1. “Did the trial court have jurisdiction to hold a trial while the State’s petition for discretionary review was pending in this Court?”
2. “Are speedy trial claims cognizable on pretrial habeas if the applicant asks for a speedy trial rather than dismissal?”
3. “Did the court of appeals improperly reverse the trial court’s ruling for what the trial court said instead of what it did?”
Sheffield had been in the county jail for several months, under indictment for evading, drug possession, and felon in possession. He filed a petition for habeas corpus in early summer 2020, asking for a speedy trial. The trial court explained to Sheffield that the Office of Court Administration and Texas Supreme Court were not permitting jury trials before September 2020 because of Covid-19 and denied the petition.
Sheffield appealed. The court of appeals held it was error to interpret the Texas Supreme Court Emergency Order as requiring the judge to indefinitely forgo proceedings and reversed and remanded the case to the trial court. The State argued on rehearing that interlocutory appeal was not available for denial of a speedy trial claim. The court of appeals held that such appeal is permitted when the defendant sought a trial instead of discharge or dismissal.
The State reasserts that pretrial habeas is not the right vehicle for these claims and argues that the court of appeals’s test for determining viable interlocutory appeals lacks a guiding principle and could be easily manipulated. It contends mandamus would be available as a remedy in the case of a truly indefinite postponement.
While the State’s petition for discretionary review was pending, the trial court conducted a trial on the matter. The Court of Criminal Appeals thus granted review on its own motion to determine whether the trial court had jurisdiction to do so.