Kevin James Bramwell v. The State of Texas--Appeal from 240th District Court of Fort Bend County

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Opinion issued February 8, 2007

Opinion issued February 8, 2007

 

 

In The

Court of Appeals

For The

First District of Texas

 

NOS. 01-06-00116-CR

01-06-00117-CR

 

KEVIN JAMES BRAMWELL, Appellant

V.

THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

 

 

On Appeal from the 240th District Court

Fort Bend County, Texas

Trial Court Cause Nos. 42045 & 42048

 

 

 

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Kevin Bramwell pleaded guilty, without an agreed punishment recommendation from the State, to the felony offenses of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sexual assault of a child. Following completion of a pre-sentence investigation report, the trial court conducted a sentencing hearing, at which several witnesses testified. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found Bramwell guilty of both offenses and assessed punishment at ninety-nine years confinement for aggravated sexual assault and sixteen years confinement for sexual assault, to run concurrently. On appeal, Bramwell contends the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm.

Background

  The State charged Bramwell with aggravated sexual assault of a child in cause number 42045 and sexual assault of a child in cause number 42048. In conjunction with his guilty pleas to both offenses, Bramwell executed sworn Written Stipulations and Judicial Confessions in which he admitted

[t]hat in Fort Bend County, Texas, I (the same individual indicted in this cause) on [March 10, 2005 for the aggravated sexual assault offense and December 17, 2004 for the sexual assault offense], committed the acts alleged in the indictment in this cause, and . . . the evidence and testimony would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [the] acts and allegations in the indictment in this cause are true and correct[.]

The trial court approved, in writing, Bramwell s waiver of a jury trial, stipulations of evidence, and judicial confessions, as required by Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 1.15. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 1.15 (Vernon 2005).

Sufficiency of the Evidence

Although he pleaded guilty to both offenses, Bramwell nonetheless contends the evidence is legally insufficient under Jackson v. Virginia,[1] and factually insufficient under Johnson v. State,[2] because neither child victim testified to the alleged sexual contact and the State did not offer or introduce any evidence at appellant s plea, but only offered an unsubstantiated and unsupported offense report in punishment. Bramwell s argument fails because it employs an incorrect standard of review and ignores the effect of his judicial confessions.

In Keller v. State, we determined the appropriate standard of review to apply in assessing the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence in a guilty plea case. 125 S.W.3d 600, 604 05 (Tex. App. Houston [1st Dist.] 2003), pet. dism d, improvidently granted, 146 S.W.3d 677 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004). Unlike most jurisdictions, Texas has a procedural requirement that the State must offer sufficient proof to support a judgment based on a guilty plea in a felony case tried to the court. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 1.15 ( No person can be convicted of a felony except upon the verdict of a jury duly rendered and recorded, unless the defendant, upon entering a plea, has in open court in person waived his right of trial by jury in writing . . . ; provided, however, that it shall be necessary for the state to introduce evidence into the record showing the guilt of the defendant and said evidence shall be accepted by the court as the basis for its judgment and in no event shall a person charged be convicted upon his plea without sufficient evidence to support the same. ).

This does not mean, however, that we use the traditional Jackson standard for reviewing legal sufficiency, or the Johnson standard for reviewing factual sufficiency,[3] in a guilty plea case. Keller, 125 S.W.3d at 604 05 (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318 19, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 2788 89 (1979), and Johnson v. State, 23 S.W.3d 1, 11 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000)). As we observed in Keller,

Legal-sufficiency-review analysis under Jackson applies only when the federal constitution places the burden on the prosecution to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Jackson standard does not apply when a defendant knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily enters a plea of guilty or nolo contendere. There is no federal constitutional requirement that a guilty plea in a state criminal prosecution must be corroborated by evidence of guilt, and Jackson does not apply. A plea of guilty waives all non-jurisdictional defenses, including challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence. Similarly, a defendant who pleads guilty to the court by executing a valid judicial confession waives any challenge to the factual sufficiency of the evidence.

Id. at 605 (internal citations and footnote omitted).

We therefore reject Bramwell s contention that we should review the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence in this case under Jackson and Johnson, respectively. Rather, as we held in Keller, our sufficiency review on appeal of felony pleas of guilty to the court is confined to determining whether sufficient evidence supports the judgment of guilt under article 1.15 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Id.

Under article 1.15, [a] judicial confession alone is sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction upon a guilty plea . . . . The judicial confession may take the form of an affirmative acknowledgment by the defendant that the indictment was true and correct. Stewart v. State, 12 S.W.3d 146, 148 (Tex. App. Houston [1st Dist.] 2000, no pet.) (citing Dinnery v. State, 592 S.W.2d 343, 352 53 (Tex. Crim. App. 1979)).

Here, Bramwell executed sworn judicial confessions in both cause numbers admitting that he committed the acts alleged in the indictment[s] and that the evidence and testimony would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [the] acts and allegations in the indictment[s] . . . are true and correct. These judicial confessions, standing alone, are sufficient under article 1.15 to support Bramwell s convictions. It was not necessary for the child victims to testify to the sexual contact, or for the State to introduce any other evidence at the plea hearing. See McGill v. State, 200 S.W.3d 325, 330 n.1 (Tex. App. Dallas 2006, no pet.) ( [T]he judicial confession in [t]his case constituted sufficient evidence to support [appellant s] plea under article 1.15. ); Keller, 125 S.W.3d at 605 06 (holding judicial confession that contained statement, I understand the above allegations and I confess that they are true . . . was sufficient evidence to support judgment under article 1.15, and the record need not otherwise provide proof ).

Conclusion

We conclude that Bramwell s stipulations of guilt and judicial confessions are sufficient evidence to support the judgments under Code of Criminal Procedure article 1.15. We therefore affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Jane Bland

Justice

Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Jennings and Bland.

Do not publish. Tex. R. App. P. 47.2(b).

 

[1] 443 U.S. 307, 99 S. Ct. 2781 (1979).

[2] 23 S.W.3d 1 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000).

[3] We note that the Court of Criminal Appeals has recently clarified the proper standard for factual sufficiency review. See Watson v. State, 204 S.W.3d 404, 405 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006). In Watson, the court disavowed the factual sufficiency standard of review articulated in Zuniga v. State, 144 S.W.3d 477 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004), effectively resurrecting the Johnson factual sufficiency formulation. Id. at 414 17. Watson does not change our analysis in this case.