Violent Crimes

Unlawful Possession of Firearms – COA Affirms Conviction Based on Pieces of Shotgun

Forensics | General Law | Violent Crimes

On March 7, 2013, the Texas Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of Emmitt Starling for the unlawful possession of a firearm. According to Marissa Martinez, an ex-lover of Emmitt, Emmitt broke his gun’s stock against her car on December 29, 2010 at around 11:30 PM.

On the same day evening, Marissa had rejected Emmitt’s advances. Emmitt appeared to be intoxicated and was drinking from a Hennessy bottle. At one time during the event, Emmitt pointed the gun toward Marissa’s face. Marissa called 911 and the police took Emmitt into custody.

Houston criminal defense attorney Mario Madrid.

The State introduced two pieces of evidence, one was the remaining majority of a .410 gauge shotgun with duct tape on its trigger and the other one was the butt of a shotgun. Marissa had identified the gun pieces as being the firearm that Emmitt brandished and beat against her car on December 29, 2010. She had also identified the duct tape on the gun’s trigger.

One Police Officer, Brent Mills has testified that he found the pieces of a firearm in some bushes at the base of the staircase of Marissa’s apartment where other officers apprehended Emmitt.

He also identified that the gun pieces introduced by the State are the same pieces that he found. The jury found Emmitt guilty and assessed punishment at thirty-five years’ confinement.

In the appeal, Emmitt challenged the evidence submitted by the State to get the conviction. He argued that the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce the items as the State failed to lay a proper foundation by showing chain of custody of the items.

The COA found based on the testimony of Marissa and various other police officers that the items introduced by the State were easily identifiable by their unique and distinct characteristic and are substantially unchanged normally and hence they do not require the introduction of a chain of custody.

Emmitt’s second argument was that the evidence was legally insufficient to prove that he possessed the firearm. The Court rejected Emmitt’s argument based on the testimony of Marissa and other police officers. Marissa had clearly described the gun in detail and identified it at the trial.

She had also testified to having seen Emmitt brandish the gun and smash it on her car. The firearm need not be in Defendant’s exclusive care, custody, control or management for the conviction of unlawful possession of firearm. The conviction can also be based on additional, independent facts and circumstances that link the Defendant to the firearm.

In this case, circumstantial evidence also linked Emmitt to the shotgun. Multiple police officers testified to having found the shotgun matching Marissa’s description near the bottom of a stairwell where Emmitt was apprehended.

There was also testimony linking together the shotgun and a specific brand of alcohol found near the shotgun with Emmitt. Therefore, the Court of Appeals confirmed the judgment of the trial court. (Starling v. State (March 2013).

If you have been charged with a gun or weapon crime in Texas, contact Madrid Law today for a free case evaluation.

Three Teens Charged with Capital Murder in Death of Teen

Criminal Sentencing/Punishments | Juvenile Crimes | Murder | Violent Crimes

Three teens in Harris County have been charged with Capital Murder in the death of another teen. According to this story, the victim was in the car with another male after buying Air Jordan shoes when an armed individual got out of a car and demanded the shoes. The victim was then shot by another individual. After being shot, the victim tried to drive away but crashed into two houses. The victim later died.

A Review of Capital Murder Charges

In Texas, under Texas Penal Code §19.03, one of the ways a Capital Murder may be committed is if a person commits murder and intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit robbery.

In addition, under Texas Penal Code §7.02, an individual can be criminally responsible for the acts committed by another person. Texas Penal Code §7.02(a)(2) explains that this is possible when an individual solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense if the individual is acting with intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense.

An individual can also be criminally responsible for the acts committed by another person if, as stated in §7.02(b), in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one of the conspirators and the offense was committed in furtherance of the unlawful purpose and was one that should have been anticipated as a result of the carrying out of the conspiracy. This is true even if the individual being held criminally responsible had no intent to commit the additional felony.

The individuals in this case are charged with Capital Murder, which carries the punishment of the death penalty or life in prison. According to the United States Supreme Court decision in Roper v. Simmons and Texas Penal Code §8.07(c), if one of the defendants was under the age of 18 at the time of the incident, the defendant would not be eligible to receive a death sentence.

However, the teens charged in this case are 18 and 19 years old. Therefore, they are all eligible to receive the death penalty.

If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense in Houston, contact Madrid Law, PLLC as soon as possible for review of your cases by a Board Certified criminal defense attorney.

Houston Woman Charged With Injury to Child In Death of Child

Injury to A Child | Violent Crimes

A Houston woman has been charged with the First Degree Felony of Injury to a Child accused of causing serious bodily injury to her child which resulted in death, according to this story.

The child, a 19 month old baby girl, passed away after being taken off of life support on June 20th. When brought to the hospital, the child was diagnosed with multiple skull fractures and brain hemorrhaging and swelling.


The woman claimed that she may have  blacked out and unintentionally injured her daughter. A physician and child abuse expert stated that the severity and pattern of the infant’s injuries which included skull fractures and intracranial hemorrhages were consistent with multiple enormous impacts to the back of the head.

The charge of Injury to a Child that results in serious bodily injury is a First Degree Felony which carries a possible punishment of not more than 99 years or life and not less than 5 years in prison.

It is not clear whether the Harris County District Attorney’s Office will upgrade the charge. If the State believes they can meet the elements of Capital Murder (in this case the murder of a person under 6 years old) they could possible upgrade the charge.

If you or someone you know is need of a Houston Criminal Lawyer, call Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Houston Man Charged With Murder In Connection With DWI Accident

DWI | Murder | Violent Crimes

A Houston Man has been charged with Murder after drunken driving crash in Houston that killed a woman’s unborn child according to this story. The man three prior DWI offenses. Additionally, he was convicted of Criminally Negligent Homicide and sentenced to 2 years in prison in a 2000 accident that also resulted in a child’s death.

The prior DWI conviction cases make the current case a Felony. The death of the unborn child coupled with the Felony DWI make the case what is called a Felony Murder. Man charged with murder in south Houston drunken driving death of unborn child

A Felony Murder is occurs when an individual commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.

An offense of Felony Murder is a felony of the first degree punishable from 5 to 99 years in prison.

If you or someone you know is need of a Houston DWI Attorney or Houston Murder Lawyer, call Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Man Set Free Of Rape and Murder After 16 Years

Criminal Defense | Sex Crimes | Violent Crimes

A Colorado man was exonerated and set free after spending 16 years in prison after being convicted of rape and murder. You can read more about it here. The man was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of a woman found strangled with a dog leash. He was exonerated on the basis of new DNA evidence.

An interesting note in the case is that DNA testing had been done in the case. However new testing found another suspect. The latest DNA testing ruled out the man as the source of blood found on a shirt that also bore blood stains from the victim. The original DNA analysis had already excluded him as the source of semen recovered from the crime scene and of scrapings taken from under the victim’s fingernails, however a jury had still convicted him. New analysis showed additional samples matched the DNA of another man who is serving a life sentence without parole for a1989 rape and strangulation.

In Texas this could have been charged as a Capital Murder (a Murder in the course of committing an Aggravated Sexual Assault)  and possibly led to the death penalty. It is a good example that innocent people can and do get convicted of crimes that they did not commit. Remember, in this particular case DNA excluded the man as the source of semen recovered and fingernail scrapings from the victim.

If you or someone you know is in need of a Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer, call Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Houston Man Charged With Murder

Violent Crimes

A Houston man was charged with Murder in the stabbing death of another man according to this story in the Houston Chronicle. The suspect was later shot by a homeowner when he fled the scene. The victim was flown by Life Flight to Memorial Herman, but later pronounced dead. The suspect survived and is charged with Murder.

An deputy on routine patrol spotted the suspect and victim fighting and stopped to investigate. At that point the suspect fled to a nearby residence, kicked open the front door and went inside. The resident then shot the suspect, who was left with non life-threatening gunshot wound in his arm.

The incident is a good example of Texas self -defense law. For example if the victim had punched the suspect, the suspect was justified in using force when and to the degree it was immediately necessary to protect himself. However, under that scenario if the suspect used a knife, which is a deadly weapon, to defend against being punched, he would not be justified.

The Texas Self Defense Statute is codified in Penal Code Section 9.31:

§ 9.31. SELF-DEFENSE.  (a) Except as provided in
Subsection (b), a person is justified in using force against
another when and to the degree he reasonably believes the force is
immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or
attempted use of unlawful force.
(b)  The use of force against another is not justified:                       
(1)  in response to verbal provocation alone;                                
(2)  to resist an arrest or search that the actor knows
is being made by a peace officer, or by a person acting in a peace
officer’s presence and at his direction, even though the arrest or
search is unlawful, unless the resistance is justified under
Subsection (c);
(3)  if the actor consented to the exact force used or
attempted by the other;
(4)  if the actor provoked the other’s use or attempted
use of unlawful force, unless:
(A)  the actor abandons the encounter, or clearly
communicates to the other his intent to do so reasonably believing
he cannot safely abandon the encounter;  and
(B)  the other nevertheless continues or attempts
to use unlawful force against the actor;  or
(5)  if the actor sought an explanation from or
discussion with the other person concerning the actor’s differences
with the other person while the actor was:
(A)  carrying a weapon in violation of Section
46.02;  or                 
(B)  possessing or transporting a weapon in
violation of Section 46.05.   
(c)  The use of force to resist an arrest or search is
(1)  if, before the actor offers any resistance, the
peace officer (or person acting at his direction) uses or attempts
to use greater force than necessary to make the arrest or search; 
(2)  when and to the degree the actor reasonably
believes the force is immediately necessary to protect himself
against the peace officer’s (or other person’s) use or attempted use
of greater force than necessary.
(d)  The use of deadly force is not justified under this
sub-chapter except as provided in Sections 9.32, 9.33, and 9.34.

However, the homeowner would would be justified in using deadly force as the suspect was unlawfully entering habitation.

If you or someone you know is in need of a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney call Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Felony Murder Trial

Violent Crimes

A Houston man is currently being tried for Murder in a case in which the victim, the man’s son disappeared and was never found. You can read more of the details here.

The case is interesting in that it demonstrates that the State can and will prosecute cases like Murder without ever finding a deceased victim. The State has the burden of proving the elements of the crime they are prosecuting beyond a reasonable doubt. That does not mean that they need direct evidence. For example the case would be much easier for the State if there was a video of the alleged murder, but that is not how murders occur. If they did the case would have likely been settled in a plea bargain.

Rather most evidence that is presented is circumstantial. It is the job of the defense attorney to vigorously contest the evidence and hold the State to their burden.

Another interesting issue in this case if that it is what is called a Felony Murder. To the non criminal defense attorney it sounds obvious that a Murder would be a Felony. However, in Texas in the criminal justice arena, that is not what me mean when we say Felony Murder. We define Felony Murder as causing a death during the course of a felony. The State, rather than having to prove the accused  intentionally or knowingly caused the death of an individual, they must prove the accused caused the death during the course of another felony, without having to prove the accused did it intentionally or knowingly.

If you or someone you know is in need of the services of Houston Criminal Defense Attorney call Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.


Pasadena Man Charged With Aggravated Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault | Violent Crimes

According to the Houston Chronicle a Pasadena man has been charged with Aggravated Sexual Assault, Aggravated Assault and Kidnapping. The man, who is a security guard, is accused of preying on prostitutes and may be linked to the death of a woman whose skeletal remains were found along a street in Pasadena.Sex Crimes Defense Houston

The investigation  began last month after someone spotted a body along the 6100 block of Red Bluff in Pasadena. Dental records later identified the remains as of a 57 year old woman. The woman was a prostitute who worked in the Sheldon area, police said.

Further investigation led police to reports about a man who had attacked several prostitutes in that area. Police were led to a woman who was allegedly taken by the man at gunpoint forced to have sex and then beaten.

Aggravated Sexual Assault is a First Degree Felony that carries a range of punishment of 5 to 99 years in prison. Aggravated Assault and Kidnapping are Second Degree Felonies that carry a range of punishment of 2- 20 years.

If you are someone you know is in need of the services of a Houston sex crimes defense attorney call a Texas Board Certified criminal defense lawyer in Houston by calling Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Mistrial Declared in Houston Murder Trial

Violent Crimes

State District Judge Hazel Jones declared a mistrial in a murder case where Sharon Watkins was accused of arson that led to the death of two teenagers. Watkins’ husband was also charged with Murder but is being tried separately. If you want to read more about the story click here.

The case is what is known as Felony Murder, that is when a death occurs during the course of a felony. Felony Murder is a First Degree Felony that carries a range of punishment of 5-99 years or life in prison. If you are in need of the services of a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney experienced in Murder Defense call Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400

Brothers Charged With Murder

Violent Crimes

Two brothers in Alvin were indicted by a Brazoria County grand jury for murder in the shooting death of their stepfather according to the Houston Chronicle. The shooting according January 19. The brothers report and their stepfather reportedly hated each other, with the brothers blaming the stepfather of tearing their family apart.

Murder is a First Degree Felony and carries a range of punishment of 5-99 years in prison. If you are in need of an experienced attorney who represents people charged with violent crimes such as murder, call Texas Board Certified Houston criminal justice lawyer Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.