CARMELL v. TEXAS

Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
98-7540
Petitioner 
Carmell
Respondent 
Texas
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court supporting the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Scott Carmell was convicted of multiple sexual offenses against his stepdaughter from 1991 to 1995, when she was 12 to 16 years old. Before September 1, 1993, the relevant Texas statute specified that a victim's testimony alone about a sexual offense could not support a conviction unless corroborated by other evidence or if the victim had informed another person of the offense within six months of its occurrence (outcry). However, the statute provided that if a victim was under 14 at the time of the offense, the victim's testimony alone could support a conviction. A 1993 amendment allowed the victim's testimony alone to support a conviction if the victim was under 18. Carmell argued, before the Texas Court of Appeals, that four of his convictions could not stand under the pre-1993 version of the law, which was in effect at the time of his alleged conduct, because they were based solely on the testimony of the victim, who was not under 14 at the time of four of the offenses and had not made a timely outcry. The court held that applying the 1993 amendment retrospectively did not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution because the amended statute did not alter the punishment or the elements of the offense that the State must prove. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied review.

Question 

Does an amended Texas statute that authorizes the conviction of sexual offenses on the victim's testimony alone, whereas the statute previously required the victim's testimony along with corroborating evidence, violate the constitutional prohibition against State "ex post facto" laws when applied in a trial for offenses committed before the amendment's effective date?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Carmell, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 10: Ex Post Facto

Yes. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that the retrospective application of Texas's amended statutory provision allowing alleged sexual offense victim's uncorroborated testimony to support a conviction violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution. Justice Stevens wrote for the Court that, "[a] law reducing the quantum of evidence required to convict an offender is as grossly unfair as, say, retrospectively eliminating an element of the offense, increasing the punishment for an existing offense or lowering the burden of proof." For the dissenting minority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the amended statute accords victims of a sexual offense "full testimonial stature," and that "such a witness competency rule validly may be applied to offenses committed before its enactment."

Cite this Page
CARMELL v. TEXAS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 18 August 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_98_7540>.
CARMELL v. TEXAS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_98_7540 (last visited August 18, 2014).
"CARMELL v. TEXAS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 18, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_98_7540.