Posted on 1/2/17

Accomplice liability in Texas is harsh. In fact, one can be held liable for an offense committed by another if “acting with [the] intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense, he solicits, encourages, directs, aids or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense.” This means that mere presence during a crime is not sufficient to hold an accomplice liable for the crime. However, case law shows that if the person had a duty to act and did not act then that person can be liable as an accomplice and would therefore be subject to the same punishment as the principal.

The Glover Case

TheGlover case in Houston in 2011 underscores this point. In that instance, Britni Glover, then a 23-year-old mom going through a divorce, was living with her then 4-year-old son Dustyn. Her off-and-on boyfriend at the time, Michael Seaton, was living with them part-time, too. One day, Britni did not return home for lunch, angering Seaton. Later, when Britni returned, Seaton was enraged and starting beating Dustyn. Seaton slapped Dustyn on the face and then repeatedly punched Dustyn in the stomach. Britni Glover did nothing. Before going to bed, Dustyn complained to his mother that he was suffering from stomach pains. Britni Glover did nothing. The next morning, he was dead. After that, Seaton vanished.

Police later investigated and determined that Dustyn died due to the beating from Seaton. The police report stated that the police do not believe that Glover physically abused her child, but they charged Glover with murder as an accomplice. Thus, even though Glover did not physically kill anyone, and in this case did not physically hurt anyone, she was still charged with capital murder as an accomplice.

When asked why she did not intervene when she saw her son take a beating, Glover remained silent. Glover is now serving a 50-year sentence for the death of her son.


Accomplice liability, though harsh, can be tricky. To be guilty of murder or any crime, the defendant must have the proper actus reus and mens rea. For actus reus, it is enough to be an accomplice without doing anything, as illustrated above. The issue is the mens rea. If the principal commits the crime yet lacks the proper mens rea, e.g. the principal is not sane, but the accomplice has proper mens rea, it is an open question whether the accomplice can be held liable. In reality, the accomplice is just an accomplice, so if the principal would not be convicted of the crime, then how can the accomplice be convicted? Courts are split on how to deal with this issue. Therefore, an analysis regarding the principal’s mental state is an important component of the accomplice’s defense.

Accomplice liability is serious in Texas. A defendant who demonstrates that he or she was a “mere” accomplice is not presenting a valid defense. If you are accused of being an accomplice to a crime, contact a lawyer who has the skill and experience to fight on your behalf. Contact the law firm of Christopher Abel.

(image courtesy of Tony Webster)


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