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Lasker v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

May 7, 2019

DOMINIQUE DONTAE LASKER, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 506th Judicial District Waller County, Texas Trial Court Case Nos. 11-01-13704 & 11-01-13705

          Panel consists of Justices Lloyd, Kelly, and Hightower.

          OPINION

          Russell Lloyd Justice

         Appellant Dominique Dontae Lasker appeals his two convictions for murder. In two points of error, appellant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss his cases because the State failed to bring him to trial within (1) 180 days after he triggered Article III of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act ("IADA" or "the Act") and (2) 120 days after he was received in Waller County as required by Article IV of the IADA. Because the trial court erred in denying appellant's motion to dismiss, we reverse the trial court's judgments and remand the causes to the trial court with instructions to dismiss the indictments with prejudice.

         Background

         On January 27, 2011, appellant was indicted by a Waller County grand jury for capital murder (for two murders committed during the same criminal transaction) and two counts of murder alleged to have been committed on March 11, 2010. At the time of the indictments, appellant was in the custody of federal correctional authorities in the Southern District of California, charged with "armed bank robbery and aiding and abetting" (Count 1) and "use and carrying of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence, aiding and abetting" (Count 2).

         Appellant pleaded guilty to both federal counts and, on December 16, 2011, he was convicted and sentenced to 37 months on Count 1 and 84 months on Count 2, with the sentences to run consecutively, for a total sentence of 121 months. Following his convictions, appellant was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Victorville, California.

         Waller County subsequently filed detainers[1] against appellant. In July 2012, appellant submitted his first request for final disposition of the Waller County indictments to the Waller County District Clerk and Waller County Criminal District Attorney ("first request"). The request included documents entitled "Notice and Demand to District Attorney/Prosecutor for Trial or Disposition of Warrants, Informations, Detainers, or Indictments by Federal Prisoner" and "Notice of Place of Imprisonment and Request for Speedy Trial and Final Disposition." The Waller County District Attorney's Office received appellant's request on July 19, 2012. On December 13, 2012, appellant filed a pro se motion to dismiss the Waller County indictments against him for violation of the IADA.

         On January 2, 2013, the State of Texas requested temporary custody of appellant from the federal prison authorities in California. Federal authorities acknowledged receipt of the State's request on January 31, 2013.

         It is undisputed that, on February 8, 2013, the Waller County Criminal District Attorney's Office received appellant's second request for final disposition of the indictments, this time sent by the federal correctional complex warden via registered mail, return receipt requested ("second request"). The second request included documents entitled "IAD-Placement of Imprisonment," "IAD-Certificate of Inmate Status," and "IAD-Offer to Deliver Temporary Custody." On April 10, 2013, appellant filed a second pro se motion to dismiss the indictments against him for violation of the IADA.

         Appellant was returned to Waller County on May 24, 2013. On June 4, 2013, appellant first appeared in Waller County district court and the trial court appointed counsel to represent him. At the conclusion of the hearing, the case was not reset. The court merely instructed that appellant be returned to custody. That same day, the trial court signed an order appointing the Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases to represent appellant. Two days later, the trial court appointed Frank Blazek to represent appellant.

         On August 30, 2013, the State filed its first motion for continuance. In its motion, the State indicated its intent seek the death penalty.

         On September 9, 2013, appellant filed his third motion to dismiss the indictments, contending that the cases should be dismissed under the IADA and his federal constitutional right to a speedy trial. That same day, the trial court heard appellant's motion to dismiss and the State's motion for continuance. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court granted the State's motion:

Well, I think I owe it to you for clarity right now to give you the grounds that as a preliminary ruling. I am using Article 4 of IADA to grant the State's Request for the Continuance because I do find good grounds. And that good grounds being the delay in getting Mr. Lasker back here; the seriousness of the charges against him; the availability of him being provided adequate and proper counsel; the complexity that has been represented to me of this case. And for all those reasons and there may well be further reasons upon study of this, I do find we have the good grounds that would be found under Article 4 for the Continuance.

         The trial court stated that it would take appellant's motion to dismiss under advisement. Later that day, the trial court signed a scheduling order setting November 4, 2013 to hear motions and pleas and a jury trial on February 24, 2014.

         On October 30, 2013, appellant filed his first amended motion to dismiss. In the motion, appellant cited both his initial Article III request received on July 19, 2012, and his second Article III request received on February 8, 2013, asserting that 180 days had passed since receipt of both requests. Appellant also argued that he had not sought any delay in the cases, and that the trial court had not found that good cause existed for any delay prior to the expiration of 180 days.

         At the November 4, 2013 hearing, the parties discussed the filing of appellant's first amended motion to dismiss, agreed to submit factual stipulations to the trial court, and discussed the scheduling of pretrial matters. Following the hearing, the trial court entered a new scheduling order setting pretrial hearings but leaving the February 24, 2014 jury trial setting in place.

         At a hearing held on February 11, 2014, the parties argued appellant's first amended motion to dismiss and agreed to numerous stipulations regarding the facts and timeline of events relevant to appellant's motion. The hearing concluded and the February 24, 2014 jury trial setting remained in place.

         Trial did not occur on February 24, 2014. On April 4, 2014, the trial court issued a new scheduling order setting the case for a preferential jury trial setting on March 30, 2015.

         On July 2, 2014, the trial court signed an order denying appellant's motion to dismiss for violations of the IADA with the handwritten notation "although ruled on March 11, 2014." On July 11, 2014, appellant's trial counsel sent a letter to the trial court, with a copy to the State, forwarding appellant's motion to dismiss. The letter and motion stated that appellant was seeking dismissal of the indictments against him based on violations of both the 120-day and 180-day periods under the IADA. On July 15, 2014, the trial court signed an order denying appellant's motion to dismiss.

         Trial did not occur on March 30, 2015. The case was reset three more times over the next two and a half years. The record does not reflect that either party ...


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