Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:On Oct. 13, 1991, 8-year-old Chad Choice was reported missing from his home in Tyler, Texas. On Oct. 10, 1994, FBI agents arrested and incarcerated Patrick Horn on unrelated charges that included two federal credit union robberies and a carjacking, in which a victim, James Levassar, was killed. In March 1995, Horn and federal authorities entered into a written plea agreement, signed by Horn, his counsel and the assistant U.S. attorney in relation to those charges. In late 1995 or early 1996, Horn started hinting to federal authorities that he had information about Choice’s disappearance. On May 31, 1996, Horn was scheduled to be sentenced in federal court for the credit union robberies and carjacking charges. In an in camera proceeding on that date, the federal district court judge told Horn that he was aware that authorities thought he might know something about Choice’s disappearance and advised Horn to consult with his attorney about what he might know and whether he might be able to get immunity. Horn, his defense attorney and the federal prosecutor were present during the in camera proceeding. Later that day, Horn told the FBI the location of Choice’s body. Horn stated that he had provided the keys to two people (Paco and Carlos) who planned to ransom Choice to collect on an alleged drug debt. According to Horn, Paco and Carlos kidnapped Choice then drove Choice and Horn to a location in east Texas where Paco shot and killed Choice. A few days later, Horn buried Choice in his back yard. On March 31, 1997, Horn was indicted for the capital murder of Choice. Horn pleaded not guilty, and his case proceeded to trial in the 241st District Court of Smith County, Texas. Horn moved to suppress the statements he made to federal authorities on or shortly after May 31, 1996. After conducting a pretrial evidentiary suppression hearing, the state trial court denied Horn’s motion, finding that Horn’s statements were made voluntarily. Horn also objected to the admission of testimony through two-way closed-circuit television by state prosecution witness John Birk, who was terminally ill with cancer and being treated in Ohio. The trial court overruled Horn’s objection and allowed the introduction of Birk’s testimony by the two-way system. Horn did not testify. On Oct. 4, 1999, Horn was convicted of the capital murder of Choice, specifically murder committed in the course of committing kidnapping pursuant to Texas Penal Code �19.03(a). Horn was sentenced to death. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Horn’s conviction and sentence. The CCA adopted the trial court’s findings and conclusions and denied state habeas relief on March 5, 2003. On Oct. 6, 2004, Horn filed a petition for federal habeas relief. That proceeding was stayed to allow for state court consideration of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Roper v. Simmons. On Oct. 5, 2005, the CCA, in an unpublished opinion, granted Horn relief on that claim, because he was 17 years old at the time of the offense, and accordingly commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment. On Nov. 8, 2005, the federal district court sua sponte lifted the stay it had imposed on Horn’s federal habeas case and denied relief on Horn’s two remaining claims: that Horn’s Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers was violated when the state prosecution was allowed to examine Birk, who was in Ohio, by two-way closed-circuit television and that Horn’s statements made May 31, 1996, or shortly thereafter to federal authorities were involuntary under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. HOLDING:Affirmed. To show that Horn’s version of events was false, state prosecutors at trial introduced the testimony of three current or former inmates, all of whom testified that Horn had told them that he had killed a young boy. One of these witnesses was former inmate Birk, who had become acquainted with Horn while both were incarcerated at the Van Zandt County jail. At the time of Horn’s trial, Birk was terminally ill and hospitalized in Sylvania, Ohio, for liver cancer. He was not expected to improve. His doctor stated that it would be medically unsafe for Birk to travel from Ohio to testify in Texas and strongly recommended against Birk’s traveling. Over Horn’s Sixth Amendment objections, the trial court permitted Birk to testify from his hospital in Ohio by means of two-way closed-circuit television, with an attorney for the state and counsel for Horn present with Birk as he testified. Horn himself was denied permission to attend, but through the two-way system utilizing 4-foot by 6-foot screens, Horn was able to see Birk as Birk testified, as could the jury and the court; Birk, as he testified, was able to see Horn. The confrontation clause reflects a preference for face-to-face confrontation at trial, a preference that occasionally must give way to considerations of public policy and the necessities of the case. Given the trial court’s efforts to confirm Birk’s illness and inability to travel and the care with which the other aspects of Horn’s confrontation rights were preserved, the decision to permit Birk to testify via two-way closed-circuit television did not constitute an unreasonable application of established federal law. Horn’s second Sixth Amendment argument for habeas relief is meritless. The state court’s determination that Birk’s oath did not violate Horn’s confrontation right did not constitute an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. A Texas statute arguably would give Texas jurisdiction to prosecute Birk for perjury had he in fact perjured himself. Further, there is no established law from the U.S. Supreme Court dictating that the administration of the oath to Birk in Ohio violated the confrontation clause. Birk also voluntary submitted to jurisdiction in Texas. Horn insists that the statement he made to federal officers describing his involvement in Choice’s disappearance and murder was involuntary. Horn bases this argument on several assertions, including: His statement was compelled through promises contained in his plea agreement with federal authorities; his will was overborne by the threat of a death sentence; and his will was overborne, because of the pressure he received from those in authority to confess. Horn’s involuntary statement claim is meritless. OPINION:Garwood, J.; Garwood, Barksdale and Garza, J.J.

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.