Milton v. Texas (original by judge newell)Annotate this Case
During closing argument for the punishment phase of a non-violent robbery case, the State played a YouTube video of a lion at a zoo trying to eat a human baby through protective glass. Appellant was charged with robbery. In 2015, Appellant entered a CVS drug store and looked around the store for about 10 to 15 minutes. At first, Appellant acted like “any other customer:” waiting “until no one else was around” and then approached the counter with some “candy” and “soda.” The cashier scanned the items, placed them in a bag, and handed the bag to Appellant. Then, with his hands on the counter, Appellant leaned over and told the cashier: “[T]his is a stick up, give me whatever is in the register, do not try anything, or I will kill you.” Appellant also told the cashier he had a weapon, though he never displayed one. At trial, the State introduced evidence that Appellant had previously robbed the same CVS the day before the charged robbery. The facts of the extraneous robbery were nearly identical to the charged robbery and involved the same cashier. The jury found Appellant guilty. For its closing argument at punishment, the State sought the trial court’s permission to play for the jury a YouTube video “as a demonstrative.” The video was 35 seconds long. The State argued that Appellant deserved a lengthy sentence in light of his crime and criminal background. Appellant objected to playing the video, arguing that it was irrelevant and highly prejudicial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found the demonstrative video went beyond the scope of the State’s argument because it encouraged the jury to make its decision upon matters outside the record by inviting a comparison between Appellant and a hungry lion. Consequently, the Court reversed the court of appeals opinion and remanded for that court to perform a harm analysis.