Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
From the 290th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas, Trial Court No. 2010CR5922. Honorable Melisa Skinner, Judge Presiding.
AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED.
For APPELLANT: Michael C. Gross, Gross & Esparza, P.L.L.C., San Antonio, TX.
For APPELLEE: Jay Brandon, Assistant District Attorney, San Antonio, TX.
Karen Angelini, Justice
Lorenzo Thompson was charged with capital murder. At trial, the jury found that while in the course of committing or attempting to commit robbery, Thompson intentionally caused the death of Vanessa Pitts by driving and swerving his vehicle so as to cause Pitts to be thrown from the vehicle. There was testimony that Pitts was at a gasoline station, filling her car with gasoline, when Thompson stole a small purse from the front seat of her car. Pitts chased Thompson to his pickup truck and jumped on the truck's running board, pounding on the driver's window with her fists and yelling at Thompson through the window. Thompson then squealed his tires, leaving the gas station with Pitts still hanging on to the truck. Thompson drove the pickup truck erratically and fast down the access road of the highway, swerving through lanes of traffic and causing Pitts to be thrown to the ground. Thompson never stopped and fled the scene, with Pitts still lying on the road. Pitts then died as a result of being thrown to the ground.
Thompson appeals his conviction for capital murder, arguing that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction; (2) he was entitled to jury instructions on the lesser-included offenses of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide; (3) the trial court erred in overruling his objection to the State's closing argument in the guilt-innocent phase; and (4) the record fails to establish Thompson's ability to pay attorney's fees as required by the judgment. We overrule Thompson's first three issues. However, because attorney's fees should not be assessed against Thompson, we modify the trial court's judgment to omit any reference to attorney's fees. As modified, we affirm.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
In his brief, Thompson argues the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for capital murder because there was insufficient evidence to establish that (1) he intentionally caused Pitts's death; and (2) that he robbed Pitts. At oral argument, Thompson clarified that " it is undisputed there was a robbery here" and argued only that there is insufficient evidence that Thompson intentionally murdered Pitts while in the course of committing a robbery. According to Thompson, the evidence shows that the robbery ended at the gas station and did not continue as Thompson drove away from the gas station and onto the access road. We disagree with Thompson and hold the evidence sufficient to support his conviction.
In a federal due-process evidentiary-sufficiency review, we view all the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict to determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); Adames v. State, 353 S.W.3d 854, 860 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1763, 182 L.Ed.2d 533 (2012). The court of criminal appeals has explained that this standard " recognizes the trier of fact's role as the sole judge of
the weight and credibility of the evidence after drawing reasonable inferences from the evidence." Adames, 353 S.W.3d at 860. Therefore, on appellate review, we determine whether based on " cumulative force of all the evidence" the necessary inferences made by the trier of fact are reasonable. Id. We conduct this constitutional review by measuring the evidentiary sufficiency with " explicit reference to the substantive elements of the criminal offense as defined by state law." Id.
Under Texas law, a person commits capital murder if he (1) commits murder and (2) intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit robbery. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 19.03(a)(2) (West Supp. 2013).
With respect to murder, Thompson argues there was no evidence of his intent to kill Pitts. Pursuant to the Texas Penal Code, a person commits murder if he intentionally caused the death of an individual. Id. § 19.02(b)(1). A person acts intentionally, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result. Id. § 6.03(a) (West 2011). Intent is most often proven through circumstantial evidence surrounding the crime. Dominguez v. State, 125 S.W.3d 755, 761 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 2003, pet. ref'd). A jury may infer intent from any facts that tend to prove its existence, such as the acts, words, and conduct of the defendant. Id. As shown below, the jury could infer Thompson's intent to kill Pitts from the evidence presented of Thompson's acts, words, and conduct on the day of the incident.
With respect to robbery, at oral argument, Thompson argued the robbery was accomplished when he left the Exxon station and thus there was no evidence he murdered Pitts while in the course of committing a robbery. Pursuant to the Texas Penal Code, a person commits robbery if, in the course of committing theft and with intent to obtain or maintain control of the property, he (1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or (2) intentionally or knowingly threatens or places another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 29.02(a) (West 2011). The Penal Code defines " in the course of committing theft" as " conduct that occurs in an attempt to commit, during the commission, or in immediate flight after the attempt or commission of theft ." Id. ...