Austin College hosts Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

By: Nicolette Schleisman Email
By: Nicolette Schleisman Email

SHERMAN, TX -- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals left their home in Austin Friday and made their way to Sherman for a rare appearance.

Our cameras were not allowed inside the court room at Austin College, but Nicolette Schleisman caught up with some current and future lawyers to find out what they learned from the unique experience.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals came to Austin College Friday to hear oral arguments for 2 active cases, one case was from Fannin County for possession of large quantities of Ecstasy. The other, a capital murder out of Harris County.

"It's quite an unusual event for them to move their staff and come to a place like this to hold court. So its quite an honor for the university," said Allen Isbel, a lawyer in Harris County.

Any murder case is required to go to the Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas, or other cases if there are conflicts among other courts. That's what Austin College student Westin Farley heard Friday.

"In one of the cases, there were issues over whether a defendant was shackled or not, not only was he shackled, but what type of shackles were used. Questions like that. Things that you wouldn't think would matter, but would end up having a big impact on how the judges would decide," said Farley.

After the oral arguments, an Austin College Graduate, Judge Alfonso Charles spoke to students, faculty, and residents about the 7 death penalty cases he prosecuted; to reiterate the importance of having a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

"When that death sentence was announced. I went back to my office and cried. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through. It was the right decision. But it was not fun. At that point, I grew up a lot in as a prosecutor. I realized we are playing with people's lives," said Judge Charles.

Friday was the first time the current Presiding Judge, Sharon Keller, has taken the court on the road. The previous Presiding Judge did not want to hear cases on the road away from Austin.

"Make sure that justice is done for all of us," were the parting words Judge Charles made sure to reiterate.


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