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Taylor v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

May 22, 2018

DARON TAYLOR, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 178th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 1400163

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Jamison and Busby.

          SUBSTITUTE OPINION

          J. BRETT BUSBY, JUSTICE

         We issued an opinion in this case on March 29, 2018. Appellant subsequently filed a motion for rehearing. Without changing the disposition of the case, we withdraw our previous opinion, issue this substitute opinion, and deny the motion for rehearing as moot.

         Appellant Daron Taylor was charged with committing capital murder when he was a juvenile. The juvenile court waived jurisdiction and transferred appellant to the criminal district court, where he was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life in prison. On appeal, appellant argues the criminal court lacked jurisdiction because the juvenile court erred in waiving its jurisdiction. The juvenile court's order stated that because of the seriousness of the offense, the welfare of the community required criminal proceedings, but it made no case-specific findings of fact with respect to the seriousness of the offense. Under recent precedent from the Court of Criminal Appeals, therefore, the juvenile court abused its discretion in waiving jurisdiction. We vacate the judgment of the criminal district court, dismiss the case in that court, and return the case to the juvenile court.

         Background

         Appellant was accused of committing capital murder when he was sixteen. Because appellant was a juvenile at the time of the offense, the charge against him was originally brought in a juvenile district court. In that court, the State filed a motion to waive jurisdiction and transfer appellant to the criminal district court. Appellant was seventeen when the juvenile court conducted the certification hearing to determine whether to waive jurisdiction. The certification hearing also addressed another murder offense, which is not at issue in this appeal. At the hearing, the juvenile court heard testimony from two police officers who investigated the offenses. The juvenile court also admitted documentary evidence, including a "Court Report Information Summary" containing psychological and psychiatric evaluations of appellant and information on appellant's background.

         At the conclusion of the September 2013 hearing, the juvenile court granted the State's motion to waive jurisdiction. The juvenile court's written order follows the language of the juvenile transfer statute closely. In the order, the court finds "that there is probable cause to believe that the child committed the OFFENSE alleged and that because of the seriousness of the OFFENSE, the welfare of the community requires criminal proceeding." See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 54.02(a)(3) (West 2014). The court states that it considered the following statutory factors:

1. Whether the alleged OFFENSE WAS against person or property, with the greater weight in favor of waiver given to offenses against the person;
2. The sophistication and maturity of the child;
3. The record and previous history of the child; and
4. The prospects of adequate protection of the public and the likelihood of reasonable rehabilitation of the child by use of procedures, services and facilities currently available to the Juvenile Court.

See id. § 54.02(f). The court also found that appellant "is of sufficient sophistication and maturity to have intelligently, knowingly and voluntarily waived all constitutional rights heretofore waived . . ., to have aided in the preparation of HIS defense and be responsible for HIS conduct;" that the alleged offense was "against the person of another;" and that the evidence and reports demonstrate that "there is little, if any, prospect of adequate protection of the public and likelihood of reasonable rehabilitation of [appellant] by use of procedures, services, and facilities currently available to the Juvenile Court."

         Appellant's capital murder case was transferred to criminal district court, where he was convicted by a jury. The trial court ...


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