court sentenced Hicks to three years’ confinement and probated the sentence. The trial court ordered Hicks’ community supervision to be for 10 years. HOLDING:Affirmed. The nurse who first saw Johnson at the hospital said Johnson was cold and shivering, had aspiration pneumonia, and was covered head to toe with ant bites. At the very least, Johnson suffered bodily injury, as contemplated in the Texas Penal Code, from the ant bites and the cold. That he vomited while unconscious and was therefore having difficulty breathing showed an impairment of his physical condition. The evidence was legally sufficient to support the finding of bodily injury by omission. Hicks argues that no care, custody or control has been assumed within the meaning of the statute unless the actor has accepted responsibility for the victim’s protection, food, shelter and medical care. Texas Penal Code �22.04(b)(2). “We interpret Section 22.04(d) to establish a bright-line rule that, once someone has become a caretaker � even informally � for a vulnerable individual, he or she cannot then escape responsibility for the individual by arguing he or she has not assumed that individual’s care, custody, or control. We do not believe the converse is true, however. If one were required to become a full-service caretaker to have assumed ‘care, custody, or control’ of a vulnerable person, such a requirement would render meaningless the word ‘or’ in the phrase care, custody, or control.’ We hold that the phrase ‘care, custody, or control’ has more breadth than subsection (d) and that Hicks is covered by that additional breadth.” An implicit finding of the jury was that Hicks had effective care, custody or control of Johnson after Johnson’s initial injury. The evidence is sufficient to support that finding. OPINION:Morriss, CJ; Morriss, C.J., Ross and Carter, JJ.

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