Longtime Dallas judge John Creuzot made a pretrial ruling that the State of Texas, represented by the District Attorney Craig Watkins's office, could not seek the death penalty against defendant Jonathan Bruce Reed in his current retrial because the passage of approximately 30 years had rendered some of his punishment mitigation evidence unavailable. The State filed writs of mandamus and prohibition to undo Cruezot's actions. The Court of Criminal Appeals majority held that the State had no remedy at law and that the trial judge had a ministerial duty to not make such a ruling for the following reasons:
- There is no authority that Judge Creuzot has the power to make such a ruling pretrial;
- The United States Supreme Court has not recognized a claim like Reed's;
- The thirty years' delay worked in Reed's advantage-- when he was first tried SCOTUS had not changed the law so as to provide a legal basis for his claims;
- Although he may have lost mitigation evidence from his youth, the evidence of his behavior during his 30 years of incarceration will be fresh, better evidence than he would have had before;
- The harm of the delay challenges the State-- it has the burden of proof;
- Reed's complaint about the evidence is not yet ripe-- he might be acquitted; his mitigation evidence might be sufficient to save his life-- all his injury is hypothetical;
- SCOTUS says that problems from delay must be shown at a trial;
- The delay is not the State's fault-- it should not be punished for a delay it had no hand in.
Judge Price did not think that it was categorically impossible that a prejudicial degradation of evidence caused by delay could not be determined pretrial. Therefore,the trial court does not have a ministerial duty to rescind its order-- that is, the State does not have a clear right to the relief it seeks.