“In holding the evidence legally insufficient to support two of Miranda’s convictions, the Court of Appeals did not follow this Court’s case of Miller v. State, 457 S.W.3d 919 (Tex. Crim. App. 2015), concerning the closely-related crimes exception to the corpus delicti rule, improperly holding that the exception did not apply because the temporal relationship of one year between the offenses was too long, even though they were all part of a single criminal episode, and there were multiple victims that were not aware of each other.”
Miranda was convicted of improper relationship between student and educator, sexual assault of a child, and sexual performance of a child for abusing three gymnastics students he coached. At trial, Miranda’s confessions to the conduct underlying the offenses were admitted into evidence. Only one of the victims testified at trial.
On appeal, Miranda claimed that the evidence was insufficient to support the offenses involving the victims who did not testify. Relying on the corpus delicti rule, Miranda alleged that his confessions were not sufficiently corroborated. In response, the State argued that the testimony of the one victim could be used to corroborate his confessions involving the others. In Miller v. State, 457 S.W.3d 919 (Tex. Crim. App. 2015), the State pointed out, the Court of Criminal Appeals recognized a closely-related crimes exception when the “temporal relationship between the offenses is sufficiently proximate.” The court of appeals determined that Miller was distinguishable, however. Miller, it observed, involved the sexual abuse of a single victim for about a month. Here, there were three victims during a year. The court held that the temporal connection was not “sufficiently close.”
The State argues that the court of appeals’ opinion violates Miller. Miranda’s crimes against three female 16-year-old gymnastics students satisfies the definition of “criminal episode;” thus, they were prosecuted in the same criminal action. “Criminal episode,” the State notes, includes offenses that are connected or constitute a scheme or plan or involve the repeated commission of the same or similar offenses. Tex. Penal Code § 3.01. So, “[e]stablishing the corpus delicti of one offense within this single criminal episode should satisfy the closely-related-crime exception to the corpus- delicti rule, as that is what appears to have been envisioned by this Court in Miller.”