Cockrell v. State, 71766

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
Citation933 S.W.2d 73
PartiesTimothy COCKRELL, Appellant, v. The STATE of Texas, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 71766,71766
Decision Date11 September 1996

Page 73

933 S.W.2d 73
Timothy COCKRELL, Appellant,
The STATE of Texas, Appellee.
No. 71766.
Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas,
En Banc.
Sept. 11, 1996.
Rehearing Denied Nov. 6, 1996.

Page 75

Julie B. Pollock, Diana L. Hoermann, San Antonio, for appellant.

Edward F. Shaughnessy, III, Margaret M. Fent, Asst. Dist. Attys., San Antonio, Matthew Paul, State's Atty., Austin, for the State.

Before the court en banc.


McCORMICK, Presiding Judge.

The offense is capital murder, and the sentence is death. Appellant raises fifty-four points of error. We affirm.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence from guilt-innocence shows appellant was employed by a moving company the victim used on August 7, 1992, to move her belongings into a home the victim had rented. Appellant was involved in this move and he was in the victim's home on August 7, 1992. One of the legs of the victim's table was broken during the move.

On the morning of August 9, 1992, appellant appeared at the victim's home claiming to be there to fix the broken leg of her table. Once inside appellant eventually attacked the victim and strangled her to death. Appellant left the victim in a bathtub full of water where the victim's mother found her later that day. Appellant took various items of the victim's property including her car, a gun, an answering machine and a vacuum cleaner. The police arrested appellant on August 10, 1992, and he confessed later that day.

In point of error five appellant claims the trial court erred in denying his request for a mistrial because of the prosecutor's prejudicial jury argument "striking at appellant over the shoulders of his" lawyers. Appellant claims reversible error occurred when during closing jury arguments at guilt-innocence the State argued appellant's court-appointed lawyers suborned perjury by hiring an expert witness--a Dr. Alexander--to lie to the jury. We set out the portions of the record relevant to our consideration of this point of error.

The testimony from guilt-innocence shows that when the police arrested appellant on August 10th, he was not in possession of any of the victim's property. And, the State had no physical evidence, such as fingerprints, directly connecting appellant to the offense.

However, the State presented evidence that several of appellant's acquaintances were in possession of various items of the victim's property on August 10th. These individuals claimed they received the property from appellant. Appellant, through cross-examination and closing argument, contended these individuals were unworthy of belief because they were "robbers, liars and thieves." 1

The State pointed out it had to use this evidence because "those are the kinds of people" appellant "hangs out with." In addition to attacking the credibility of this evidence, appellant pointed the finger at others whom the jury might have inferred could have possibly committed this offense. Of course, it was uncontroverted that appellant had been in the victim's home on August 7th.

This brings us to appellant's confession. Appellant, who was 28 years old at the time

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of the offense, advanced several factual theories on why the jury should not have considered his confession. These theories hinged on appellant's claimed inability to read, write and understand the English language. The charge instructed the jury to disregard appellant's confession if it found the face of the confession did not contain the required statutory warnings or their "substantial equivalent," or if the jury found appellant did not "freely and voluntarily" give the confession "without compulsion or persuasion." 2

Appellant's confession consists of three pages. The top of each page contains the "substantial equivalent" of the required statutory warnings. See Article 38.22, Section 2(a), V.A.C.C.P. Appellant's signature appears on the bottom of each page. The first page of the confession contains a recital that appellant has a "[t]enth grade education and [he] can read, write and understand the (sic) English." The statements in appellant's confession were consistent with the evidence found at the scene of the offense and with the victim's cause of death.

The State presented the testimony of Detective Saidler who obtained appellant's confession. Saidler testified he had not been assigned to investigate this case. Saidler became involved when Detective Rodriguez, who was the supervising detective of this case, radioed Saidler at his office in the homicide division and told him she wanted his assistance in interrogating appellant who was a suspect in a homicide investigation. Saidler testified he first saw appellant when other officers brought him and several of his acquaintances into the homicide division for questioning.

Appellant and Saidler knew each other from past experiences. Saidler testified that when appellant saw him appellant said he wanted to talk to Saidler. Saidler testified appellant told him that his acquaintances were not involved in any murder.

Saidler testified he took appellant into an interview room and spoke with appellant alone while other officers interrogated appellant's acquaintances. Saidler informed appellant he was under arrest for a parole violation and was also a suspect in a murder. Saidler testified he read appellant the required statutory warnings from a card and asked appellant if he understood these rights. Appellant said he did and signed the back of the card. Saidler testified appellant then started talking "right away."

Saidler testified they talked for two or three hours. During this time, Saidler left the room several times and spoke with other detectives who were investigating the case. Saidler testified on direct and later on cross that these detectives gave him no details about the case.

"Q. Was Detective Rodriguez or the lieutenant coaching you as to what to ask [appellant] or what information, type of information, to get out of him?

"A. No, sir.

"Q. Were they giving you any details of the offense and then telling you, you know, 'Go ask him if he did this, or that, or the other'?

"A. No, sir. They just--they did ask to find out if I had known if he was by himself or not."

Saidler testified that what he knew about the case was what appellant was telling him. Saidler testified appellant orally confessed to the offense.

"Q. Did you have any idea what [appellant] was about to tell you?

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"A. No, sir.

"Q. All right. So how were you able to find out or learn what it was he had to say to you?

"A. Well, he told it to me.

"Q. All right. Now, describe that, how did that work?

"A. We sat there just talking in general and he told me what had happened out there, his reasons for why it happened and things that happened afterwards, who was involved, who wasn't involved, the fact there was nobody involved. And we just discussed what, you know, what went on out there.

"Q. When you are talking about 'out there,' you are talking about in [the victim's] home on the morning of August the 9th, 1992?

"A. Yes, sir."

Saidler also testified on direct that he showed appellant various pictures of the crime scene and had appellant initial them "to show that they were the pictures" he showed appellant. Saidler testified he received the pictures from other detectives involved in the case. Saidler testified these pictures aided him in understanding the information appellant was giving him.

Saidler testified appellant eventually agreed to put his oral statements into writing after Saidler got appellant a cup of coffee. Saidler called up on his computer screen a standard "confession form." This form contains, among other things, the statutory warnings on the top of each page. Saidler testified the first thing he did was determine whether appellant could "read and write and understand English."

"Q. All right. Tell us how you then took his oral statements and reduced them to writing on the computer screen?

"A. Well, the first thing I did is to qualify and talk to him on about how he wanted to word the statement. The first thing I qualified is whether or not he could read and write and understand English, how much education he had. And then when he told me, I typed that onto the computer and read it back to him."

Saidler testified he reread the statutory warnings to appellant from the confession form "when" he reduced appellant's oral statements to writing but not "before" he did so.

"Q. Did you ever reread his rights to him?

"A. Only when I reduced it to writing.

"Q. But before you reduced it to writing, you did not reread his rights to him?

"A. No, sir.

"Q. Why not?

"A. He had already been Mirandized. I am not aware of any ruling where he has to be Mirandized again."

Saidler testified he read portions of appellant's confession to appellant as Saidler typed it. He testified he read the entire confession to appellant "portion by portion."

"Q. Okay. So let me ask you this, did you type the entire confession as a whole or did you do it differently?

"A. We do it in bits and pieces as we--it's a narrative of what he says. It's not word-for-word.

"Q. Okay. Well, would you type a portion of the statement and then read it back to him or how were you doing that?

"A. Sometimes I would type it--depending on the size of the paragraph or how much we were talking about, sometimes I would read it back to him as a whole paragraph as I typed along. Sometimes just a line at a time.

"Q. Okay. Why would you change your system in doing that?

"A. Just depending on how--how much he was talking, how much of it referred to the case, and how just to summarize what he was saying.

"Q. Regardless of doing it sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, portion by portion, did you read the entire confession to [appellant] as you typed it on the computer screen?

"A. Not the entire confession just the part I was typing in.

"Q. Okay. And what do you mean by that?

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"A. Well, the other stuff is...

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