The state of criminal law and criminal defense in Texas stands to be substantially impacted in the next few months. The prestigious Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which has the power to overturn lower court decisions on criminal issues among other matters, has a surprising number of upcoming judicial vacancies.
Only this year, three judges have publicly stated they do not plan to seek re-election. A fourth judge plans to run for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court. If he is successful, his seat will be vacant as well.
There are only nine elected judges that make up this panel, thus four out of nine is quite the number of openings.
The current makeup of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, according to some experts, remains criminal defense friendly. For example, the court recently determined that a convicted mentally disabled man could not be forced to take his medication and, without being on his medication, was incompetent for execution.
There are about seven viable Republican-leaning candidates contending for the seats. According to many, none of these candidates possess the track record to maintain the current defense friendly makeup of the court.
This could mean a huge and detrimental turn of court decisions in the future from the point of view of accused persons. While judges are required to make fair and impartial decisions, no person is capable of looking at any situation through a completely uninfluenced and unbiased lens. It is these sorts of human tendencies that allow us to predict the potential behavior of a judicial candidate.
Presenting a proper criminal defense when accused of a crime in Texas is a serious matter. It is important to offer helpful witnesses and keep out irrelevant evidence to maximize the chances of a positive outcome at the trial phase.
Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, "Voters may find little to differentiate candidates for Criminal Court of Appeals," Enrique Rangel, Feb. 18, 2014.