Texas Stamp


PD-0181-17 05/17/2017

  1. "The Eighth Court erred in holding that evidence that Gonzalez had consumed ecstasy on the day of the murder was irrelevant to his state of mind and self-defense claim because the State failed to introduce evidence of the drug's half-life or the length of its effects, and that, despite any bearing it had on the central issue of self-defense or the relatively innocuous nature of the intoxication evidence, when compared to the severity of the charged offense (capital murder), its probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice."
  2. "The Eighth Court erred in holding that any erroneous admission of Gonzalez' possession and consumption of ecstasy the day of the murder constituted harmful error where the complained-of evidence was developed quickly through a single witness, the State did not allude to the evidence during closing arguments, and Gonzalez' defensive evidence was internally inconsistent and controverted by the State's evidence. In disregarding the weight of these factors, the Eighth Court erred in its application of the appropriate harm standard."

Gonzalez was convicted of murdering a police officer. At trial, Gonzalez's Facebook post from six or seven hours before the offense stating he was tripping on ecstasy was admitted on the State's proffer.

On appeal, Gonzalez challenged the admission, claiming it was irrelevant and, even if relevant, unfairly prejudicial under Tex. R. Evid. 403. It was relevant, according to the State, to Gonzalez's claim of self-defense. The court of appeals held that the evidence was wrongly admitted. Beyond "supposition," there is no evidence that the earlier drug use effected Gonzalez at the time of the offense. Unlike alcohol and marijuana, it is doubtful that a jury would understand the lasting effect of ecstasy—a less common drug. The court then held that, even if it was relevant, its admission was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. The evidence was of little value in rebutting self-defense and implied that he possessed more ecstasy to use later.

The State complains that the court of appeals' decision requires it to present ecstasy's half-life and length of effects before such evidence is admissible. The court, it maintains, conflates sufficiency with admissibility. Because Gonzalez's intoxication tends to make it less probable that his belief—that force was immediately necessary—was objectively reasonable, it is relevant to self-defense. Next, the State claims the admission was not unfairly prejudicial in light of the evidence of the offense and minimal time it took to present. Further Gonzalez's failure to admit he was intoxicated earlier in the day and the critical nature of self-defense justified the State's need for admission.

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