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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Two of Sharan Ann Williams’ children, Ujeana, age 7, and Precious, age 8, died in a house fire in the early morning hours of Oct. 5, 2002. Ujeana, Precious and Sharan lived with Sharan’s mother, Zula Mae Scott, who routinely cared for the young girls. Occasionally, the girls stayed with their father, Charles Leon Williams Jr. Sometimes, they stayed with Sharan and her boyfriend, Herbert Ronald Bowden, in his home. Bowden lived in an altered duplex with both halves of the house combined into a single unit. It was a four-room structure, but it had no kitchen or bathroom, no working utilities and very little furniture. In Bowden’s bedroom there was a bed, as well as a dresser under the window and a chair in front of the nailed-up door to the outside. There was a couch in the living room. The house was, according to Bowden, “somewhat trashy.” There was indeed trash on the floor, mainly in the living room. Bowden lived in this makeshift home with permission and paid a nominal rent. He intended to live there until he saved enough money from his new job at a Bennigan’s restaurant to afford a proper apartment. About two weeks before the fire, Zula Mae learned that Sharan and Bowden were taking the children to the duplex. She warned them both that “it was too dangerous to be taking them down there and burning candles,” in part because of the risk of a house fire. Nevertheless, after he got off work on Oct. 4, 2002, Bowden went to Zula Mae’s house to pick up Sharan and her girls. Zula Mae was not yet home from work. The four walked to his duplex. Sharan went out to get cigarettes and ran into the girls’ father, Charles, in the parking lot of the store. Charles asked Sharan where the girls were. She told him that they were at home, which to Charles meant they were with Zula Mae. Charles saw Sharan leave the store in a car with a man who was not Bowden. When Sharan returned to the duplex, she told Bowden that she wanted to go out with friends. Bowden agreed to watch the girls. He dressed them in his sweatshirts to keep them warm, and then he and Sharan put the girls to bed in his bedroom. They placed a burning candle in an aluminum pie plate for light, because Bowden did not want the girls to be left “in the dark.” Bowden said that he and Sharan “were sitting there talking and um, and uh, soon as we got through talking I took the candle and sat it over there in the corner at the edge of the bed. I sat it there.” The candle was closer to the wall than the bed. After Sharan left, Bowden checked on the girls who were asleep with the candle still lit. “I don’t know why I didn’t think to blow the candle out, I just didn’t want them to be in the dark.” Bowden eventually fell asleep on the living-room couch. Around 1 a.m., Bowden woke up to loud screams and saw that the bedroom where the girls were sleeping was on fire. When he looked in the open door to the bedroom all he could see “was flames and smoke.” Bowden said he got down close to the floor, but he “could barely even see the bottom of the bed you know? And it was that much smoke in there.” He could still hear the girls screaming, and he was “hollering, calling their names, but they wasn’t responding like they heard my voice.” He ran out of the front door, and “I went around to the side window and uh, knocked it out. But flames were coming out of it.” When he could not get in the window, he ran around to the boarded-up exterior bedroom door and tried to pull it open, but again he could not get inside. Wichita Falls Police Officer Jonathan Lindsay was the first emergency responder. When he arrived, he saw Bowden with a towel wrapped around one of his hands, crying “my babies are inside, my babies are inside.” Bowden was “frantic.” By the time the fire department arrived, the house was “fully involved” with flames, and the firemen were unable to enter it. The children never got out. Sharan, who had been told about the fire, arrived back at the scene as the fire department was extinguishing the blaze. Jim Graham, the assistant fire marshal for the Wichita Falls Fire Department, talked to Bowden at the scene. A couple of hours later, Officer Ginger Harrill took statements from both Bowden and Sharan. They were both cooperative. Harrill took a second statement from Bowden a couple of days later. Regarding these two statements, Harrill found both statements to be consistent: “that he was asleep on this couch, and this door goes into this front bedroom, and the girls were sleeping in this rear bedroom, and he woke up on this couch and heard them screaming and goes to this door, which was open, and at that point he could see the doorway into this room and see the room glowing.” He emphasized that he was not at a friend’s when the fire started and that he was willing to take a polygraph. Both Sharan and Bowden denied drinking or getting high that night. An assistant fire marshal investigated the fire and concluded that it was an accident. The marshal said that he also investigated why the girls could not get out of the bedroom. From the burn patterns, he determined that one of the two front doors “was opened during this fire.” The burn patterns suggested both bedroom doors were closed for most of the fire. Authorities indicted Bowden and Sharan for two counts of reckless injury to a child. The state alleged that Bowden committed the two offenses “by leaving [each girl] in a room without adult supervision with a candle burning.” The state alleged that Sharan committed the offenses by either: 1. taking the girls from a house with working utilities to a building without them and leaving the children in a room with a lit candle; or 2. leaving them asleep in a building without utilities with a burning candle instead of taking them to a house with working utilities. The state relied on these specific acts to prove recklessness. The two cases were consolidated for trial, and the trial court convicted Bowden and Sharan. The trial court sentenced Bowden to 10 years of imprisonment on each count and also sentenced Sharan to 15 years of imprisonment on each count. On appeal, Sharan claimed that legally and factually insufficient evidence supported her guilt. The 2nd Court of Appeals rejected this claim and held, in essence, that a rational trier of fact could conclude that the act of taking children from a home with utilities to one without utilities and leaving them in a bedroom with a lit candle is sufficient to create the known risk of death or serious bodily injury to those children, even if another adult caretaker is present. HOLDING:The CCA reversed the 2nd Court and ordered an acquittal. In assessing the legal sufficiency of the evidence, the CCA considered all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and determined whether, based on that evidence and reasonable inferences derived from the evidence, a rational juror could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. To sustain a conviction for reckless injury to a child, the evidence must prove that a defendant recklessly, by act or omission, caused serious bodily injury to a child. Injury to a child is a result-oriented offense requiring a mental state that relates not to the specific conduct but to the result of that conduct. The state must prove that a defendant caused a child’s serious bodily injury with the requisite criminal intent (recklessness). Mere lack of foresight, stupidity, irresponsibility, thoughtlessness and ordinary carelessness, however serious the consequences may happen to be, do not suffice to constitute either culpable negligence or criminal recklessness, the CCA stated. Recklessness requires the defendant to actually foresee the risk involved and to consciously decide to ignore it. First, the court found legally insufficient evidence that Sharan consciously disregarded a substantial or unjustifiable risk that her children would suffer serious bodily injury in a house fire if she took them from a house with utilities to one without utilities. Viewed objectively, the CCA stated that such an act by itself or in combination with the state’s second act of alleged recklessness leaving the girls in a room with a lit candle did not involve a “substantial and unjustifiable” risk of serious bodily injury or death. There is nothing inherently dangerous, the CCA stated, about staying or sleeping in a structure that does not have utilities. Staying in a structure without utilities, the CCA stated, does not increase the likelihood of dying in a fire. In fact, the CCA found the opposite to be true. In addition, the CCA found that Sharan’s mere failure to heed her mother’s warning about burning candles at Bowden’s house did not mean that her act of taking the children to Bowden’s house created a substantial and unjustified risk of serious bodily injury to the girls. The CCA also disagreed with the 2nd Court that Sharan’s act of leaving her children with Bowden in a room with a lit candle represented a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a law-abiding person in Sharan’s situation would observe. Sharan, the CCA concluded, may have been a bad mother, but she did not commit the crime of reckless injury to a child merely because she took her children from a house with utilities to one without utilities and left them under the care of a responsible adult with a lit candle in the bedroom. OPINION:Cochran, J., delivered the opinion of the court in which, Price, Womack, Johnson, Keasler, Hervey and Holcomb, JJ., joined. DISSENT:Keller, P.J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Meyers, J., joined. “This case is not about a family camping trip gone wrong. It’s not about a poor family doing the best it could with the little they had. This case is about two little girls who died a horrible death because their mother, for no good reason, took them from a safe home and left them in a place that she knew was a fire hazard.”

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