Jury Charge Error in Texas Criminal Cases

One of the most important aspects of a jury trial is the jury charge. What is the charge? The charge is a document that explains the law and tells a jury how to reach their decision. Unfortunately mistakes are made and juries can be misinformed about how the law applies to a criminal case.

What is the law on jury charge error in Texas criminal cases?

Article 36.19 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure establishes the standard for reversal on appeal when the requirements of article 36.14, which relates to the charge of the court, have been disregarded: “the judgment shall not be reversed unless the error appearing from the record was calculated to injure the rights of [the] defendant, or unless it appears from the record that the defendant has not had a fair and impartial trial.” TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC ANN. art. art. 36.19 (West 2006).

Under Almanza, jury charge error requires reversal of the judgment when the defendant has properly objected to the charge and the appellate court finds “some harm” to his rights. Almanza v. State, 686 S.W.2d 157, 171 (Tex. Crim. App. 1984).

When the defendant fails to object or states that he has no objection to the jury charge, an appellate court will not reverse for jury charge error unless the record shows “egregious harm” to the defendant. Ngo v. State, 175 S.W.3d 738, 743–44 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005). 14–

Egregious harm is a difficult standard to prove and such a determination must be done on a case-by-case basis. Hutch v. State, 922 S.W.2d 166, 171 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996). The actual degree of harm must be assayed in light of: (1) the entire jury charge; (2) the state of the evidence; (3) the argument of counsel; and (4) any other relevant information revealed by the record of the trial as a whole. Allen v. State, 253 S.W.3d 260, 264 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008); Almanza, 686 S.W.2d at 171. Errors which result in egregious harm are those that affect the very basis of the case, deprive the defendant of a valuable right, vitally affect the defensive theory, or make a case for conviction clearly and significantly more persuasive. E.g., Taylor v. State, 332 S.W.3d 483, 490 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011).

The criminal defense team at Guest and Gray Law Firm can help if you are the victim of a jury charge error. Our criminal defense attorneys have the trial and appellate experience to fight your case. We have offices in Rockwall, Kaufman, and Forney to meet you, or we can talk over the phone. We are able to take appeals in almost any count in Texas, including Dallas, Tarrant, Rockwall, Kaufman, Denton, Collin, Hunt and Van Zandt. Call today for a free confidential case evaluation.

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