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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Larry Ellison pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl and chose to have a jury determine his punishment. During the punishment phase, the prosecutor called the probation officer assigned to Ellison’s case as a witness. After the officer described her educational background, professional training, and personal experiences with Ellison’s case, the prosecutor asked, “In your training and education, with that background, were you able to make some evaluation or prognosis regarding the defendant and his ability to serve a term of probation?” Ellison objected to the question, arguing that the probation officer was not qualified to give expert testimony. The trial judge overruled his objection and allowed the probation officer to testify that, in her opinion, Ellison was not a suitable candidate for probation. The jury sentenced Ellison to 20 years’ imprisonment, and Ellison appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the trial judge’s decision to admit the probation officer’s testimony, holding that it was not an abuse of discretion. In doing so, the court observed that the 1989 amendment to Article 37.07, �3(a) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure considerably widened the scope of evidence admissible at punishment. The court further determined that the admissibility of evidence of suitability for probation is judged by its relevancy to sentencing. After the intermediate court of appeals denied Ellison’s motion for rehearing, Ellison filed a petition for discretionary review. He asserted a single ground for review: “The Court of Appeals erred by holding that a probation officer may testify about a defendant’s suitability for probation.” HOLDING:Affirmed. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) affirmed the appellate court’s decision and held that suitability is a matter “relevant to sentencing” under Article 37.07, �3(a). The CCA elaborated: “Unlike the guilt phase,”the question at punishment is not whether the defendant has committed a crime, but instead, what sentence should be assessed.’ The purpose of the bifurcated trial procedure first guilt and then sentencing is to”take the blindfolds off the judge or jury when it came to assessing punishment . . . thus allow[ing] evidence critical to an enlightened determination of punish- (ment . . . .’ Today we acknowledge that, by amending Article 37.07, �3(a) to include evidence of”any matter the court deems relevant to sentencing,’ the Legislature thereby allowed a jury to consider a wide range of evidence in determining whether to recommend probation.” The CCA then upheld the court of appeals’ holding that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in deeming the probation officer qualified to testify as to her opinion of Ellison’s suitability for community supervision. OPINION:Keasler, J.

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