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Williamson v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

September 20, 2019

RICKEY DONELL WILLIAMSON, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

          Date Submitted: September 5, 2019

          On Appeal from the 196th District Court Hunt County, Texas Trial Court No. 32127.

          Before Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.

          OPINION

          Ralph K. Burgess Justice.

         When Rickey Donell Williamson confronted Jaime Ramirez and his friend about disrespecting Williamson's girlfriend, the result was a brief, but violent, altercation between Williamson and Ramirez. The violent encounter ended when Williamson inflicted a deep, ten-inch gash to the left side of Ramirez' face with a box-cutting knife. Although Williamson maintained that he acted in self-defense, a Hunt County jury convicted him of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced him to forty years' imprisonment. On appeal, Williamson complains that (1) the trial court erred in ruling that two prior convictions were admissible under Rule 609 of the Texas Rules of Evidence and (2) insufficient evidence supports the jury's rejection of his self-defense claim. Because we find that (1) Williamson waived his complaint regarding the admission of his two prior convictions and (2) sufficient evidence supports the jury's rejection of his self-defense claim, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         I. Williamson's Rule 609 Complaint Was Waived

         In his first issue, Williamson complains that the trial court erred in finding that evidence of two prior family violence assaults[1] was admissible to impeach his credibility under Rule 609 of the Texas Rules of Evidence. See Tex. R. Evid. 609(a). Under Rule 609(a), a trial court must admit a criminal conviction offered to impeach a witness' character for truthfulness if (a) the conviction was for a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude, (b) its probative value outweighs its prejudicial effect, and (c) it is elicited from the witness or shown by public record. Tex. R. Evid. 609(a); see Theus v. State, 845 S.W.2d 874, 880 (Tex.Crim.App. 1992) (setting forth a nonexclusive list of factors to be considered in weighing the probative value of a conviction against its prejudicial effect). Williamson argues that the trial court misapplied the Theus factors in determining that the two convictions were admissible. The State argues that Williamson waived this complaint because the evidence of the two convictions was elicited from Williamson in his direct testimony, not by the State. We agree with the State.

         In this case, after the State rested from its case-in-chief, the State informed the trial court that it intended to use several prior convictions, including the two convictions that are the subject of his complaint, to impeach Williamson's credibility, if he chose to testify. After some discussion, the trial court considered the Theus factors and found that the two family violence assault convictions would be admissible if Williamson chose to testify. In his direct examination, Williamson testified that he had pled guilty to the offense of family violence assault in 2007 and to another family violence assault offense in 2008. Thereafter, the State did not offer the judgments of conviction for those offenses into evidence in the guilt/innocence phase of the trial.

         We have previously held under similar facts that any complaint that evidence of a prior conviction was not admissible has been waived. Gaffney v. State, 940 S.W.2d 682, 687 (Tex.App.-Texarkana 1996, pet. ref'd) (op. on reh'g). In Gaffney, after the trial court had overruled the defendant's motion to exclude evidence of the prior convictions, Gaffney elected to bring out the matter of his prior convictions by his own testimony during his direct examination. We explained that since the State did not introduce the evidence or bring it out on cross-examination, and Gaffney had elected instead to do so on his direct examination, he had waived any complaint regarding the admissibility of the prior convictions. Id.

         Subsequent to our decision in Gaffney, the United States Supreme Court addressed the same issue and concluded that "a defendant who preemptively introduces evidence of a prior conviction on direct examination may not on appeal claim that the admission of such evidence was error." Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 760 (2000). The Supreme Court explained that once the trial court makes its ruling, both the defendant and the State have choices to make, and those choices have consequences. See id. at 757–60. The defendant may choose to introduce the prior conviction on direct examination in hopes of removing its sting, or he may take his chances with the State's introduction of the conviction on cross-examination. Id. at 758. If the defendant does not introduce the prior conviction, the State must decide whether to impeach the defendant with the conviction and risk that its use would be reversible error on appeal. Id. By introducing the evidence on direct examination, the defendant denies the State this right to decide. Id. However, the consequence of introducing the evidence on direct examination is that the defendant waives any appellate complaint regarding the admission of the evidence. Id. at 760.

         Relying on Ohler, several of our sister courts of appeals have held that a defendant waives the right to complain about a trial court's ruling on the admissibility of prior convictions when he preemptively introduces them on direct examination. See Bryant v. State, 534 S.W.3d 471, 473 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 2017, pet. ref'd); Roderick v. State, 494 S.W.3d 868, 881 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, no pet.); Sargent v. State, No. 10-13-00158-CR, 2014 WL 505350, at *2 (Tex.App.-Waco Feb. 6, 2014, pet. ref'd) (mem. op., not designated for publication).[2] Since Williamson introduced the prior convictions on direct examination, he waived his complaint regarding their admissibility. We overrule his first issue.

         II. Sufficient Evidence Supported the Jury's Rejection of Self-Defense

         Williamson also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the jury's rejection of his self-defense claim. Williamson contends that no reasonable jury could have rejected his claim of self-defense under the evidence produced in this case.

         A. The Law ...


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