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Friday, October 22, 2010

Clewis Is Dead, Long Live Brooks and Jackson

"We granted discretionary review in this case to address, among other things, whether there is any meaningful distinction between a legal-sufficiency standard under Jackson v. Virginia (1) and a factual-sufficiency standard under Clewis v. State and whether there is a need to retain both standards. (2) Under the Jackson v. Virginia legal-sufficiency standard, a reviewing court is required to defer to a jury's credibility and weight determinations. (3) In Clewis, this Court adopted a factual-sufficiency standard, which is supposed to be distinguished from a Jackson v. Virginia legal-sufficiency standard primarily by not requiring a reviewing court to defer to a jury's credibility and weight determinations. (4) But then Clewis contradicted itself by also requiring a reviewing court to apply this standard with deference to these jury determinations "so as to avoid an appellate court's substituting its judgment for that of the jury." (5) After having made several attempts to "clarify" Clewis in part to resolve this fundamental contradiction, we eventually came to realize that the Clewis factual-sufficiency standard is "barely distinguishable" from the Jackson v. Virginia legal-sufficiency standard. (6) We now take the next small step in this progression and recognize that these two standards have become essentially the same standard and that there is no meaningful distinction between them that would justify retaining them both. We, therefore, overrule Clewis and decide that the Jackson v. Virginia legal-sufficiency standard is the only standard that a reviewing court should apply in determining whether the evidence is sufficient to support each element of a criminal offense that the State is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt".

This is what Judge Hervey said in her Brooks v. State opinion, which Presiding Judge Keller and Judges Keasler and Cochran joined.
Judge Cochran said for herself and and Judge Womack that both parties agreed that the proper issue in this kind of case is legal sufficiency of the evidence, and that logic requires a single standard of sufficiency review in criminal cases.
An argument might be made here, that the anti—Clewis holding here is dictum. Though it appears to me to be a logical consequence of their opinion, I believe, as a practical matter Cochran and Womack would say good riddance to bad rubbish.

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