Today's Bryan-College Station Eagle reports, "Attorneys make case to appeals court in murder trial." It's by Maggie Kiely.
The capital murder trial of John Ray Falk Jr. remained on standby Monday as attorneys awaited a ruling from the 10th Court of Appeals on a rarely used request from prosecutors filed last week. State attorneys asked the appeals court to instruct District Judge Ken Keeling to change wording in the court's charge that they contend puts them at an unfair advantage. The motion was filed with an emergency stay of proceedings that was granted last Tuesday, the morning closing arguments were set to begin.
Until justices come back with an opinion, the trial will remain on recess with jurors not knowing exactly why they were released until further notice.
Falk, 45, was serving a life sentence at a Huntsville prison when he and another inmate were accused of killing Susan Canfield, a 59-year-old correctional officer, during their brief escape in 2007.
Walker County District Attorney David Weeks, who is prosecuting the case alongside Assistant Attorney General Jane Starnes, insisted to the appeals court that Keeling didn't have authority to add wording to the court's charge that required jurors find Falk should have anticipated the specific way Canfield was killed before they could arrive at a guilty verdict.
Weeks argued to justices that to find Falk guilty as a party conspirator -- his codefendant was driving the truck that struck Canfield's horse, leading to her death -- the state didn't need to prove that Falk knew the truck would be used as the murder weapon, just that he should have anticipated her murder.
"What we have here is a judge who clearly did not follow the law," Weeks said. "At this point, we have no other remedy."
But Lane Thibodeaux, who's handling Falk's appeals and working with defense attorney Michele Esparza and Kyle Hawthorne, dismissed the state's argument on the grounds that the court's charge follows the allegations listed in the indictment.
"The jury charge did nothing more than track the indictment," he said.
According to court documents, the indictment accuses Falk of killing Canfield by striking her with a vehicle while escaping from prison.
But in the writ of mandamus, Weeks pointed to several cases supporting his argument that the law of parties didn't have to be included in the indictment for the defendant to be charged as a party.
Rick Wetzel, Keeling's appeals attorney, argued that Keeling constructed a charge that came "together to represent the allegations, the evidence and the law."
"Keeling was up on a bench having two sides talking on him -- this is what he came up with and this is what trial courts do," he said.
A condensed AP version of the report is, "Jury instructions disputed in Texas inmate's trial," via the San Francisco Chronicle.
An appeals court has been asked to clarify jury instructions over a Texas inmate's alleged role in the 2007 death of a guard during an escape attempt.
The Eagle newspaper reported Tuesday that the Bryan capital murder trial of John Falk Jr. remains on hold pending a ruling.
Prosecutors seeking the death penalty told the 10th Court of Appeals in Waco on Monday that the jury instructions are too limiting.
The defense says the wording follows what's in the indictment.
Related posts are in the law of parties category index.