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:In October 2001, Steve Charles McKinney and a female companion drove an acquaintance, Christopher Torres, to the home of Guillermo Arvizu, who was a known gang member, drug dealer and firearms collector. McKinney and his female companion left Torres at Arvizu’s home and returned approximately 20 minutes later to pick up Torres. When Torres failed to appear, McKinney took a sawed-off shotgun from his truck and accidentally discharged the shotgun as he approached the house. McKinney reloaded the shotgun and fired through the front door, killing Arvizu. McKinney opened the front door and entered the house, where he saw Torres interrogating Arvizu’s pregnant wife and 5-year-old daughter at gunpoint. As McKinney left the house, Torres fatally shot Arvizu’s wife and daughter. McKinney later helped Torres dispose of the pistol used to kill Arvizu’s wife and daughter. McKinney requested and received a jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of murder. The jury convicted McKinney of the lesser-included offense in the death of Arvizu and also of capital murder in the deaths of Arvizu’s wife and daughter. The jury found sufficient mitigating circumstances to preclude the imposition of the death penalty and the trial court sentenced McKinney to life imprisonment on each of the three counts. McKinney appealed, asserting that the evidence was both legally and factually insufficient to show that McKinney possessed the intent required to be convicted of Avizu’s murder. The 1st Court of Appeals in Houston found that McKinney was estopped from challenging the legal sufficiency of the evidence on the murder conviction because he had requested and received a jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of murder. The 1st Court also found that the evidence, when viewed neutrally, was factually sufficient to support the guilty verdict returned against McKinney. Although the 1st Court affirmed the decision of the trial court, it questioned the continued viability of the estoppel doctrine under the case’s circumstances. Perhaps in anticipation of a ruling from Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) that the estoppel doctrine was no longer viable, the court of appeals conducted a legal sufficiency review of the evidence. Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the verdict, the 1st Court concluded that any rational trier of fact could have found McKinney guilty of murdering the victim beyond a reasonable doubt. McKinney petitioned for discretionary review. HOLDING:Affirmed. The CCA began by noting its two-prong test to determine whether the court must give an instruction on a lesser-included offense. The first prong, the CCA noted, involves a determination of whether the offense is a lesser-included offense of the offense charged. The second prong requires an evaluation of whether some evidence exists that would permit a rational jury to find that if the defendant is guilty, he is guilty only of the lesser offense. The CCA found that in this case both prongs were met, and the trial court correctly instructed the jury on the lesser-included charge of murder. Moving on to the estoppel issue, the CCA held that the estoppel rule would no longer be applied to all criminal cases where the legal sufficiency of the evidence is challenged on appeal and the defendant requested and received a lesser-included offense instruction at trial. The CCA extended its holding to factual sufficiency challenges. Application of the estoppel rule, the court stated, should be confined exclusively to the limited number of cases that arose before Sept. 1, 1994, and challenge the sufficiency of the evidence relating to the sudden-passion element of voluntary manslaughter. Under its new rule, the CCA stated that the sufficiency analyses by the 1st Court were properly conducted and affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals. OPINION:Johnson, J., delivered the opinion of the court in which Meyers, Price, Womack, Holcomb and Cochran, J.J., joined. CONCURRENCE:Keller, P.J., filed a concurring opinion in which Keasler, Hervey and Cochran, J.J., joined. “When a defendant requests the submission of a lesser offense and is convicted of that offense, whether he is estopped from challenging the trial court’s power to impose a conviction for that offense (on the basis of legal or factual insufficiency, limitations, or lack of jurisdiction) depends on the answer to a simple question: Does the infirmity alleged with respect to the requested lesser offense apply also to the charged (greater) offense? “If the answer to that question is”yes,’ then the defendant’s claim is legitimate, and the appellate court should proceed to consider it. If the answer to that question is”no,’ then the defendant’s claim is barred by estoppel.”

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

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* 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 © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.