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Anderson v. State of Texas (May 16, 2012)
Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas – No. PD-1067-11

Appellant filed a petition for discretionary review, contending the Court of Appeals erred in holding the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to allow defense counsel to question the jury panel about its understanding of the differences between proof “beyond a reasonable doubt" and the lesser burdens of proof applicable in civil cases.

Held : Although trial courts have broad discretion over the process of selecting a jury and the propriety of particular questions, it is an abuse of discretion for it to prohibit proper questions about proper inquiries such as the standard of proof applicable in a criminal trial. The matter was remanded to the Court of Appeals to determine whether the harmless error doctrine precluded reversal of the conviction.

Burglin commentary : Since this appears to have been “constitutional error" (it having arguably violated the defendant’s right to trial under the Texas Constitution), the Court of Appeals must reverse the conviction unless it determines beyond a reasonable doubt that the error did not contribute to the conviction or determination of punishment. Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 44.2.

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