Friday, February 12, 2010

Another Criminal Appeal in the Texas Supreme Court

Well, not quite. Crimes by juveniles fall under the Family Code and are treated as civil, rather than criminal cases. Which is the reason appeals from delinquency cases occasionally end up before the Texas Supreme Court, rather than in the Court of Criminal Appeals. Application of the civil rules of procedure in juvenile delinquency cases can actually make a big difference, as illustrated by the case decided today, in which the sufficiency of error preservation by motion for new trial was the issue.

In the Matter of R.D., (Tex. 2010)
09-0343 (Tex. Feb. 12, 2010)(per curiam)(juvenile proceedings, civil rules applied to motion for new trial, error preservation for appellate review)
Texas Supreme Court concludes that [the juvenile's] general challenge to the sufficiency of the
evidence to support the jury's delinquency finding met Rule 324's requirement for preserving his
challenge to the jury's rejection of his affirmative defense.

FROM THE UNSIGNED OPINION [one of three released February 12, 2010]:

In this case a jury found that R.D., a juvenile, engaged in delinquent conduct of aggravated robbery. R.D. filed a motion for new trial generally challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury’s verdict, and complaining specifically of the deadly-weapon finding supporting the “aggravated” status of the offense. R.D.’s motion did not specifically challenge the evidentiary basis for the jury’s rejection of his affirmative defense of duress, causing the court of appeals to conclude that the issue was waived on appeal. ___ S.W.3d ___, ___. Because the jury’s delinquency finding subsumed its rejection of R.D.’s affirmative defense, however, we hold that R.D.’s new trial motion was sufficient to preserve error. Accordingly, we grant the petition and, without hearing oral argument, remand the case to the court of appeals for further review.

* * *

In a civil case, in order to challenge on appeal the factual sufficiency of the evidence to support a jury finding, the point must be raised in a motion for new trial. Tex. R. Civ. P. 324(b)(2). In In re M.R., 858 S.W.2d 365, 366 (Tex. 1993) (per curiam opinion denying application for writ of error), we stated that, unlike the rule in criminal cases, in juvenile proceedings a motion for new trial is necessary to preserve a factual sufficiency challenge.2 Unlike in In re M.R., however, R.D. did file a motion for new trial. The question is whether that motion was sufficient to encompass R.D.’s complaint on appeal that the jury’s rejection of his affirmative defense had no evidentiary support. We conclude that it was.

IN THE MATTER OF R.D., A JUVENILE; from Bexar County; 8th district (08-07-00100-CV, ___ SW3d ___, 03-12-09)
Pursuant to Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 59.1, after granting the petition for review and without hearing oral argument, the Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to that
court. Per Curiam Opinion

TAGS: preservation of error for appellate review, motion for new trial after jury trial, sufficiency point of error, juvenile cases, crimes by minors, delinquency adjudication

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