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PUGH, ALLEN

PD-1053-19 02/05/2020

“The Court of Appeals erred in holding the trial court acted within its discretion when it allowed the State to introduce three animations to the jury which depicted the decedent Delorme as unarmed and stationary, contrary to the evidence.”

Pugh ran over William Delorme with his pickup, killing him. He raised self-defense and claimed that Delorme approached his car wielding a knife. Pugh testified that he leaned over the console and “floored it” in an attempt to get away, not realizing he hit Delorme in the process. The State introduced several 8-second, computer-generated animations to illustrate its theory of events. It called two accident reconstructionists as sponsoring witnesses. They testified that the animations were computer-generated recreations based on software-aided data collection from the scene and that the victim’s location in relation to the vehicle was determined based on where his injuries were on his body and where blood, hair, and tissue were found on the truck. Pugh objected that the animations were speculative and that the danger of unfair prejudice was too great. The trial court overruled the objection, and he was convicted of murder.   

On appeal, Pugh pointed to Miller v. State, 741 S.W.2d 382 (Tex. Crim. App. 1987), which said re-enactments cannot  duplicate human behavior “in every minute detail” and thus are “inherently dangerous” and “too highly prejudicial” to ensure a fair trial. The court of appeals distinguished the animations at issue because they were computer-generated and based on objective data and held it was within the trial court’s discretion to admit them.

Pugh continues to argue that the animations were speculative and prejudicial. Specifically, he complains that they depict Delorme as stationary and unarmed and depict himself as having sufficient control over the vehicle to negotiate obstacles and accelerate before striking Delorme. He contends admission of the animations violates Miller and that the court of appeals erred to create a new, ill-defined exception to Miller.

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