Posted on 3/25/19

Those who act in their own self-interest during litigation are sometimes considered suspect under the Texas Criminal Code. This is especially true if one person is a witness whose testimony will put another person in jail instead of him or herself. That is to say, if, for example, someone is accused of being an accomplice to a crime and then testifies against the defendant, the law requires that the accomplice’s testimony be corroborated in order to be accepted in a court of law.

Texas Accomplice Corroboration Law

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that “a conviction cannot be had upon the testimony of an accomplice unless corroborated by other evidence tending to connect the defendant with the offense committed; and the corroboration is not sufficient if it merely shows the commission of the offense.”

Accomplice

To fall under this category, the person in question must be an “accomplice.” An accomplice is defined as a person who participates before, during, or after the commission of a crime and can be criminally liable for the crime committed or for a lesser offense related to the commission of that crime.

Provided that a person qualifies as an accomplice, the accomplice’s testimony can only lead to conviction if other evidence corroborates that the defendant in question committed the offense.

Determining Corroborating Evidence

In 2001, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals in the case ofState v. Solomonexplained the usage of the accomplice/witness rule: To determine the sufficiency of the evidence, we “eliminate the accomplice testimony from consideration and then examine the remaining portions of the record to see if there is any evidence that tends to connect the accused with the commission of the crime.”

This rule was further clarified in the 2008 case of Malone v. State where the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals explained that there need be corroborating evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and instead the corroborating evidence must link the accused to the alleged crime.

In the 2011 case of Smith v. State, The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals further noted that there is no specific amount of evidence required to satisfy the corroboration requirement; instead, a court will determine, on a case-by-case basis, if the corroborating evidence is sufficient to satisfy the accomplice/witness rule. If sufficient, the accomplice’s testimony will be entered into the record and will be a factor in the jury’s decision about the innocence or guilt of the case.

On the other hand, case law notes that the mere presence of the accused at the scene of the crime is insufficient to satisfy the accomplice/witness rule. Corroborating the evidence will take more than just presence of the defendant.

Therefore, if you are on trial for a crime and an accomplice is testifying against you, such testimony must be corroborated. You need an aggressive attorney who understands the rule and will challenge that testimony. Contact the law office of Christopher Abel, a Dallas-area criminal defense lawyer.

(image courtesy of Velizar Ivanov)

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