Texas Stamp


PD-0041-17 07/26/2017

1. “In the absence of a body, must the State prove the ‘fatal act of violence’ in order to convict someone of murder?”

2. “The court of appeals reviewed both the evidence and the elements of the offense in sequential, piecemeal fashion rather than cumulatively, and failed to respect the jury’s prerogative to draw inferences and weigh testimony.”

3. “Is the evidence sufficient to prove appellant murdered his wife?”

More than twenty years after Nisbett’s wife disappeared, he was convicted of murdering her. The court of appeals acquitted him. It held that, even if it was proven that the victim is dead, that she died at Nisbett’s hands, the State did not prove his mental state because it failed to prove what “particular conduct” or “specific act” on his part caused her death.

The State asserts that the Court of Criminal Appeals’ repeated promise that the State need not produce a body or prove the manner and means of death would be meaningless if the State were required to prove the fatal act through an admission or eye-witness testimony.  According to the State, the court of appeals' sufficiency analysis displays many common errors the Court has repeatedly condemned—disregarding the cumulative force of the circumstantial evidence and failing to defer to the rational inferences supporting the jury’s verdict. The lower court’s determination that Nisbett’s mens rea was not proven because there was no “fatal act of violence,” the State asserts, conflicts with the well-established rule that a jury can draw rational inferences from circumstantial evidence. Next, the State argues that the court of appeals erred to rely on the standalone corpus delicti rule rejected in Carrizales v. State, 414 S.W.3d 737 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). In doing so, it repeatedly refused to consider strong motive/identity evidence that Nisbett murdered his wife and failed to acknowledge that the same evidence that proves corpus delicti can also prove mens rea.

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