Salazar v. State

Decision Date09 October 2002
Docket NumberNo. 0045-01.,0045-01.
Citation86 S.W.3d 640
PartiesAlbert SALAZAR, Appellant, v. The STATE of Texas.
CourtTexas Court of Criminal Appeals

Thomas F. Greenwell, Corpus Christi, for Appellant.

James D. Rosenkild, Asst. DA, Corpus Christi, Matthew Paul, State's Atty., Austin, for State.

OPINION

COCHRAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by KELLER, P.J., MEYERS, PRICE, JOHNSON, KEASLER, HERVEY, and HOLCOMB, JJ.

Appellant Albert Salazar was found guilty of five counts of molesting the younger brother and sister of a teenager to whom he gave music lessons. The court of appeals reversed one of the counts — that of aggravated sexual assault of the little boy — because it found that the only evidence of the assault was Mr. Salazar's extrajudicial confession, which he repudiated at trial.1 This, the court of appeals held, rendered the evidence insufficient under the corpus delicti rule which requires that an out-of-court confession be corroborated by some evidence that the offense actually was committed.2 We granted review to consider the court's application of that rule.3 Because we find that the corpus delicti rule was indeed satisfied in this case, we reverse the court of appeal's decision, and reinstate the full judgment and sentence of the jury.

I.

Appellant, although a high school dropout, remained involved in school band. He volunteered with a middle school band and gave private music lessons to its members. In this capacity he met Joshua, the older brother of the two victims in this case. Appellant started giving Joshua saxophone lessons in 1997. Every Sunday appellant would come to Joshua's apartment for the lessons. Joshua lived with his grandmother, his little brother Julian, and his little sister Alexandria (Alex). Alex and Julian were home alone one afternoon during the summer of 1998, while Joshua was out of town and their grandmother was at work. Though the music lessons were on hold for the summer, appellant, then age eighteen, came to the apartment. Finding the two children alone, appellant sexually molested both of them. Julian was only six years old at the time; Alex was seven. When confronted by police, appellant gave a written statement admitting that he had sexually abused both children.4

Appellant was indicted on five counts: one count of attempted aggravated sexual assault, two counts of aggravated sexual assault, and two counts of indecency with a child. Appellant pled guilty to all but two of the five charges.5 He pleaded "not guilty" to the attempted aggravated assault of Julian (by pulling down Julian's underwear or by rubbing his penis on Julian's buttock intending to cause his penis to contact or penetrate Julian's anus) and the aggravated sexual assault of Julian (by causing Julian's penis to penetrate his mouth). Appellant denied the attempted aggravated sexual assault charge against Julian and testified that, although he rubbed his penis on Julian's behind, he did not have any intent for his penis to touch Julian's anus. Appellant denied the aggravated assault charge and testified that, although he put Julian's penis on his mouth, he did not put Julian's penis in his mouth.6 When asked why he had confessed in writing to putting Julian's penis in his mouth, appellant said he simply misread the confession before he signed it. The jury evidently rejected appellant's trial testimony and found him guilty on both counts.

On appeal, appellant argued that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the aggravated sexual assault count. Appellant contended that, although there was corroboration of the commission of the crime of aggravated sexual assault, there was no independent corroboration of the specific manner and means of committing that offense. That is, the State did not independently corroborate every jot and tittle of the specific manner in which he committed the offense as outlined in his written confession.

The court of appeals agreed and held that there was no independent evidence that appellant put Julian's penis in his mouth, because at trial appellant testified that he only put Julian's penis on his mouth. Julian's outcry statement to his grandmother was that appellant "kissed" Julian's penis, but at trial, Julian himself denied any oral sexual contact at all.7 The court of appeals held that "[t]he jury received no evidence of the crime other than the out of court confession which appellant denies."8 Implicit in this holding is the notion that the corpus delicti rule is not satisfied unless the State presents evidence to corroborate every element and descriptive allegation in the indictment. The State argues that the court of appeals misapprehends the corpus delicti rule. Rather than requiring independent corroboration of each element and descriptive allegation, the rule requires that there be some independent evidence tending to show the essential nature of the charged crime. We agree.

II.

The historical rationale for the common law corpus delicti corroboration rule is explained by Professors Perkins and Boyce.9 The corpus delicti rule guarded against the shocking spectacle and deleterious effect upon the criminal justice system when a murder victim suddenly reappeared, hale and hearty, after his self-confessed murderer had been tried and executed.10 Although such cases were far and few between,11 they demonstrated that the old adage, "he wouldn't have confessed unless he were guilty," is not inevitably true. "The rule requiring corroboration of confessions protects the administration of the criminal law against errors in convictions based upon untrue confessions alone."12 Over time, the corpus delicti rule expanded to cover crimes other than murder.

Wigmore explains the American concept of the corpus delicti rule thus:

[Every crime] reveals three component parts, first, the occurrence of the specific kind of injury or loss (as in homicide, a person deceased; in arson, a house burnt; in larceny, property missing); secondly, somebody's criminality (in contrast, e.g., to accident) as the source of the loss, — these two together involving the commission of a crime by somebody; and thirdly, the accused's identity as the doer of this crime.13

In most American jurisdictions, including Texas, the corpus delicti rule requires some corroboration of the first two elements — an injury or loss and a criminal agent — although it does not also require any independent evidence that the defendant was the criminal culprit.14 Its purpose is to ensure that a person is not convicted of a crime that never occurred, based solely upon that person's extra-judicial confession.15 The rule was not intended, however, to ensure that all confessions are corroborated in specific details or to ensure that the suspect does not falsely confess to a crime that did occur but for which he had no culpability.16 Thus, it satisfies the corpus delicti rule if some evidence exists outside of the extra-judicial confession which, considered alone or in connection with the confession, shows that the crime actually occurred.17

III.

The issue in this case, then, is whether there was any independent evidence which, considered with the confession, proved that someone committed the crime of aggravated sexual assault upon the six-year-old boy. There was ample evidence of the crime, including:

1. Julian's grandmother's testimony, that Julian told her that appellant had kissed him "down there" and "on his private parts";

2. Alex's testimony, that appellant asked Julian if what he was doing "felt good"; and

3. Appellant's in-court confession that he put Julian's penis on his mouth.18

This evidence fulfills the purpose of the corpus delicti rule. It assures that the very crime to which appellant confessed, and for which he was prosecuted, actually happened.19 The fact that appellant testified that he put Julian's penis on his mouth rather than putting the child's private part in his mouth is irrelevant for purposes of the corpus delicti rule. The corpus delicti rule is satisfied by the State producing some independent evidence that someone had sexual contact with Julian's private part and that the act was performed with criminal intent.20

It is this independent evidence which distinguishes the present case from Smith v. State,21 the case on which the court of appeals relied. In Smith, this Court overturned a statutory rape conviction — despite the defendant's extrajudicial confession — because at trial, both the defendant and the victim denied that the sexual act occurred.22 In Smith, there was no other independent evidence that a statutory rape had occurred on the day in question.23 In this case, however, appellant told the jury that he had put Julian's penis on his mouth, and Julian told his grandmother, who in turn told the jury, that appellant had "kissed" his private part. If the jury believed this evidence, as it clearly did, then there is ample evidence that the assault occurred, albeit in a slightly different manner than that described in appellant's out-of-court confession. That the crime occurred in a slightly different manner than appellant described in his out-of-court statement is immaterial to the determination whether the corpus delicti rule has been satisfied. It has. We therefore reverse the court of appeals and reinstate the full judgment and sentence of the trial court.

WOMACK, JJ., not participating.

2. Id.

3. We granted review on the following questions:

1) Is a defendant's judicial confession that he committed the same offense for which he was indicted, albeit in a different manner than alleged in the indictment, sufficient for purposes of the "corpus delicti rule" to corroborate his extrajudicial confession upon which the allegations in the indictment were based?

2) Is Appellant's judicial confession that he placed a child's penis "on" his mouth sufficient for purposes of the "corpus delicti rule" to...

To continue reading

Request your trial
114 cases
  • Bible v. Stephens
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas
    • October 30, 2014
    ...is not convicted of a crime that never occurred, based solely upon that person's extra-judicial confession." Salazar v. State, 86 S.W.3d 640, 644 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002). In a suppression hearing, Bible argued:There are statements that the Defendant made that the State may try to get into ev......
  • In re M.P.
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • February 7, 2007
    ...S.W.3d 145 (Tex.Crim.App.2005); Salazar v. State, 31 S.W.3d 726, 728-29 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 2000), rev'd on other grounds, 86 S.W.3d 640 (Tex.Crim.App.2002). 8. See United States v. Beydoun, 469 F.3d 102, 108 (5th Cir.2006); United States v. Bustamante, 454 F.3d 1200, 1202-03 (10th Cir......
  • Garcia v. Director, TDCJ–CID
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Texas
    • November 10, 2014
    ...which, when considered alone or in connection with the confession, establishes the crime actually occurred. Salazar v. State, 86 S.W.3d 640, 645 (Tex.Crim.App.2002). Corroboration of specific details is not required. Id. at 644. The Director persuasively argued that the testimony of the vic......
  • Huff v. State
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • April 8, 2015
    ...confession which, considered alone or in connection with the confession, shows the crime actually occurred.” Salazar v. State, 86 S.W.3d 640, 645 (Tex.Crim.App.2002).We disagree with Huff's assertion that the corpus delecti rule prohibits his conviction, i.e., the evidence is legally insuff......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 books & journal articles
  • Confessions
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Criminal Lawyer's Handbook. Volume 1 - 2020 Contents
    • August 16, 2020
    ...must be evidence that an offense was committed and that it was the result of criminal conduct rather than accident. Salazar v. State, 86 S.W.3d 640 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002). The rule does not require corroboration of every element and descriptive allegation in the indictment. Salazar. The cor......
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Criminal Lawyer's Handbook. Volume 2 - 2015 Contents
    • August 17, 2015
    ...814 (Tex.App.—San Antonio 1999, no pet .), §20:96.9.3 Salazar v. State, 38 S.W.3d 141 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001), §21:40.2 Salazar v. State, 86 S.W.3d 640 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002), §§6:80, 6:170 Salazar v. State, 90 S.W.3d 330 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002), §20:22.1 Salazar v. State, 284 S.W.3d 874 (Tex......
  • Misdemeanor Defense
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Texas Small-firm Practice Tools. Volume 1-2 Volume 2
    • May 5, 2022
    ...§15:104 TEXAS SMALL-FIRM PRACTICE TOOLS 15-28 §15:104 Corroboration Corroboration of a confession is required. [ Salazar v. State , 86 S.W.3d 640 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002).] There must be independent evidence of the corpus deliciti (harm brought about by the criminal conduct). [ Emery v. State......
  • Confessions
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Criminal Lawyer's Handbook. Volume 1 - 2017 Contents
    • August 17, 2017
    ...must be evidence that an offense was committed and that it was the result of criminal conduct rather than accident. Salazar v. State, 86 S.W.3d 640 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002). The rule does not require corroboration of every element and descriptive allegation in the indictment. Salazar. In a ca......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT