I Am Rickey Cummings


Rickey's Case Updates

April 1, 2011
June 29, 2011
January 2012
July 20, 2012
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February 11, 2014
December 2014
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March 28, 2018
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January 16, 2020
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March 31, 2021
June 29, 2021
The Appeals Process in Texas

The basic operation of the capital punishment system in Texas begins with the crime, and then includes a trial, incarceration, an appeals process and some final appeals. Below details the process of appeals in the state of Texas.

Currently, Rickey’s stage of appeals is the habeas corpus, the petition can be read here. In this stage, Rickey has raised issues that were not raised in his trial. Habeas corpus writs may be filed in both state and federal courts, and they may be heard by the trial court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, a federal district court, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, and the U.S. Supreme Court. The habeas corpus stage may take many years, or it may go very quickly.
If any appeals court finds what it determines is a serious error, it can reverse the guilty verdict (trial phase) or the death sentence (punishment phase), or both. Often, the case is then retried before a new jury, and the prosecution attempts to arrive at another guilty verdict and death sentence. In such cases, the offender remains on death row. If the prosecution is successful in obtaining a new death sentence, the appeals process starts all over again. Of course, if the defendant is retried and is found not guilty, or is convicted but sentenced to a lesser punishment, then he is either freed or removed from death row, as per the verdict. He can also be freed or removed from death row if the state does not retry or resentence him within the time specified by the appeals court.

Trial and Direct Appeal

After the first trial, a lawyer, usually one of the trial lawyers is appointed to handle the Direct Appeal. This appeal is filed in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, Texas. In this proceeding, the defendant cannot introduce any new evidence. Instead he/she may only appeal errors that appear in the written transcript or the trial, such as erroneous rulings on the admission of evidence, prejudicial comments by the prosecutor and erroneous jury instructions.

If the Court of Criminal Appeals denies relief, the defendant can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. Review at this level is very rare because the Court receives 7000 requests to be heard each year, but only hear about 100 cases per year. (Lawyers often times by-pass this court)

State Habeas Corpus Proceedings

After the trial, at the same time as the Direct Appeal is being prepared, the trial court will appoint another layer to file a different appeal; an Application for writ of habeas Corpus. This appeal is just the opposite of the Direct Appeal: the claims are based on new evidence that is not contained in the record. The court will NOT hear claims that could have been raised on Direct Appeal. This is the point in the appeal process when one can bring in new evidence to support claims of Innocence, Prosecutorial Misconduct or Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, etc. the trial court issues a recommendation to the court of Criminal Appeals.

The Court or Criminal Appeals generally adopts the trial courts’ recommendations, but not all the time.

If the Court of Criminal Appeals denies habeas relief, the applicant can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case review at this stage is even less likely than a review by the Supreme Court on Direct Appeal because the Court prefers the lower courts hear the issues initially in Federal Habeas proceedings.

Federal Habeas Corpus Proceedings

If unsuccessful in State Court, a person can petition the federal Courts for relief. The only claims that may be raised in the Federal proceedings are those that were raised in the State court (in Direct Appeal and State Habeas claims).

There are very strict time limits that governs the filing of Federal habeas Petitions, failure to file in time, in most cases, waives any further appeals.

If the Federal District Court denies relief, the case, is appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Orleans Louisiana. (Depending on what State you were convicted determines which Circuit Court your appeal is directed to)

If the Fifth Circuit Court denies relief, the petitioner may seek review in the Supreme Court. Again, it is very rare that the Supreme Court will hear the case.