214 S.W.3d 9 (Tex.Crim.App. 2007), PD-1352-05, Hooper v. State

Docket Nº:PD-1352-05.
Citation:214 S.W.3d 9
Party Name:Reginald Lamont HOOPER, Appellant v. The STATE of Texas.
Case Date:January 31, 2007
Court:Court of Appeals of Texas, Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
 
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Page 9

214 S.W.3d 9 (Tex.Crim.App. 2007)

Reginald Lamont HOOPER, Appellant

v.

The STATE of Texas.

No. PD-1352-05.

Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas

January 31, 2007

ON STATE'S PETITION FOR DISCRETIONARY REVIEW FROM THE TENTH COURT OF APPEALS ANGELINA COUNTY

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Albert J. Charanza Jr., Lufkin, for Reginald Lamont Hooper.

Clyde Herrington, D.A., Lufkin, Matthew Paul, State's Attorney, Austin, for State.

OPINION

MEYERS, J.

Appellant Reginald Hooper was convicted by a jury of aggravated assault of a public servant and sentenced to 30 years' confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Correctional Institution Division. The State presented evidence at the guilt phase of the trial that during March 2004 Appellant was the getaway driver from an aggravated robbery and that a passenger in Appellant's vehicle, one of the robbers, shot at a Parks and Wildlife game warden while trying to flee.

Appellant appealed, asserting that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court misdirected the jury about the law regarding weapons findings and parole eligibility. Addressing only the legal sufficiency claim, the court of appeals reversed the guilty verdict and rendered a judgment of acquittal after finding the evidence legally insufficient to support Appellant's conviction. The Chief Justice dissented. He argued that the verdict was not irrational because any inferences necessary to support the conviction are reasonable and supported by the record.1

We granted review to determine whether the court of appeals erred in holding that the evidence was legally insufficient to support Appellant's conviction. The State urges two reasons for review:

1) [T]he Court of Appeals incorrectly applied the Jackson v. Virginia standard of review in finding the jury verdict "irrational."

2) [T]he justices of the Court of Appeals disagreed on a material question of law necessary to the Court's decision, to wit: the application of the Jackson v. Virginia standard of review for legal sufficiency and the Court's reliance on "inference stacking" to reach its decision.

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Because we find that the court of appeals applied the legal sufficiency test incorrectly, we remand the case to the court of appeals to reconsider the legal sufficiency of the evidence supporting Appellant's conviction.

The Evidence

On March 17, 2004, two men robbed the clerk at a Cash 2 U store in Woodville. The clerk did not see them pull up to the store in a car. The two men held the clerk at gunpoint and demanded money. They then took her to the back of the store and tied her hands and feet with duct tape. There was no money in the store, so the robbers took her personal items. The clerk knew Appellant, and he was not one of the robbers. After the robbers left, the clerk freed herself and ran to the front of the store just as a customer came in. She told him she had just been robbed and asked if he had seen anyone coming out of the store. He had not. Police quickly arrived and took a statement from the clerk.

Across the street, in a grocery store parking lot, another witness was almost hit by a red, four-door Dodge speeding across the parking lot. A man ran by her car, jumped in the red vehicle, and lay down in the back seat. The red vehicle then sped out of the parking lot. The witness did not see the driver of the vehicle or the direction the vehicle turned out of the parking lot. When the witness saw police at the Cash 2 U store, she stopped to ask if there had been a robbery. She gave the police a description of the red vehicle and of the man who she had seen jump in the car. That description was broadcast to officers.

A game warden heading toward Woodville heard the broadcast and soon spotted a small red vehicle heading out of town. As the warden turned around to follow it, the vehicle seemed to accelerate. The warden was driving his Parks and Wildlife Department patrol truck with the Parks Department logo and name on both doors and red and blue lights on the front and rear of the truck. It took the warden a few minutes of driving over 100 m.p.h. to catch up. Wanting to get a better look, the warden followed the red vehicle for another 4 or 5 minutes at 60 or 70 m.p.h. without activating his siren or lights. The game warden could see only one occupant, the driver, in the vehicle. He radioed the license plate to the dispatcher and learned that this was the type of vehicle the witness had described. During this time, the vehicle slowed down and moved to the shoulder as if to let him pass. The game warden had not activated his lights. The game warden stayed behind the vehicle, and the vehicle continued to slow. The vehicle then pulled over and quickly came to a complete stop. The game warden activated his emergency lights and almost immediately the heads of two additional occupants became visible, one in the front passenger seat and one in the backseat. As the game warden exited his truck, the front seat passenger opened his car door and started exiting the red vehicle. The warden yelled at him to get back in, but the passenger continued moving toward the front of the vehicle. At the same time, the back seat passenger exited the vehicle. As the game warden reached for his radio and gun, the front seat passenger, who was about 25 feet away, fired a shot at him, but missed. The game warden returned fire, and the passengers fled into...

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