Dunning v. Texas (original by judge hervey)Annotate this Case
Appellant Johnnie Dunning pled guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child under fourteen years of age pursuant to a plea bargain and was sentenced as a habitual offender to 25 years’ confinement. He appealed, but his conviction was affirmed. Later, he filed a Chapter 64 motion for post-conviction DNA testing. The trial judge held a hearing in February 2017 and entered a non-favorable finding. Appellant appealed that finding, and the court of appeals reversed and ordered the trial court to enter a favorable finding. The State filed a petition for discretionary review, which the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted in part. After review, the Court concluded the court of appeals erred: the court of appeals did not defer to implicit credibility and demeanor determinations made by the trial court that weighed against Appellant. “After properly deferring to those determinations, the test results are significantly less exculpatory than the lower court found.” Morever, the court of appeals gave too little weight to Appellant’s guilty plea and testimonial confession. “When the true exculpatory value of the test results are weighed against all of the inculpatory evidence, we conclude that Appellant has not shown that, had the results been available during the trial of the offense, it is reasonably probable that he would not have been convicted.” Because the court of appeals concluded otherwise, the Court reversed its judgment vacating the trial court’s non-favorable finding.