Charles v. State, 1729-03.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
Citation146 S.W.3d 204
Docket NumberNo. 1729-03.,No. 1730-03.,No. 1731-03.,1729-03.,1730-03.,1731-03.
PartiesMaurice Jabarr CHARLES, Appellant, v. The STATE of Texas.
Decision Date06 October 2004
146 S.W.3d 204
Maurice Jabarr CHARLES, Appellant,
The STATE of Texas.
No. 1729-03.
No. 1730-03.
No. 1731-03.
Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas.
October 6, 2004.

Appeal from the 262nd District Court, Harris County, Mike Anderson J.

[146 S.W.3d 206]

Brian W. Wice, Houston, for Appellant.

Eric Kugler, Asst. District Atty., Houston, Matthew Paul, State's Atty., Austin, for State.


COCHRAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by MEYERS, PRICE, WOMACK, JOHNSON and HOLCOMB, JJ.

In this case we hold that an appellate court, in its review of a trial court's ruling on a motion for new trial: 1) should apply a deferential standard of review to the trial court's resolution of historical facts; and 2) may rely upon implied findings of fact that are supported by the record to uphold the trial court's ruling, even when the trial court is not faced with expressly conflicting affidavits or testimony.1 We therefore affirm the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, which had held the same.2


Appellant, a fourteen-year-old boy, was certified as an adult to stand trial in district court. He pleaded guilty before a jury to three offenses — attempted burglary, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated robbery — stemming from two separate criminal episodes.

The first episode involved an attempted burglary of the home of the grandmother of one of appellant's friends. Appellant and another boy were seen leaving the area after dropping a crowbar and claw hammer into a neighbor's trash can. The grandmother came home to find the burglar bars on her patio door pried open and the door lock broken. She called the police, and officers soon returned with appellant and the other boy in tow. She confronted appellant, who was sitting in the police car, and said "How could you do this? You've been in my house. Why did you do it?" Appellant told her that "he could have taken something if he had want[ed] it because he had been in my house."

The second, more serious, episode occurred two months later. Appellant and several friends, all wearing ski masks and

146 S.W.3d 207

carrying guns, drove into a park at night and accosted a young woman and her boyfriend. They robbed the boyfriend, kicked him, ordered him to take off his shorts, threatened to shoot him if he moved, and stole his car. They made the young woman get into the trunk of her car and then drove off with her in it. The kidnappers eventually stopped and opened the car trunk. Appellant held a pistol and demanded that the young woman give them her jewelry. She refused, but appellant hit her on the head with his fist. She gave them her jewelry. Appellant took her ring, pulled her out of the trunk by her hair, and threw her on the ground. According to the victim, both appellant and one of his friends raped her. They threw her back in the trunk when her car alarm suddenly went off. Fortuitously, a police officer was driving by; he saw them and gave chase. After a high-speed car chase, the kidnappers finally stopped in a field and fled on foot. The police officer rescued the young woman, who became pregnant as a result of the rape. Appellant was taken into custody a few days later after the ring that he had taken from the victim was recovered. After being given his statutory juvenile warnings from a magistrate, appellant hand-wrote a three-page statement. He admitted that he had participated in the robbery-kidnapping, but he denied committing any rape and minimized his involvement.

During the defense punishment case-in-chief, appellant testified to his remorsefulness and potential for rehabilitation. Then he called twelve other witnesses on his behalf. The jury sentenced him to fifteen years in prison for the aggravated robbery, forty years for the aggravated kidnapping, and a suspended three-year sentence for the attempted burglary.

Appellant filed a written motion for new trial. He asserted ineffective assistance by his trial counsel and alleged that his attorney did not conduct any independent investigation into the voluntariness of his confession. Appellant claimed that if there were a chance he could have suppressed his written statement, he would not have pleaded guilty.

Appellant specifically requested, in italics, that the hearing on the motion for new trial be conducted by affidavits. The trial judge signed appellant's presentment order, and, in conformity with appellant's explicit request, conducted the hearing by affidavits.3 The trial judge denied the motion for new trial.

The court of appeals held that appellant failed to show that the trial court erred in overruling his motion for new trial.


Appellant argues that Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 21.8(b),4 which forbids a trial judge from summarizing or commenting on the evidence when he rules on a motion for new trial, allowed the court of appeals to create an "irrebuttable presumption" that the trial court disbelieved appellant's affidavits. According to appellant, if the trial court had believed his affidavits, then it should have granted him a new trial based on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. He concludes that the court of appeals erred in presuming that the trial may have disbelieved his affidavits because appellant cannot require (or even request) a trial court to make explicit findings of fact in denying a motion for new trial. He argues that because the State did not offer contradicting affidavits,

146 S.W.3d 208

appellant's affidavits should be taken as true and they, therefore, establish his claim to ineffective assistance of counsel and, consequently, his entitlement to a new trial. We disagree.

We address appellant's second ground, concerning the appropriate appellate standard of review, before his first ground, concerning appellate court reliance upon implied factual findings, because the standard of review determines the deference due to factual conclusions which may be inferred from the record but which are not express.

A. The court of appeals correctly applied a deferential standard of review to the trial court's resolution of historical facts based upon affidavit evidence.

An appellate court reviews a trial court's denial of a motion for new trial under the "abuse of discretion" standard.5 We do not substitute our judgment for that of the trial court, but rather we decide whether the trial court's decision was arbitrary or unreasonable.6 We must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling and presume that all reasonable factual findings that could have been made against the losing party were made against that losing party.7 Thus, a trial court abuses its discretion in denying a motion for new trial only when no reasonable view of the record could support the trial court's ruling.

Appellant argues that his affidavits were "uncontradicted" by any evidence offered by the State. Therefore, they establish that his trial counsel advised appellant to plead guilty because he assumed that appellant's written statement was admissible; thus, he did not conduct any independent investigation concerning its voluntariness.8 Appellant asserts that this Court's decision in Manzi v. State9 — in which we held that a deferential review applies to a trial court's determination of historical facts even when that determination is based solely on affidavits-is inapplicable because Manzi involved conflicting affidavits, but in this case the only affidavits submitted were those by the defense and they contained only "uncontradicted" facts.

Both the State and appellant spend considerable time debating whether there are contradictions in or conflicts between the six different affidavits.10 Regardless of whether appellant's various affidavits overtly conflict or contain internal inconsistencies, the fact remains that they do

146 S.W.3d 209

contain numerous ambiguities, vague references, and conclusory statements.11 This is an inherent problem with appellant's affidavits — with witnesses on the witness stand, such ambiguities may be cleared up by follow-up questions, pressing

146 S.W.3d 210

for the factual basis of a conclusion, and by cross-examination.

Affidavits like those submitted by appellant are widely and appropriately used in criminal and civil proceedings to determine if there are material disputed facts and to define exactly which facts are disputed.12 They are not always well-suited for resolving disputed facts.13 This is especially a problem when only one party is in possession of most of the salient facts.

With claims of ineffective assistance of counsel like appellant's, the persons with the most, if not exclusive, knowledge of the salient historical facts will normally be the defendant and his former attorney. By the time an ineffective-assistance claim reaches the courtroom, the attorney and his former client may have conflicting memories and positions, but sometimes they are aligned. In the latter situation, it is particularly important that those memories and positions are tested in the crucible of cross-examination. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure state that affidavits from an interested party may establish a fact for summary-judgment purposes only if that evidence is "clear, positive and direct, otherwise credible, and free from contradictions and inconsistencies, and could have been readily controverted."14 The phrase "could have been readily controverted" means "the testimony at issue is of a nature which can be effectively countered by opposing evidence."15 Statements in affidavits of interested witnesses concerning their own state of mind are "uncontrovertible" because "the mental workings of an individual's mind are matters about which adversaries have no knowledge or ready means of confirming or controverting."16 A trial judge has discretion to discount factual assertions in an affidavit by an interested party that do not meet this test. And an appellate court, in its review, must defer to the trial court's ruling to...

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