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John Laurie Bush, Jr. v. The State of Texas
Case Number: 01-18-00357-CR
Judge: Sherry Radack
Court: Court of Appeals For The First District of Texas
Plaintiff's Attorney: Jeri Yenne
Defendant's Attorney: Jeff W. Purvis
Appellant, John Laurie Bush, Jr., pleaded guilty, with an agreed
recommendation from the State regarding punishment, to three “counts” of making
terroristic threats. See TEX. PENAL CODE § 22.07. The trial court found appellant
guilty as charged, suspended his sentence, and placed him on community
supervision for 24 months, with a $1,500 fine for each count. The trial court certified
appellant’s right to appeal punishment only.
Appellant filed his notice of appeal on May 4, 2018. The clerk’s record was
filed on May 21, 2018. After the court reporter notified this Court that appellant did
not make arrangements to pay for a reporter’s record, this Court notified him that
unless he provided proof of payment, or proof of having made payment
arrangements, for the reporter’s record, or provided a response showing that he was
exempt from paying for the reporter’s record, by September 10, 2018, the Court
might move forward to consider and decide those issues or points that did not require
a reporter’s record. See TEX. R. APP. P. 37.3(c). Appellant did not respond.
On January 24, 2019, the Court notified appellant that it would consider and
decide those issues or points that did not require a reporter’s record for a decision
and ordered that appellant file his brief no later than February 25, 2019. See id.
After appellant did not file a brief, the Court notified appellant that, unless he filed
a brief or extension request within 10 days, the Court would order the trial court to
conduct a hearing in the matter. See TEX. R. APP. P. 38.8(b)(2). Appellant did not
On April 30, 2019, this Court abated the appeal and remanded the case to the
trial court to conduct a hearing on, and to make findings and recommendations
concerning, whether appellant still wished to prosecute his appeal, whether appellant
was indigent, or, if not indigent, whether retained counsel had abandoned the appeal.
See id. 38.8(b)(2), (3).
On May 15, 2019, the trial court held a hearing, at which appellant’s retained
trial counsel and the State appeared, but appellant did not appear. At the hearing,
the trial court noted that it sent notice of the hearing to appellant at his address on
file with the community supervision program. Because appellant did not appear, it
could not ascertain whether he had abandoned the appeal.
The trial court filed written findings of fact and conclusions of law, as follows:
1) The appellant initially expressed his desire to appeal the judgment in the above-entitled matter, and trial counsel filed a motion for new trial and notice of appeal at the appellant’s request. 2) The appellant retained Jeff Purvis to represent him in the trial of the above-entitled matter. New arrangements for retaining Mr. Purvis’s services to prosecute the appeal were necessary and discussed with the appellant. 3) The appellant failed to finalize a retainer agreement with Mr. Purvis to file an appellate brief. There is also no indication the appellant attempted to retain the services of any other attorney for the appeal. 4) There is no evidence that appellant is indigent. He is not incarcerated. He has never requested the appointment [of] counsel either before or after trial on the above-entitled matter. The appellant also represented that he was doing well financially in discussions with Mr. Purvis. 5) This Court granted Mr. [Purvis’s] motion to withdraw from this case on September 27, 2018, and that appell[ant] agreed to
counsel’s withdrawal was evident by the appellant’s signature on this Court’s order. 6) While there is no indication as to whether the appellant wishes to prosecute the appeal, the record shows that the appellant’s trial counsel, Jeff Purvis, did not abandon the appeal, but was allowed to withdraw from the case with the consent of the appellant. 7) The Court further finds that there is no evidence that the appellant is not [sic1] indigent, but he has not made the necessary arrangements for filing a brief. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals may consider the appeal without briefs, as justice may require pursuant to Rule 38.8(b)(4).
The trial court’s findings and recommendations having been filed, this Court
reinstated the appeal on June 6, 2019.
In a criminal case, when an appellant has not filed a brief, the Court may, in
the interest of justice, consider the appeal on the record alone to determine if
fundamental error exists. See TEX. R. APP. P. 38.8(b)(1), (b)(4) (“If the trial court
has found that the appellant . . . is not indigent but has not made the necessary
arrangements for filing a brief, the appellate court may consider the appeal without
briefs, as justice may require”); Washington v. State, No. 01-13-01038-CR, 2015
WL 7300511, at *2 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Nov. 19, 2015, no pet.) (mem.
op., not designated for publication).
Fundamental error falls into two categories: (1) the denial of absolute,
systemic requirements and (2) the violation of rights that are “waivable-only.”
1 Read in the context of the trial court’s findings and the applicable rule, Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 38.8(b)(4), we interpret this as a typographical error.
Saldano v. State, 70 S.W.3d 873, 887–88 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002). Fundamental
error includes: (1) a denial of the right to counsel; (2) a denial of the right to a jury
trial; (3) a denial of ten days’ preparation before trial for appointed counsel; (4) an
absence of jurisdiction over the defendant; (5) an absence of subject-matter
jurisdiction; (6) prosecution under a penal statute that does not comply with the
Separation of Powers Section of the state constitution; (7) jury charge errors
resulting in egregious harm; (8) holding trials at a location other than the county
seat; (9) prosecution under an ex post facto law; and (10) comments by a trial court
that taint the presumption of innocence. Rostro v. State, No. 01-11-00556-CR, 2014
WL 6068419, at *1 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Nov. 13, 2014, no pet.) (mem.
op., not designated for publication).
Because appellant did not pay, or make arrangements to pay, for the reporter’s
record in this case, only the clerk’s record is presented for review. We have reviewed
the clerk’s record for fundamental error. See Lott v. State, 874 S.W.2d 687, 688
(Tex. Crim. App. 1994) (reviewing appeal for unassigned fundamental error when
appellant failed to file brief); Washington, 2015 WL 7300511, at * 1–2; Rostro, 2014
WL 6068419, at *1–2. Finding none, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.
Outcome: We affirm the trial court’s judgment.