CLOSEClose Law.com Menu
 
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:The state called Lawrence Edward Thompson to testify before a jury in the criminal trial of Patrick Encalade. Thompson refused to answer 13 of the 14 questions that the state asked him. The trial court entered a criminal contempt judgment against Thompson for each refusal to answer (Cause Nos. 1036821 through 1036833). These judgments reflected that the trial court sentenced Thompson to three days in the Harris County jail and a $50 fine for his first refusal to answer (Cause No. 1036821) and to six months in the Harris County jail and a $500 fine for each of Thompson’s other 12 refusals to answer (Cause Nos. 1036822 through 1036833). Before the state called Thompson to testify before the jury, the trial court held a hearing outside the jury’s presence on whether Thompson would testify. At this hearing, Thompson dismissed a lawyer who had been appointed to advise Thompson on his decision whether to testify. Thompson asserted no privileges that would excuse him from testifying. After Thompson answered some of the state’s questions that would be asked again in the jury’s presence, the trial court stopped the questioning and told Thompson that he must testify truthfully or face perjury charges. The trial court also informed Thompson that he would be called to testify before the jury. Thompson told the trial court that he would not testify. The trial court responded that Thompson would be held in contempt for each refusal to answer, that the sentence for his first refusal to answer would “[p]erhaps” be “three days and a fifty-dollar fine,” and that his sentence for each subsequent refusal to answer would be “six months in the Harris County jail and a $500 fine.” The trial court also orally pronounced that these sentences would each be “stacked on the other.” When the state called Thompson to testify before the jury, Thompson answered the state’s first question asking applicant to introduce himself. Thompson refused to answer the other 13 questions that the state asked. Thompson alleged in his writ of habeas corpus that the trial court cited and sentenced him for contempt 13 times and cumulated his sentences, requiring him to serve 2,163 days and to pay $6,050 in fines. Thompson claimed that these sentences violated Texas Government Code �21.002(h)(1). He requested that he be discharged from the “illegal and excessive” 2,163 days confinement and the $6,050 fine. The CCA filed and set Thompson’s case and ordered briefing on three issues: 1. whether the CCA had jurisdiction to consider Thompson’s original application for a writ of habeas corpus; 2. whether Thompson’s sentence exceeded the statutory maximum for a contempt sentence as defined in �21.002(h)(1); and 3. whether Thompson’s confinement for contempt as ordered by the 248th District Court violated his due process rights. HOLDING:The CCA set aside the trial court’s judgments in Cause Nos. 1036821 through 1036833. It is well settled, the CCA stated, that the constitutional grant of original jurisdiction to the CCA “to issue the writ of habeas corpus” permits the CCA to review a contempt order entered by a district court. Next, the CCA noted, the state argued that the trial court “correctly held [applicant] in contempt of court and ordered him punished for initially refusing to testify.” But the CCA stated its belief that “where, as here, a witness indicates outside the jury’s presence that he will not answer any questions and afterwards consistently maintains that position before the jury by refusing to answer any questions (except for introducing himself), [the 1957 U.S. Supreme Court decision] Yates [v. United States] establishes, as a matter of due process, that only one contempt occurs.” The prosecution, the CCA elaborated, cannot make the witness liable for multiple contempts by putting the witness on the stand and getting him to refuse to answer multiple questions after the witness has previously indicated he will not testify. Finally, the CCA disagreed with the state’s position that only Thompson’s contempt conviction in Cause No. 1036821 was valid and that the remaining 12 contempt convictions in Cause Nos. 1036822-1036833 were void. The CCA stated that the appropriate remedy in this case is to set aside all 13 contempt judgments (Cause Nos. 1036821 through 1036833) and “to grant relief without prejudice to further proceedings in the District Court not inconsistent with this opinion.” OPINION:Hervey, J., delivered the opinion of the court in which Keller, P.J., and Price, Womack, Johnson, Keasler, Holcomb and Cochran, JJ., joined. Meyers, J., did not participate.

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.