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Porter v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

December 19, 2017

CRAIG PORTER, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 263rd District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1514084

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Keyes and Caughey.

          OPINION

          Jennifer Caughey, Justice.

         A jury found appellant Craig Porter guilty of the felony offense of manslaughter, and the trial court assessed Porter's punishment at confinement for life. In his sole issue on appeal, Porter contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss for violation of his right to a speedy trial. Because the trial court did not err in denying Porter's motion to dismiss, we affirm.

         Background

         In 2002, Cherita Thurman was found dead-naked, with her legs and arms bound. The medical examiner determined that she had been asphyxiated. Investigators were unable to identify the perpetrator.

         In 2013, a Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) search connected Porter to Thurman. Testing revealed Porter's DNA in multiple places on Thurman's body. The State arrested Porter in January 2013 and he received appointed counsel. In March 2013, Porter was indicted for Thurman's murder.

         Trial began on August 8, 2016, and the jury found Porter guilty of manslaughter. The trial court assessed punishment at confinement for life. Porter appealed, arguing that his case should have been dismissed for violation of his right to a speedy trial.

         Because the primary concern in this appeal is the length between Porter's arrest and trial, we detail the pretrial events. These events demonstrate that Porter was himself responsible for-or at least acquiesced to-most of the delay in this case.

         At Porter's request, the district court reset this case six times between March 2013 and October 2013. On October 15, 2013, Porter's appointed counsel moved to withdraw because his relationship with Porter had deteriorated to the point that Porter refused to speak with him and had filed a grievance against him with the State Bar. The trial court granted Porter's motion and, on October 23, 2013, appointed Porter new counsel. The court then reset the case two more times-again at Porter's request.

         In January 2014, the trial court appointed a third lawyer, Jerome Godinich, to represent Porter. At Porter's request, the court then reset the case six more times between January and August 2014. In August 2014, Porter waived his right to appointed counsel and began to represent himself, with Godinich as standby counsel. Once again at Porter's request, the court reset the case twice between August 2014 and March 2015. In March 2015, Porter ceased representing himself and Godinich began representing him again. Porter then requested two more resets. In addition to these two resets requested by Porter, the court reset the case a third time, but the record does not reflect the reason for this reset or who requested it.

         On September 10, 2015, the court reset the trial for January 22, 2016. The record does not reflect the reason for this reset or who requested it. In January 2016, the court reset the trial for March 14, 2016. The reset order indicates "Lab" as the reason for the reset. On February 18, 2016, Porter filed a motion for independent analysis of DNA evidence, which the court granted on March 1, 2016. In March, the court reset the trial for June 20, 2016.

         Three days before the June trial date, the State reindicted the case. Because Porter elected not to waive his ten days' statutory notice, the court reset the trial for August 8, 2016.

         On December 11, 2015-eight months before trial-Porter's counsel moved to dismiss, alleging a speedy-trial violation. Porter did not set the motion for a hearing. On August ...


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