Contrary to common belief, there are actually two high courts in the State of Texas. The Texas Supreme Court, which we dealt with yesterday, and the Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA). The former court deals with all non-criminal matters, whereas the latter (as its name suggests) is the court of last resort for any criminal cases. Confusingly enough, both courts share the same intermediate Court of Appeals.
The criminal responsibilities of this court are twofold. First, the court is able to use discretionary review to hear secondary appeals in non-Capital criminal cases. In these appeals, as in any other, defendants may raise point of errors that allegedly prevented them from receiving a fair trial. Second, the court is bound by law to look at all Capital cases, looking for similar errors. Further, the Court may hear habeas corpus hearings that focus upon details not necessarily pertinent to the legal issues of the trial. All in all, this Court holds a very valuable role in protecting the integrity of Texas’ criminal justice system. At a time when there is growing skepticism over capital punishment and exoneration after exoneration due to new DNA evidence, we are faced with a watershed election to this high Court. Among the three seats up for election this year, all three Republican incumbents are retiring, setting up lively contests for their replacement in the Republican primary. Democrats only bothered to contest one seat.