X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:A grand jury indicted appellant for burglary of a habitation. The state presented evidence at the guilt phase of trial that appellant stole a truck, three rifles, a shotgun and a handgun from the Bosque County home of Thomas Vick, his former father-in-law. Approximately one week later, while executing a search warrant in Coryell County on an unrelated narcotics investigation, law enforcement officials discovered the stolen truck on property occupied by Paul Bundrant, an acquaintance of appellant. Shortly thereafter, another acquaintance, David Sneed, turned over to police a rifle and a handgun that he had purchased from appellant at below-market value. Sneed also told police that there were two additional rifles on Bundrant’s property. Officers returned to the property, obtained consent to search the premises and recovered those rifles. Bundrant later testified that appellant gave him the rifles as “rent” for allowing appellant to stay on the property. Officers recovered the shotgun from the father of Sid Harmon, another of appellant’s acquaintances. The evidence at trial suggested that the burglary was committed by someone with intimate knowledge of Vick’s house. Vick testified that appellant had once been married to his daughter and had been inside of his house on occasion. He also testified that certain guns and a jewelry box had been taken from his bedroom during the burglary, while other visible, valuable items in the home were left undisturbed. Appellant argued that both Bundrant and Sneed had possessed some of the stolen firearms and were thus accomplices either as a matter of law or as a matter of fact; he therefore requested that an accomplice-witness instruction be included in the jury charge. The trial court denied this request and a jury convicted appellant of burglary of a habitation. Appellant appealed, asserting in his sole claim that the trial court erred in failing to include an accomplice-witness instruction in the court’s charge to the jury. The court of appeals found that: 1. Appellant was entitled to an instruction on the accomplice-witness rule, because the issue was raised by the evidence and; 2. The jury should have been instructed to determine whether Bundrant and Sneed gave reasonable explanations for their possession of the recently stolen firearms. The court also determined that the failure to provide the accomplice-witness instruction to the jury in this instance caused appellant “some harm.” Consequently, the court of appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the cause to the trial court. The state petitioned for discretionary review, and the Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) granted review on the state’s sole ground. HOLDING:The CCA reversed the court of appeals and affirmed the trial court’s judgment. In Texas, a conviction cannot be secured upon the testimony of an accomplice unless corroborated by other evidence tending to connect the defendant to the offense. The purpose of the instruction is not to cast suspicion on the testimony provided by the accomplice or to encourage jurors to give it less weight than other testimony. Rather, the instruction merely reminds the jury that it cannot use the accomplice’s testimony to convict the defendant unless there also exists some non-accomplice testimony tying the defendant to the offense. Appellant contends that he was entitled to an instruction on the accomplice-witness rule, because both Bundrant and Sneed possessed some of the stolen firearms. Appellant has a right to an accomplice-witness instruction if the issue is raised by the evidence, whether that evidence is weak or strong, unimpeached or contradicted, and regardless of what the trial court may think about the credibility of the evidence. A trial court is not obligated to provide an accomplice-witness instruction when it is not raised by the evidence. The CCA found that was no evidence that either Bundrant or Sneed were accomplices as a matter of law or as a matter of fact. The CCA stated that the trial court did not err in failing to submit an accomplice-witness instruction because the evidence did not raise the issue. OPINION:Johnson, J.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.