Friday, October 22, 1999
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today filed the state's brief in the United States Supreme Court in Scott Leslie Carmell v. State of Texas. Carmell was convicted in 1997 of molesting his stepdaughter. He has asked the Court to create a loophole in Texas's "outcry statute" and overturn four of his convictions. The state seeks to uphold the convictions, and Attorney General Cornyn will personally argue this case before the Supreme Court on November 30, 1999.
"I will not tolerate a convicted criminal using a procedural gimmick to reverse his conviction," said Attorney General Cornyn. "This criminal wants us to believe that he is a victim of the criminal justice system. One fact is for certain, Carmell is not the victim in this case."
Carmell is currently serving two concurrent life sentences and thirteen concurrent 20-year sentences for sexual crimes committed against his minor stepdaughter in 1991-1995. Carmell was a counselor for incest victims in Oklahoma and Texas and began an intimate relationship with one of his patients. He eventually married her and then initiated an incestuous and sexually abusive relationship with her minor daughter that lasted four years. In 1997, a Denton County jury found Carmell guilty of 15 counts of indecency with a child, aggravated sexual assault, and sexual assault. At trial, Carmell's stepdaughter testified about the offenses Carmell committed against her.
Carmell is attempting to use changes made to the "outcry statute" in 1993 to overturn his conviction on four separate counts. Before 1993, the statute's evidentiary requirement was that a conviction of certain sex crimes could not be based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of a victim over the age of 14, unless the victim made an outcry within six months of the offense.
The 1993 amendments to the outcry statute lengthened the outcry period from six months to one year and abolished the outcry requirement for persons under the age of 18. Carmell raises ex post facto concerns saying the state violated his constitutional rights when it used the 1993 statute in his 1997 trial because some of his crimes against his stepdaughter were committed before the 1993 amendments.
The critical legal test the Court will apply is whether the 1993 changes altered the definition of the crimes or increased the punishment of the crimes. Since the 1993 amendments made merely procedural changes, they did not affect either the definition of the crime or the punishment.
The US Supreme Court's decision is expected by late spring of next year.
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