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SIMPSON, ROBVIA

PD-0578-18 08/22/2018

Does Doan apply when a defendant enters a plea of “true” to new criminal offenses in a motion to proceed or probation revocation and does the true plea legally bind the defendant guilty in the new criminal offenses?

Simpson was on deferred adjudication probation in Houston County when she was arrested for two new offenses in Anderson County—one assault for striking her roommate with an ashtray and another for assaulting the officer who arrested her. Houston County moved to revoke her probation on multiple grounds, and, as part of a plea agreement, Simpson pleaded true to the Anderson County allegations.

 In Anderson County, Simpson was charged with aggravated assault with the ashtray as a deadly weapon and assault on a public servant. She pleaded not guilty. Simpson’s plea of true was admitted in evidence. She testified that she swung the ashtray at her roommate but only after he pushed her. Her roommate agreed that Simpson would have reasonably believed he was about to “put [his] hands on her” when she struck him. At the State’s urging, the trial court denied Simpson’s request for a self-defense instruction on the theory that, as a matter of res judicata, her earlier plea of true barred her from claiming self-defense. She was convicted of both offenses and appealed the denial of the self-defense instruction in the ashtray assault.

 The court of appeals reversed. It acknowledged that under Ex parte Doan, 369 S.W.3d 205 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012), two prosecuting authorities can be the same party for res judicata purposes. It also acknowledged that under Ex parte Tarver, 725 S.W.2d 195 (Tex. Crim. App. 1986), determinations made in a revocation hearing may have issue-preclusive effect, barring re-litigation of the specific issue decided at the revocation. But this requires the issue to be both actually litigated and essential to the judgment. The court of appeals found the Anderson County offenses were not essential to the judgment because the revocation could have been independently supported by several other probation violations. The court also held that collateral estoppel should not apply because a revocation does not place a defendant in jeopardy and does not result in a “valid and final judgment” on the probationer’s involvement in the new criminal activities.

The State notes that Simpson pled true to assault causing bodily injury in the revocation hearing, which is a lesser-included offense of the aggravated assault she was tried for in Anderson County. The State reasons that any claim of self-defense would have also absolved her of guilt for the simple assault and that since she admitted to committing the lesser, she cannot have been acting in self-defense concerning the greater charge either. The State argues that the cases the court of appeals relies on are distinguishable because they involved probationers who pled “not true,” and Simpson’s plea of true led to a valid judgment on that issue.

 

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