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“In finding the evidence legally sufficient, did the Sixth Court of Appeals fail to consider: was the jury rationally justified in finding guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?”
Litchfield’s husband Raymond was shot to death in their home in 1999. According to Litchfield, Raymond was alive when she left the house at 6:30 a.m. for several hours and she discovered the body when she returned. The original medical examiner could not pin down a time of death, but police corroborated Litchfield’s whereabouts after she left the house, and no one who saw her thought anything was amiss. The murder weapon was never found, but Litchfield told police that Raymond’s handgun was missing, and it was the same caliber as the murder weapon. The case went cold. Following an investigation years later into the Litchfields’ financial records, Litchfield was charged with his murder. During trial, a different medical expert opined, based on the presence of rigor mortis in the body, that Raymond had been killed between 2 and 8 a.m. The State also offered evidence Litchfield had been writing herself checks from the family business’s account, bouncing checks from their personal bank account, and hiding credit card charges from her husband. She frantically called the bank the day before his murder to postpone an appointment Raymond had made so that she could tell him herself about the credit card debt she incurred. A jury found Litchfield guilty.
On appeal, Litchfield argued that speculation rather than rational inferences from the evidence supported the jury’s guilty finding. The court of appeals affirmed the murder conviction. It held that the jury could have believed Raymond was shot before 6:30 a.m. and that Litchfield had done it because there was no sign of forced entry, the couple’s dogs were known to bark at strangers but had not been barking, and because few people other than Litchfield would have known where Raymond’s gun was kept. Also, her account of being awoken that morning by a call from her best friend warning her about a possibly rising creek was contradicted by phone records and evidence of minimal rain that day. She also gave conflicting statements about where she had last seen her husband alive.
Litchfield argues that Brooks v. State, 323 S.W.3d 893 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010), “left a means for appellate courts to consider what amounts to factual sufficiency of the evidence” in deciding whether the jury is rationally justified in finding guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He points to the court of appeals’s reliance on Appellant’s financial motive, delay in reporting an insurance policy, and inconsistent statements made during the 15-year investigation. He also notes that the time of death was never firmly established.