Carmell v. Texas, 529 U.S. 513 (2000)

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certiorari to the court of appeals of texas, second district

No. 98-7540. Argued November 30, 1999—Decided May 1, 2000

In 1996, petitioner was convicted on 15 counts of committing sexual offenses against his stepdaughter from 1991 to 1995, when she was 12 to 16 years old. Before September 1, 1993, Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann., Art. 38.07, specified that a victim's testimony about a sexual offense could not support a conviction unless corroborated by other evidence or the victim informed another person of the offense within six months of its occurrence, but that, if a victim was under 14 at the time of the offense, the victim's testimony alone could support a conviction. A 1993 amendment allowed the victim's testimony alone to support a conviction if the victim was under 18. The validity of four of petitioner's convictions depends on which version of the law applies to him. Before the Texas Court of Appeals, he argued that the four convictions could not stand under the pre-1993 version of the law, which was in effect at the time of his alleged conduct, because they were based solely on the testimony of the victim, who was not under 14 at the time of the offenses and had not made a timely outcry. The court held that applying the 1993 amendment retrospectively did not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause, and the State Court of Criminal Appeals denied review.

Held: Petitioner's convictions on the counts at issue, insofar as they are not corroborated by other evidence, cannot be sustained under the Ex Post Facto Clause. Pp. 521-553.

(a) In Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 390, Justice Chase stated that the proscription against ex post facto laws was derived from English common law well known to the Framers, and set out four categories of ex post facto criminal laws: "1st. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action. 2d. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed. 3d. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offence, in order to convict the offender." The Court has repeatedly endorsed this understanding, including the fourth category. Both Justice Chase and the common-law treatise on which he drew heavily cited


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