A big Shout Out to Deandra Grant and Sandra Reynolds, who recently gave a 20-year-old mentally ill client back his life after a three-year ordeal. D, who’s being treated for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, severe anxiety disorder, and panic attacks with twice-daily (6 a.m. and 2 p.m.) doses of Adderall and a small amount of Klonopin, was pulled over at 1:30 a.m. by an officer who claimed he was “weaving.” He was made to perform SFSTs despite no alcohol smell (SFSTs are only validated for alcohol intoxication). D’s balance was problematic and he was arrested for DWI—despite scoring 0 clues on the HGN. He told the officer he took his medicine that day as prescribed, and tried to explain that his car alignment suffered from an accident earlier in the day (showing him pictures of it on his phone). A blood test showed no ethanol, a small amount of amphetamine ,and a very small amount of clonazepam.
At trial the State called two analysts from DPS Austin, the first testifying she reported the amphetamine in the low therapeutic range, matching up to D’s story about what meds he took and when, but she could not testify that the amount in his blood would have impaired him. The second analyst, who has a bachelors in biochemistry, did the analysis for clonazepam, which showed in the low therapeutic range. Deandra says that State attempted to have this highly unqualified individual with no formal training in pharmacology make some sort of argument that there was a synergistic effect when you take a CNS depressant and a stimulant. “His lack of knowledge about these two specific drugs was easy to impeach,” she says, “as well as his lack of preparation for trial. He had done no research on Adderall and Klonopin and had not even bothered to watch the video.”
D’s diagnosing psychologist testified about his conditions. He had watched the video and went step by step through it, pointing out behavior that is consistent with individuals suffering from his issues. Defense further argued that D’s behavior was based on his medications wearing off as opposed to impairing him. The jury agreed and returned the big NG in 12 minutes. That’s showing how it’s done, counselors!
Kudos to TCDLA Director Jani Maselli Wood for what might be termed a little big win in the case of Salinas v. State. After 5 years of litigation and 14 briefs, along with 2 trips to the CCA, Jani was victorious in a case involving court charges to every defendant. In the decision, two of the court costs charged to defendants were found to be facially unconstitutional because the money was not used for court costs or even criminal justice purposes—one, in fact, actually deposited money into Texas’ general revenue fund. The CCA agreed that it violated the separation of powers. The ruling didn’t mean a big refund to her client in the case, but will ultimately result in millions of dollars saved for all Texas defendants, as these charges are assessed all defendants.
Member Rick Flores of Austin heard the two-word verdict in the kind of case you don’t see every day. D was charged with making a Terroristic Threat after a run-in at a restaurant with his former apartment complex manager, who had evicted him days earlier. The State alleged that after berating her and her co-worker with misogynistic and homophobic insults, D said “I’m going to kill you” and left the restaurant. Rick argued that his client was guilty of being an a**hole, but that he was not guilty of the offense because there was no intent to place anyone in fear of imminent injury. The jury deliberated for 35 minutes before agreeing. Jurors told him afterwards that reasonable doubt hinged on “intent” and “imminence,” noting complainant didn’t call police from the restaurant, but instead finished her meal, left the restaurant, and called the police to report that she was “terrified” two hours later. Congrats, Rick on the quick win.
Shout Out to Jason Luong of Houston on a recent victory in the First Court of Appeals in Lopez v. State, reversing a conviction on an Assault-Family Member charge. Jason, who acknowledged the able assistance of Renee Nguyen and Stephen Aslett, argued that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence the complainant’s out-of-court statements made in a 911 recording, in violation of D’s right to confrontation, and in complainant’s statements to a police officer, inadmissible as hearsay. The Court ruled that because complainant’s 911 statements weren’t testimonial, the trial court didn’t err in admitting them. But the Court agreed with Rick about complainant’s statements to the police officer, noting that she did not testify in the trial: “[W]e find no evidence in the record—nor does the State direct us to any—showing that the State made a good-faith effort to obtain Anderson’s presence at trial.” Because of the weight the State had attached to the statements of the police office, the Court sustained Rick’s second point. Congratulations on a job well done, guys.
A happy Shout Out to Houston attorney Pat McCann from Jani Maselli Wood upon the verdict in the game-changing case Moore v. Texas. In its decision, the Court held that the Briseno test employed by Texas courts was insufficient and often misused in diagnosing mental disability. As Jani notes, although Pat didn’t argue the case at the Supreme Court, he did the hearing that got it there. Jani represented Moore in the original 1980 case. Big win, y’all. Congratulations all around.