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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Authorities charged Clark DeWayne Mays with capital murder. During voir dire, Mays made the statement that Texas law allows the presentation of evidence regarding a defendant’s medical history, psychological history and psychiatric history to determine a defendant’s state of mind while committing the alleged offense. At this point, the state sought a bench conference. The trial court stated that it was prepared to rule on the admissibility of evidence regarding Mays’ mental capabilities, inviting Mays to make a record for appeal of that specific issue. Based upon language in the Court of Criminal Appeals’ 2005 opinion Jackson v. State, Mays conceded that while Texas law does not recognize an affirmative defense “[t]o show that the defendant was not able at the time to understand the nature of his actions as a result of mental impairments,” nevertheless “mental illness is relevant and it is admissible as evidence to show that the defendant lacked the capacity . . . to form the specific intent or the intent element of murder.” Mays went on to state that it had been his intention and his trial strategy to question the jury panel on the members’ reactions to such a position. The trial court responded that evidence of this nature would be applicable in a case where punishment was at issue. Thus, the court forbade Mays from presenting evidence on his mental state short of insanity. In light of the ruling and being unable to proceed toward seeking a charge on a lesser-included offense, Mays entered his guilty plea. He received a sentence of life imprisonment. Mays then appealed. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. In all prosecutions for murder, the court stated, under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 38.36(a) the state or the defendant may offer testimony as to all relevant facts and circumstances surrounding the killing and the previous relationship existing between the accused and the deceased, together with all relevant facts and circumstances going to show the condition of the mind of the accused at the time of the offense. The court noted, however, that the blanket permission of Art. 38.36(a) is tempered by Texas Rule of Evidence 403, which permits the court to bar otherwise relevant evidence by weighing the admission of evidence against other factors, such as unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, misleading the jury or by considerations of undue delay or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. In this case, the court stated that the sole issue is whether the defense may present evidence at the guilt/innocence phase of the trial to show that the defendant is afflicted with mental or physical impairments or abnormalities which bring into question whether he possessed the required state of mind at the time of the offense. Jackson, the court stated, made it clear that Texas does not recognize diminished capacity as an affirmative defense or lesser form of the defense of insanity. Texas law, however, does recognize something very closely akin to the diminished-capacity doctrine, which the court stated is “simply a failure-of-proof defense in which the defendant claims that the State failed to prove that the defendant had the required state of mind at the time of the offense.” Mays stated that his aim was to explore “relevant facts and circumstances going to show the condition of his mind at the time of the killing and to apply it to the lesser included offense of negligent homicide.” The court stated that Mays’ attempt was a permissible aim of following the diminished-capacity doctrine set forth in Jackson. In other words, the court stated that “so long as the defense is not pursuing a course of attempting to prove that the defendant has absolutely no culpability for his actions but is, rather, making an effort to show that the defendant’s mental state reduced his mens rea to a state that the question of a lesser included offense can become an issue, that is a permissible avenue to pursue.” The court found that the trial court abused its discretion and that Mays suffered harm as a result. OPINION:Moseley, J.; Morriss, C.J., and Moseley, J. CONCURRENCE:Carter, J. “[E]vidence of mental impairment (short of insanity) may be admissible and the jury may consider if it negates the mens rea element. . . . Since mental illness evidence is at least relevant regarding the possible lesser included offense mental state requirements (recklessness, negligence), the trial court erred in the blanket exclusion.”

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