Richard Harlan Chapman v. The State of Texas--Appeal from 31st District Court of Wheeler CountyAnnotate this Case
IN THE COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SEVENTH DISTRICT OF TEXAS
AUGUST 27, 2008
RICHARD HARLAN CHAPMAN, APPELLANT
THE STATE OF TEXAS, APPELLEE
FROM THE 31ST DISTRICT COURT OF WHEELER COUNTY;
NO. 4078; HONORABLE STEVE EMMERT, JUDGE
Before QUINN, C.J., and HANCOCK and PIRTLE, JJ.
Pursuant to a guilty plea, Appellant, Richard Harlan Chapman, was convicted by the
trial court of possession of marihuana in an amount of 2,000 pounds or less but more than
50 pounds. Punishment was assessed at sixteen years confinement and a $10,000 fine.
Appellant presents two points of error contending the trial court abused its discretion in
sentencing him to sixteen years confinement (1) in that his trial counsel’s request for a
continuance was denied and (2) in effectively denying trial counsel the opportunity to make
a closing statement before sentencing. We affirm.
Appellant was convicted in 1974 for possession of a controlled substance with intent
to deliver and served time in a federal prison. According to his testimony, in 2000, he
began using methamphetamine because he was depressed. He eventually became
indebted to dealers and was physically threatened into trafficking drugs for them. In July
2003, he was stopped in Wheeler County, Texas, and charged with possession of
marihuana. Two months later, he was stopped in Columbia County, Georgia, for trafficking
drugs and was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years confinement. In 2007, Appellant
was released on parole in Georgia, subject to the underlying charge which was still pending
in Wheeler County.
Guilty Plea Hearing
At a hearing conducted on September 13, 2007, both sides announced ready and
Appellant entered a guilty plea to the possession charge. Defense counsel later requested
leave to withdraw his statement of “ready” and made an oral motion for continuance to
make an offer of proof. Counsel explained that he had contacted Appellant’s parole officer
to testify about Appellant’s progress for the nine months he had been on parole. The
parole officer reluctantly provided an affidavit (which is included in the presentence
investigation report), but refused to update the affidavit with other favorable information
requested by defense counsel.
The State argued that defense counsel was aware of the September 13, 2007
hearing date and that he had received the parole officer’s affidavit as early as August 17,
2007, allowing ample opportunity to have the parole officer available for the hearing.
Additionally, the State argued the affidavit was sufficient and that the case had already
been continued several times.
The trial court denied the oral motion for continuance. The court also commented
that Appellant, who chose to testify, could testify to any additional facts not included in the
parole officer’s affidavit.
Appellant, the only witness at the hearing, testified that during his nine months on
parole, he made scheduled visits with his parole officer and was current on his fines. He
successfully completed a drug abuse awareness program and was working steadily at day
work. During the nine months on parole, he had been randomly tested for drugs five times,
with only one testing positive.
At the conclusion of Appellant’s testimony, the following colloquy occurred:
[Defense counsel]: We have nothing further, Your Honor. We would argue
– well, there is a presentence investigation, Your Honor.
The Court: Okay. Ms. Lee, do you have a PSI? Okay. Would you bring it
[Defense Counsel]: Your Honor, if I may interrupt the Court’s reading, the
copy the Court is looking at, it almost looks like there’s a bunch of redaction
in it, but in fact, it’s an overliner.
The Court then pronounced Appellant’s sentence and asked Appellant if he
understood the pronouncement, to which he responded, “[y]es, Your Honor.” The State
requested that restitution be added to the judgment and the proceedings were closed.
I. Point of Error One – Oral Motion for Continuance.
Appellant maintains the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for
continuance. We disagree. A motion for continuance that is not written nor sworn as
required by articles 29.03 and 29.08 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure does not
preserve the complaint for review.
See Dewberry v. State, 4. S.W.3d 735, 755
(Tex.Crim.App. 1999). Moreover, as the State points out, the reason for the continuance
(to supplement the affidavit provided by Appellant’s parole officer) was satisfied by
Appellant’s unchallenged testimony about his progress while on parole. Point of error one
II. Point of Error Two – Denial of an Opportunity to Make a Closing Statement.
Appellant contends the trial court abused its discretion in effectively denying defense
counsel an opportunity to make a closing statement before he was sentenced. We
A trial court abuses its discretion if it denies defense counsel the right to make a
Ruedas v. State, 586 S.W.2d 520, 524 (Tex.Crim.App. 1979).
However, it is necessary to preserve that right by notifying the trial court of the desire to
present closing argument, the trial court must refuse that opportunity, and a timely
objection to the court’s ruling must be presented. Tex. R. App. P. 33.1(a); Foster v. State,
80 S.W.3d 639, 640-41 (Tex.App.–Houston [1st Dist.] 2002, no pet.).
During Appellant’s plea hearing, defense counsel stated, “[w]e have nothing further,
Your Honor. We would argue – well, there is a presentence investigation [report] . . . .”
Counsel did not make a request to present any further argument nor did he object to the
trial court proceeding to sentencing.
Appellant relies on Dang v. State, 154 S.W.3d 616 (Tex.Crim.App. 2005), in support
of his argument that defense counsel was denied a statutory right to present closing
argument. See also Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 36.07 and 36.08 (Vernon 2007).
Dang involved a complicated capital murder jury trial where the trial court limited closing
arguments to twenty minutes per side despite defense counsel’s request for an additional
three minutes, to which an objection was lodged. 154 S.W.3d at 617. In considering
certain factors, the Court determined that the court of appeals should have concluded the
trial court abused its discretion in denying the additional three minutes for closing
argument. Id. at 622.
Appellant’s plea hearing was brief and uncomplicated. Defense counsel did not
request a further opportunity to argue after bringing the PSI to the trial court’s attention.
No objections were presented either before or after pronouncement of sentence. We
conclude Dang is inapposite. Point of error two is overruled.
Consequently, the trial court’s judgment is affirmed.
Patrick A. Pirtle
Do not publish.