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In re J. E. C.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

December 20, 2017

In the Matter of J. E. C.


          Before Chief Justice Rose, Justices Goodwin and Bourland


          Jeff Rose, Chief Justice

         J.E.C. was adjudicated delinquent by the district court, sitting as a juvenile court, for committing the offense of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. See Tex. Penal Code § 22.02(a)(2); Tex. Fam. Code § 51.03(a)(1). The court placed J.E.C. on probation for one year at home in the custody of her mother. See Tex. Fam. Code § 54.04(d)(1)(A). On appeal, J.E.C. challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the court's finding that she used a deadly weapon-i.e., her hands and feet-during the commission of the offense. We will affirm the judgment of delinquency.


         Fifteen-year-old J.E.C. engaged in a physical fight with D.A., a classmate who lived in the same apartment complex, and J.E.C. was adjudicated delinquent. At the adjudication hearing, the court heard testimony from three witnesses: a detective who investigated the incident, a probation officer who provided J.E.C.'s date of birth, and D.A.

         D.A. testified that on the evening of the fight, she was watching television in her family's apartment when a neighbor knocked on her door and told her that J.E.C. wanted to talk to her. D.A. stated that she went to the courtyard area in front of her first-floor apartment where she saw J.E.C. walking toward her with several other people, some of whom were videotaping the event.[1] D.A. testified that J.E.C. said someone told her that D.A. "was talking about [J.E.C.]" and that "to get this over with we had to fight, " and "it was going to be, you know, one round." According to D.A., J.E.C. said her little brother told her about D.A. asking him whether J.E.C. had gone swimming with D.A.'s boyfriend. D.A. acknowledged that this was not her first fight, that she was upset and yelling, and that she said, "Whatever. I'm not going to let nobody hit me." D.A. testified that J.E.C. threw the first punch, D.A. "responded back, " and they fought for two or three minutes.

         D.A. stated that during the fight, J.E.C. hit D.A. with her fist, took D.A. to the ground, and sat on top of D.A.'s chest while punching her. D.A. testified that she was five or six inches shorter than J.E.C. and acknowledged that she was "at a great disadvantage" in the fight. D.A. recalled asking J.E.C. to let her go and said that other people yelled at J.E.C. to get off of D.A. but that J.E.C. ignored them. D.A. stated that eventually, someone said that they were going to call the police and that someone came and took J.E.C. off of her. D.A. testified that as J.E.C. got up, she stomped on D.A.'s face two or three times with her shoes, and that D.A. lost consciousness. When D.A. regained consciousness, her friend A.R., who witnessed the fight, was there to help her up.

         After the fight, police responded to the scene, and D.A. went to North Austin Medical Center. D.A. testified that she was released after receiving treatment for pain and swelling and that she was advised against sleeping because she could have a concussion. Two days later, D.A. went to Dell Children's Hospital because her neck felt "sore" and "too heavy." Records from Dell Children's Hospital admitted into evidence show that D.A. was diagnosed with "Acute cervical myofascial strain; Brain concussion; Chest wall contusion; Closed fracture nasal bone; [and] Facial contusion."[2] Those records attributed D.A.'s injuries to an assault and stated that she complained of face, neck, and back pain. Photographs of D.A.'s face were admitted into evidence showing her black eyes, bruises, and nose injury. D.A. testified that the injuries depicted in the photos resulted from the fight.

         D.A. acknowledged contacting an attorney before speaking with the police, but she denied "making this story up because of some lawsuit." When asked if J.E.C. was trying to kill her, D.A. testified that she did not know why the fight occurred and that there was no reason for it.

         Austin Police Department detective Nicole Gray testified that four days after the fight, D.A.'s mother and D.A. came to speak with her. Detective Gray stated that she opened an investigation into D.A.'s case, requested her records from Dell Children's Hospital, and reviewed the responding police officer's offense report. Because the medical records indicated that D.A. sustained a broken nose and a concussion with loss of consciousness, Detective Gray decided to charge the offense initially as an aggravated assault with bodily injury. Detective Gray testified that based on her training and experience as an APD officer, hands and feet can be used as deadly weapons. She acknowledged that she did not see the girls' fight and did not speak with J.E.C. as part of the investigation.

         At the conclusion of the trial, the juvenile court adjudicated J.E.C. delinquent for committing aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The court found specifically that J.E.C. caused bodily injury to D.A. and that J.E.C. used her hands and feet as a deadly weapon. The court signed a judgment of delinquency and a dispositional order of probation, placing J.E.C. on probation for one year at home in the custody of her mother.

         Sufficiency of the evidence

         On appeal, J.E.C. contends that the evidence was legally insufficient to prove that her hands and feet were used as deadly weapons. Adjudications of delinquency in juvenile cases are based on the criminal standard of proof. See Tex. Fam. Code § 54.03(f). We review adjudications of delinquency in juvenile cases by applying the same standards applicable to evidentiary sufficiency challenges in criminal cases. See In re M.C.L., 110 S.W.3d 591, 594 (Tex. App.-Austin 2003, no pet.); see also In re R.J., No. 03-14-00389-CV, 2015 Tex.App. LEXIS 11533, at *13 (Tex. App.-Austin Nov. 6, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op.). We consider all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. See In re M.C.L., 110 S.W.3d at 594 (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979)). The trier of fact is the sole judge of the weight and credibility of witness testimony, and thus, on appeal we must give deference to the fact finder's determinations. In re M.L.M., 459 S.W.3d 120, 126 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2015, no pet.) (citing Brooks v. State, 323 S.W.3d 893, 899 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010)). If the record contains conflicting facts, we must presume that the fact finder resolved those facts in favor of the verdict and defer to that resolution. Id. (citing C ...

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