McCreary v. State, 02-21-00114-CR

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Writing for the CourtOpinion by Justice Birdwell
Citation649 S.W.3d 902
Parties Laura MCCREARY, Appellant v. The STATE of Texas
Docket Number02-21-00114-CR
Decision Date21 July 2022

649 S.W.3d 902

Laura MCCREARY, Appellant
v.
The STATE of Texas

No. 02-21-00114-CR

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fort Worth.

July 21, 2022


ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: J. EDWARD NIEHAUS, BODKIN NIEHAUS DORRIS & JOLLEY, PLLC, DENTON, TEXAS.

ATTORNEYS FOR STATE: PAUL JOHNSON, CRIMINAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY; ANDREA R. SIMMONS, CHIEF OF APPELLATE DIVISION, ASSISTANT CRIMINAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY; ANDREW NEIFORD & ALESHA NICHOLS, ASSISTANT CRIMINAL DISTRICT ATTORNEYS DENTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, DENTON, TEXAS.

Before Sudderth, C.J.; Kerr and Birdwell, JJ.

Opinion by Justice Birdwell

Appellant Laura McCreary appeals her conviction for false report to a peace officer, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. We affirm.

I. Background

In October 2018, Appellant and Joseph McCreary were going through a divorce; court orders regarding Joseph's visitation rights with their son were in place. On October 10, 2018, Joseph—per the visitation orders—drove to the home where Appellant and their son resided, and he parked at the end of the driveway. While Joseph sat in his vehicle, Appellant approached, opened the locked door via the keypad, and attempted to push Joseph aside. Joseph tried to push Appellant out. He called 911. While Joseph spoke to the 911 dispatcher, Appellant yelled statements that contradicted Joseph's version of the disturbance.1

Responding police, including Officer Samuel Brandt, made contact with Joseph and questioned him about the disturbance. Joseph gave Officer Brandt a GoPro camera that had recorded the interaction between Appellant and Joseph inside the vehicle. After viewing the GoPro video, Officer Brandt spoke with Appellant and obtained a written statement.

Joseph's statements to police were consistent with the events recorded in the video, while Appellant's statements on the

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video were inconsistent with what was actually occurring. Appellant's subsequent verbal and written statements to police were also inconsistent with the events shown on the video. Ultimately, because of the video, police were able to determine no family-violence assault had occurred.

After additional investigation, police issued a warrant for Appellant's arrest for the offense of false report to a peace officer. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 37.08. The case went to trial in August 2021, and a jury found Appellant guilty.

II. Sufficiency Challenge

Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support her conviction.

A. Standard of Review

In our evidentiary-sufficiency review, we view all the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict to determine whether any rational factfinder could have found the crime's essential elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia , 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979) ; Queeman v. State , 520 S.W.3d 616, 622 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017). This standard gives full play to the factfinder's responsibility to resolve conflicts in the testimony, to weigh the evidence, and to draw reasonable inferences from basic facts to ultimate facts. See Jackson , 443 U.S. at 319, 99 S. Ct. at 2789 ; Queeman , 520 S.W.3d at 622. The factfinder alone judges the evidence's weight and credibility. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 38.04. Instead of re-evaluating the evidence's weight and credibility and substituting our judgment for the factfinder's, we determine whether the necessary inferences are reasonable based on the evidence's cumulative force when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict. Murray v. State , 457 S.W.3d 446, 448 (Tex. Crim. App. 2015) ; see Villa v. State , 514 S.W.3d 227, 232 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017) ("The court conducting a sufficiency review must not engage in a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy but must consider the cumulative force of all the evidence."). We must presume the factfinder resolved any conflicting inferences in favor of the verdict, and we must defer to that resolution. Murray , 457 S.W.3d at 448–49.

To determine whether the State has met its burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, we compare the crime's elements as defined by the hypothetically correct jury charge to the evidence adduced at trial. See Hammack v. State , 622 S.W.3d 910, 914 (Tex. Crim. App. 2021) ; see also Febus v. State , 542 S.W.3d 568, 572 (Tex. Crim. App. 2018) ("The essential elements of an offense are determined by state law."). Such a charge is one that accurately sets out the law, is authorized by the indictment, does not unnecessarily increase the State's burden of proof or restrict the State's theories of liability, and adequately describes the particular offense for which the defendant was tried. Hammack , 622 S.W.3d at 914. The law as authorized by the indictment means the statutory elements of the charged offense as modified by the factual details and legal theories contained in the charging instrument. Curlee v. State , 620 S.W.3d 767, 778 (Tex. Crim. App. 2021) ; see Rabb v. State , 434 S.W.3d 613, 616 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014) ("When the State pleads a specific element of a penal offense that has statutory alternatives for that element, the sufficiency of the evidence will be measured by the element that was actually pleaded, and not any alternative statutory elements.").

B. False Statement to a Peace Officer

1. Elements of False Statement to a Peace Officer

Under Section 37.08 of the Texas Penal Code, "[a] person commits an offense if, with intent to deceive, he knowingly makes

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a false statement that is material to a criminal investigation and makes the statement to ... a peace officer." Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 37.08. Here, the State specifically alleged Appellant "intentionally and knowingly with the intent to deceive, ma[d]e a false statement, namely: that Joseph McCreary...

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