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In the State of Texas, a defendant can elect to have a jury or judge determine if he is guilty or innocent. If the defendant decides to have the judge make the determination, the State must agree or the trial will be by a jury.
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A defendant has the right to appeal his case. In Texas, there are two stages of appeal in a criminal case. The first stage is to a court of appeals. For Midland County, the appellate court is the 11th Court of Appeals in Eastland. The defendant can further appeal his case to the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin.
If the case is charged as a felony, a felony prosecutor will review the case to determine if it should be accepted for prosecution. If the case is accepted, it will be presented to a grand jury for consideration. A witness may be required to testify before the grand jury.
The grand jury will either return an indictment against the defendant or no-bill the case. If the case is indicted, the prosecution proceeds until there is a resolution of the case. A no-bill means there is not sufficient probable cause to move the case forward.
If the case is charged as a misdemeanor, the case is filed in a County Court at Law or Justice of the Peace Court. The prosecution proceeds until there is a resolution of the case.
The Court issues scheduling orders once a case is indicted. Scheduling orders tell a defendant when he needs to appear in court. It sets out any pretrial dates and potential trial dates. An Assistant District Attorney will also appear in court on those dates. Those hearings are open to the public.
Plea bargaining is a process to resolve a criminal case without a jury trial on the merits of a case. A prosecutor will evaluate the facts, circumstances, and applicable law of the case to make a determination of what punishment (i.e. sentence) to offer a defendant in return for his plea of guilty to the charge in the case. The defendant, in consultation with his lawyer, will decide whether or not to accept the plea bargain.
There are advantages to both the State and the defendant to arrive at an agreement in many cases. However, a defendant has the right to reject a plea offer and request a trial by jury. If the defendant accepts the plea bargain, the case is set for a plea hearing before the court.
A written plea agreement is signed by the defendant and the attorneys and the defendant pleads guilty. If the court approves the plea bargain, punishment is assessed in accordance with the plea bargain agreement and the defendant begins to serve his sentence. Any proposed plea agreement must be approved by the court before it is entered.
Most cases are disposed of by plea bargain agreements. There are many reasons why this process is necessary. If you are the victim and you are concerned about the recommendation in your case, contact the prosecutor assigned to the case to discuss your concerns.
The Midland County District Attorney’s Office takes victims’ interests very seriously. We will make every effort to satisfy your concerns.
Once a case is assigned to a prosecutor, a letter will be sent to the victim telling the victim which prosecutor is assigned to the case. The prosecutor can be called at any time to answer questions about the case. The prosecutor welcomes any victims' comments on the resolution of a case.
However, there are other factors for the prosecutor to consider and the prosecutor will make the ultimate decision about how the case is resolved. A victim may be required to testify at trial and at a pre-trial hearing, if necessary. The prosecutor will advise a witness of all that may be required of him. Please see our victims assistance page for additional information.
The decision to dismiss a pending a criminal case can be made only by a prosecutor. Prosecutors make independent professional judgments within the bounds of the policies of the District Attorney’s Office as to whether a case merits prosecution.
If the prosecutor decides to file a motion to dismiss a case, the dismissal must be approved by a judge. A victim’s wishes will be considered in the decision to file, try, or dismiss a prosecution. A victim's thoughts are always welcomed by the prosecutor assigned to a case.
A subpoena will be issued directing a witness to appear in court on a specific day and time for the purpose of testifying. If a witness refuses to appear after the subpoena is delivered, the prosecutor will ask that a warrant (called “an attachment”) be issued for the witness's arrest and confinement in jail until the witness testifies.
Willful failure to obey a lawful order of a court, such as a subpoena, is an act of contempt for which the witness may be punished by the court. After all of that, a witness will still have to testify. A witness must testify truthfully. False testimony as to important facts while under oath in an official proceeding (such as a trial) is a very serious felony offense.
A witness may be contacted by defense attorneys or investigators working for the defense attorney to discuss the case. While a witness is free to speak about the case with anyone they chose, they are not required to do so. If a witness decides to discuss the case with the defense attorney or investigator, the prosecutor would like to have someone from our staff present during the interview.
A witness may refer the defense attorney to the prosecutor assigned to the case for any information he wants and may decline to discuss the case. If the person claims to be with law enforcement or the District Attorney’s Office, please ask them to show some identification or for their telephone number to use to be sure it is a law enforcement number.
We will try to take as little of a witness's time as necessary. Contact the number on the subpoena and the trial team secretary should be able to give a date and time to come to the courthouse. Tell her any scheduling conflicts at that time. A witness may not leave the courthouse until released by the court.
Once a defendant has been found guilty, he must have some punishment assessed. Again, the defendant can elect to have either the judge or jury determine his punishment. Both sides can put on more evidence at that time. There are times when the State and the Defendant agree on punishment and there is no hearing.
No. The appellate court may choose not to entertain argument by either the defendant or this office and will advise the parties that no argument will be permitted. The appellate court decides the vast majority of cases on the briefs and records without oral argument.
Following the submission of the case, with or without oral argument, the appellate court will issue a written opinion either affirming (upholding) the conviction or reversing (overturning) the conviction as to the guilt and punishment assessed against the defendant. Occasionally the court will only overturn the punishment assessed.
Yes. The defendant may file a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court or in federal district court by filing a writ of habeas corpus. He may also file a writ of habeas corpus for relief in the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Although there are no readily available statistics compiled to answer this question, it is a fair estimate that over 90% of those convicted in contested trials will appeal their convictions, even if the sentence of the defendant was probated.
To view the judgements of John and Cynthia Warren click here: