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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In May 2002, a Harris County grand jury returned an indictment charging appellant with felony aggregated theft under Texas Penal Code ��31.03(a) and 31.09. In August 2003, the state brought appellant to trial before a petit jury on her plea of not guilty. From September 1997 through February 2000, appellant was employed as the bookkeeper for Hope Village, a private residential community for mentally retarded children in Friendswood. Appellant’s duties included managing all of Hope Village’s finances, including its payroll. During the period in question, appellant, without authorization from her superiors, awarded herself a substantial retroactive pay raise, numerous paychecks in addition to the ones to which she was regularly entitled and numerous checks in “reimbursement” for expenditures she never actually made. Appellant also failed on many occasions to make the proper deductions from her pay for federal taxes and health insurance. An independent audit conducted in 1999 revealed that appellant had misappropriated more than $50,000 of Hope Village’s funds. Appellant’s only significant defensive evidence at the guilt stage was her own testimony in which she denied any wrongdoing. During appellant’s closing argument at the guilt stage, defense counsel said, “One thing I do want to remind you of at this time is that there is a presumption of innocence throughout the trial. At this point in time, by law, my client is presumed to be innocent.” The prosecutor then objected on grounds that appellant misstated the law. The court sustained the objection. The trial court’s written charge to the jury at the guilt stage, however, included the following admonition, in part: “The burden of proof in all criminal cases rests upon the State throughout the trial and never shifts to the defendant. . . . All persons are presumed to be innocent and no person may be convicted of an offense unless each element of the offense is proved beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . The law does not require a defendant to prove her innocence or produce any evidence at all. The presumption of innocence alone is sufficient to acquit the defendant, unless the jurors are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence in the case.” After deliberating, the jury found appellant guilty and assessed appellant’s punishment at imprisonment for nine years and a fine of $2,500. On appeal, appellant argued that she had been denied due process of law, in violation of the 14th Amendment, by reason of the trial court’s ruling sustaining the state’s objection concerning the presumption of innocence. In particular, appellant argued that the trial court’s ruling effectively instructed the jury that, at the close of the evidence, she was no longer presumed innocent. The court of appeals agreed with appellant that the trial court had erred, but the court of appeals held that the error had been harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. In a motion for rehearing, appellant, citing Sullivan v. Louisiana, 508 U.S. 275 (1993), argued that the trial court’s error had been “structural” and, therefore, not subject to harmless-error review. The court of appeals denied appellant’s motion for rehearing without issuing a written opinion. Appellant later filed a petition for discretionary review. In her petition and accompanying brief, appellant argues that the court of appeals erred in holding that the trial court’s error had been harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. More specifically, appellant argues that 1. Under Sullivan v. Louisiana, the trial court’s constitutional error was a structural defect not subject to harmless-error review; 2. The trial court’s error, even if not a structural defect, was nonetheless not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, because it amounted to a judicial admonishment that, at the close of the evidence, appellant was no longer presumed innocent; and 3. In any event, the court of appeals failed to utilize the required totality of the circumstances standard of harmless-error review. HOLDING:Affirmed. The Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) held that the trial court’s error in sustaining the state’s objection did not rise to level of a structural defect. “Any uncertainty in the jurors’ minds created by the trial court’s actions,” the CCA stated, “most likely was cleared up by the written jury charge. The error here was certainly not so pervasive that it vitiated the jury’s guilty verdict for Sixth Amendment purposes or denied appellant her right to a trial by jury,” which are structural errors. The CCA then held that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, basing its conclusion on several factors: 1. The exchange in question between the parties and the trial court was brief and not without ambiguity; 2. The state never denied that it had the burden to prove appellant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; 3. The trial court’s charge to the jury included an accurate and thorough explanation of the presumption of innocence; and 4. The state’s evidentiary case against appellant was strong and her defense was relatively weak. In sum, the CCA declared its belief beyond a reasonable doubt that the trial court’s error did not materially affect the jury’s deliberations to appellant’s detriment and did not contribute to the verdict obtained. As for appellant’s argument that the court of appeals failed to utilize the required totality of the circumstances standard of harmless-error review, the CCA found nothing in the court of appeals’ opinion that indicated that that court did not consider the totality of the record when it performed its review. OPINION:Holcomb, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Keller, P.J., and Meyers, Price, Womack, Keasler, Hervey and Cochran, J.J., joined. CONCURRENCE:Johnson, J., concurred in the result without an opinion.

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