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Ex parte Edwards

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

August 27, 2019

EX PARTE MAURICE EDWARDS, Appellant

          On Appeal from the 209th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1620108

          Panel consists of Justices Lloyd, Landau, and Countiss.

          OPINION

          Julie Countiss Justice

         Appellant, Maurice Edwards, challenges the trial court's order denying his pretrial application for a writ of habeas corpus. In his sole issue, appellant contends that the trial court erred in denying his requested relief, which he sought on the ground that the ten-year statute of limitations barred prosecution of the alleged felony offense of aggravated sexual assault.[1]

         We reverse the trial court's order.

         Background

         On November 16, 2017, a Harris County Grand Jury issued a true bill of indictment, accusing appellant of committing the felony offense of aggravated sexual assault on or about May 2, 2003. Appellant filed a verified application for a writ of habeas corpus asserting that his confinement and restraint were illegal because the statute of limitations barred prosecution for the alleged offense in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Article I section 10 of the Texas Constitution, and Article 12.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.[2] Relator sought "dismissal of the charge as being outside the statute of limitations."

         The trial court held a hearing on appellant's application. Appellant offered, and the trial court admitted into evidence without objection, a copy of the complaint, the indictment, article 12.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, and a Houston Police Department ("HPD") offense report. The parties "stipulat[ed] to the facts that [were] in the offense report" for the purposes of the hearing.

         In the report, HPD Officer B.K. Foley states that, on May 2, 2003, he "was dispatched to a sexual assault [that had] just occurred," and upon his arrival, "the complainant was at the scene" and the perpetrator was not present. He spoke with the complainant, who said that the alleged perpetrator's name was "Maurice" and she "[did] not know his last name or phone number off hand," had met him when she worked at "Moments Cabaret," and had "gone out with [him] a few times." On the day of the sexual assault, she "called [Maurice] to come and pick her up from a friend[']s house" and he "was going to eventually give her a ride to [a convenience store] where her boyfriend was supposed to be waiting." However, Maurice drove past the store and "into an apartment complex," where the complainant "tried to get out of the vehicle" as Maurice began "grabbing her and hitting her." When the complainant tried to get away, Maurice started to choke her. Maurice then "took her clothes [off] and had sex with her."

         Emergency personnel transported the complainant to a hospital "to have a rape kit done." Officer Foley "ran the license plate [number] of [Maurice's] vehicle," which two witnesses at the scene had given to him. The information he received from "r[unning] the license plate [number]" indicated that "there was a city warrant on the vehicle for a Maurice Edwards[, date of birth] 11-13-77," along with a Texas driver's license number. Foley then "ran the criminal history on [Maurice Edwards] and the [information] matched" the information that the complainant had given. In his report, Foley identified "one possible suspect" as "Edwards, Maurice Ellis." Foley also noted that the complainant "was very hysterical and hard to interview," "often did not answer questions and appeared to not be telling the whole truth about her relationship with [Maurice] and how they met both originally and [the day of the sexual assault]," and "often tried to change the subject and appeared to be withholding information."

         On May 6, 2003, HPD Officer L.D. Garretson, who had been assigned to the investigation, supplemented the offense report to state that there had not been a supplement made "regarding the recovery/tagging of the complainant's sexual assault kit into the HPD property room." On May 15, 2003, HPD Officer M. Walding supplemented the offense report to state that he had stopped a car that matched the description of Maurice's car, the driver "was identified as Tommie C. Lewis," and "[t]he passenger claimed he was Jason Lewis." When Walding asked Tommie "when he last saw Maurice," Tommie answered "about a year ago." Walding called the complainant, who stated that "this was obvious[ly] a lie," and she advised Walding that neither of the men "fit the description" of Maurice.

         On May 16, 2003, Officer Garretson reviewed "[the] complainant's sexual assault examination forensic report forms for [submission] to the HPD crime lab for DNA analysis and comparison purposes." In his supplement to the offense report, he noted that the complainant had not attempted to contact him and had not responded to the "Sex Crimes Unit Contact Letter" that he had sent to her. According to Garretson, "[u]ntil this contact" from the complainant was received, the status of the investigation was "case cleared due to lack of prosecution by [the] complainant."

         A November 7, 2013 supplement to the offense report reflects that laboratory testing "in association with a request for outsourced - DNA analysis" was completed. And a February 5, 2014 supplement to the offense report shows that a laboratory analysis "in association with a request for CODIS analysis" was completed.[3]

         On April 13, 2014, HPD Officer J. Lewis supplemented the offense report to state that, on March 13, 2014, he had received the case "for further investigation regarding a CODIS match confirmation." HPD Officer N. Vo updated the offense report on August 22, 2017. He stated that he had interviewed the complainant, who "positively identified [Maurice] through [a] photo[graphic] array even though the [sexual assault] happened 13 years ago." He further stated that the Harris County District Attorney's Office had "advised that charges for aggravated sexual assault were accepted" ...


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