In re Campbell

There is man named Robert Campbell on Texas’ death row, who is scheduled for execution this upcoming Monday. He was convicted of an especially heinous 1991 robbery-rape-murder, for which he was given Texas’ ultimate penalty: death. Campbell has argued a number of objections since that time, explaining in part why he was languished on death row nearly in a state of limbo for so long. Namely, he has contended that he received inadequate counsel at trial. Anecdotally, his new attorneys point to the fact that his original defender was from Conroe, not Houston (where his trial took place), and only provided rudimentary petitions and appeals, stuff that could basically just be copied off the internet.

However, while litigating this issue, another can of worms, so to speak, arose. Campbell’s IQ, according to a recent test, is 69, far below the threshold for mental retardation. In the 2002 case of Atkins v. Virginia, the US Supreme Court ruled that those who have been explicitly defined by their state of mentally retarded. The intellectual handicaps are to be treated like youth or any other mitigating factor, in that it does not serve as evidence of being unable to comprehend the difference between right and wrong, but serve as a rationale to not levy the full punishment. The problem with this is that States can define mental retardation any way they so choose. Enter Campbell: with an IQ of 69. The problem is that the State contends this is not tantamount to the needed intellectual handicap for clemency.

Click here to see what the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on this matter!

CCA expands cell phone rights

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the Court of Criminal Appeals, the State’s highest criminal court, has decided that warrantless searches of cell phones following arrests are in violation of both the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution and Article I, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution. The court held 8-1 that the State (prosecution) has no justifiable reason to easily look through the phones, which the court held was closer aligned with the “papers” mentioned in the Fourth Amendment than the other property typically rummaged through following arrests.

In this particular case, a young man was arrested following causing a ruckus on a school bus, a fairly low level misdemeanor. After receiving a tip, a police officer (a different one from the arresting officer) learned that the defendant had allegedly taken an improper photograph of a classmate, which is a felony. Police searched his cell phone without his consent and without a warrant and found the photographs. This particularly crime comes with a maximum penalty of two years in prison, but the other implications of a felony conviction are far worse.

Click here to read the court’s reasoning!