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Shaw v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District, Houston

January 23, 2014

JOE AMOS SHAW, Appellant

Page 858

On Appeal from the 178th District Court, Harris County, Texas. Trial Court Cause No. 1292395.

For APPELLANT: Jani J. Maselli Wood, HOUSTON, TX.

For STATE: Jessica Alane Caird, HOUSTON, TX.


Page 859

Sharon McCally, Justice.

A jury convicted appellant Joe Amos Shaw of murder and assessed his punishment, enhanced by a prior conviction for attempted capital murder, at life. The trial court sentenced appellant accordingly and assessed court costs against him. Appellant asserts that (1) the trial court reversibly erred by denying him the opportunity to impeach the assistant medical examiner regarding a crime of moral turpitude; (2) the trial court reversibly erred by allowing testimony during punishment regarding either an irrelevant extraneous offense or victim impact evidence; (3) he was entitled to a sua sponte extraneous offense jury instruction in the punishment charge; and (4) court costs should be deleted from the judgment because there is insufficient evidence to support them. We agree that insufficient evidence supports the court costs, reform the judgment to delete these costs, and affirm the judgment as modified.


Appellant was charged with the murder of Rhonda Scott, the woman with whom he lived at the time of her death. The decedent's body was found by family members in her garage on January 15, 2011, a day after she last spoke to anyone. Her car was missing but was later found abandoned through the GPS tracking device installed in it. Her family members contacted the police, who arrived at the scene. Appellant was required to wear an electronic ankle monitor during the time he lived with the decedent. Officers discovered that the ankle monitor appeared to have been cut off, the strap was cut through, and the bracelet was located in the bedroom. A unit in the home displayed the words " bracelet gone" and emitted a loud beeping noise. Appellant was not at the house. While at the scene, the officers received notice that appellant's ex-wife contacted police and requested a welfare check at the decedent's residence " to make sure that everybody was . . . okay."

At appellant's trial, his ex-wife testified that appellant arrived at her home the evening of the decedent's death in the decedent's car. She stated he had been drinking and was despondent and suicidal; he told her he had been fighting with the decedent. Another of appellant's friends also testified, relating that appellant also told him he had been fighting with the decedent. Several days after the discovery of the decedent's body, police discovered appellant at a local hospital by tracing a phone call he made to his ex-wife. When approached by police officers, appellant provided a fictitious name before he was arrested.

At appellant's trial, an assistant medical examiner (M.E.) testified regarding the injuries

Page 860

sustained by the decedent. The decedent had a gunshot wound beneath her eye, with gun particle burns to her face. These particle burns indicated that the shot was fired from more than two inches and less than two feet from her face. She had no defensive wounds and the blood found on her hands indicated that they could have been close to her face when the bullet struck her. The assistant M.E. testified that the manner of the decedent's death was homicide.

After hearing the evidence and argument of counsel, the jury found appellant guilty as charged and proceeded to the punishment phase of his trial. Appellant pleaded " not true" to the alleged enhancement of a prior conviction for attempted capital murder.

As is relevant to this appeal, the State presented a fingerprint expert who testified that appellant's prints appeared on a penitentiary packet showing a conviction for attempted capital murder in Bell County, Texas. Appellant was convicted on July 20, 1982; the offense occurred on May 21, 1982. The State called a witness from Killeen, Texas, Doris Mashburn, who testified about a woman named Lorene Johnson. Ms. Mashburn knew Lorene very well; Lorene had worked for her for a long time. Ms. Mashburn distinctly remembered May 21, 1982, because that was the day that she opened her door to discover Lorene passed out and bleeding from numerous stab wounds. Ms. Mashburn accompanied Lorene to the hospital, where hospital personnel were able to save Lorene's life. According to Ms. Mashburn, Lorene had to have rehabilitation and when she returned to work, her arm was in a cast. When Lorene learned about this case, she had headaches and was disturbed.

After both sides rested and closed, the trial court charged the jury. The jury found the enhancement paragraph " true" and assessed punishment at confinement for life in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division. The trial court signed a judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict and assessed court ...

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