I've practiced in Texas counties with very few judges and in counties with many. In counties with many, there is a tendency, at least for the judges who are members of the same party, to pressure one another to conform to the majority's view. An interesting development in Montgomery County, Texas- county seat Conroe- where my mother-in-law and her people live- is the accession to the bench there of Mr. Kelly W. Case, a criminal defense lawyer, who was supported by the Tea Party over Judge Fred Edwards, who, back in the day, had been a very innovative jurist. Montgomery County has a well-deserved reputation as being very tough on crime and pro-prosecution. Mr. Case has been posting to Facebook as he has been at judge's school, where he was horrified by at least one judge's sense that all criminal defendants before his colleagues--he had no criminal jurisdiction-- were guilty.
This is the context for my case note about William Joseph Lee v. State of Texas, No. 13-10-00555-CR, (Tex. App.--Corpus Christi, Nov. 21, 2012)(mem.op.) out of the 221st Judicial District Court, Conroe, Montgomery County, Texas, brought to that appellate court by docket equalization. The charge: failure to register as a sex offender. Lee had begun the process of registration before he was released. he had made arrangements with the sex offender registration office in Conroe to come in, and this appointment was rescheduled more than once, apparently with no objection by the person he was supposed to report to.
Lee asked for a jury issue on mistake of fact that would allow the jury to find that he reasonably believed that he had, in fact, registered. The trial court refused, Lee got life, and the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. I found out about this case through the case summaries of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, whose commentator noted that Lee is 76 years old, suffering from cancer and Hepatitis C and will not likely survive to be retried.