Dixon v. Texas (original by presiding judge keller)Annotate this Case
Appellant Thomas Dixon, was a plastic surgeon in Amarillo, Texas. Joseph Sonnier was a physician in Lubbock. David Shepherd was a friend of Dixon’s. In 2012, David Shepard killed Joseph Sonnier. The State’s theory was that Dixon hired Shepard to kill Sonnier. Although Dixon had originally told the police that he knew nothing about Sonnier, he admitted at trial that this was untrue. Dixon testified that he had hired Shepard to track and photograph Sonnier (hoping to obtain photos that would cause Dixon’s former girlfriend to break up with Sonnier) and that he understood that Shepard would be planting a camera at Sonnier’s house for this purpose. Also, Shepard’s phone records revealed that Dixon called Shepard within minutes after the police finished speaking to Dixon. Appellant was convicted under a murder-for-hire theory. The Court of Appeals reversed Appellant’s conviction for two reasons: (1) because cell phone location information was improperly admitted; and (2) because the trial court deprived him of a public trial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals determined neither of these reasons "appears to stand up to close scrutiny." Appellant’s whereabouts on a date other than the date of the murder were not particularly important to the case, so any error in admitting the evidence was harmless. As for the public trial complaints, two were not preserved and the other had no merit. Consequently, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals.