Texas Stamp

 

 

LAKE, RODNEY DIMITRIUS

PD-0196-16 05/18/2016

  1. "The court of appeals erred in treating the trial court's refusal to allow final argument before revoking Appellant's community supervision as structural error immune from a harmless-error analysis."
  2. "The court of appeals' treatment of the trial court's refusal to allow final argument before revoking Appellant's community supervision as structural error immune from a harmless-error analysis is contrary to decisions of the United States Supreme Court and this Court defining what constitutes structural error."

At the hearing on the State's motion to revoke Lake's supervision and adjudicate his guilt, the trial court denied his attorney's request to make a closing statement. On appeal, Lake claimed that the ruling denied him due process and effective assistance of counsel. Citing Herring v. New York, 422 U.S. 853 (1975), and Ruedas v. State, 586 S.W.2d 520 (Tex. Crim. App. 1979), the court of appeals held the United States and Texas Constitutions guarantee a defendant the right to make a closing argument. Concluding that harm cannot be assessed, the court reversed Lake's conviction.

The State contends that the court of appeals erred to treat the denial of closing argument as structural error immune from a harm analysis. The State points out that the Supreme Court has not held that a person has a constitutional right to present closing argument at a revocation hearing, "much less that any such right to argument is structural." Herring held that a defendant has a right to closing argument at the guilt-phase of a bench trial. Further, the Herring Court did not treat the error as structural because it reversed after noting several other problems with the case. The State also observes that, although Ruedas recognized a right to closing argument at a revocation proceeding, the Court did not clearly do so under the federal constitution. Additionally, the denial of counsel, according to the State, was partial and did not amount to a total deprivation that would be structural error. Finally, the State contends that it is possible to assess whether the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The issues at the hearing were not complex, and Lake admitted to committing the two violations that were the basis of the trial court's decision to revoke and sentence him to ten years in prison.

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