So, Aguilar won his appeal, right? Well, actually, the Court of Appeals found the trial court's error to be harmless. And how did it reach this conclusion? Was there forensic evidence supporting the conviction? Did eyewitnesses testify? Did other people hear Aguilar confess? No, no, and no. Instead, according to the court,
"At trial, Luhan testified that [Aguilar] shot him. Further, Officer David Wiese, an officer who responded to the scene of the shooting, testified that he asked Luhan who shot him and Luhan identified [Aguilar]. Therefore, the court admitted the only damaging evidence from Mancias' statement, that appellant shot Luhan, through other sources. Because the same evidence was admitted without objection, the error is harmless."
Really? So, the trial court's error in admitting evidence of Aguilar's alleged confession was harmless solely because the victim identified him twice? Is the Court of Appeals really saying that a victim's identification of the defendant as his assailant is the same as the defendant's confession to the crime? It looks to me as if this is a clear case where the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas needs to reverse and order a new trial.
See Miller's full post for a more detailed analysis.
BLOGVERSATION: Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice comments on the case and calls the phrase "harmless error" the "last refuge of scoundrels," declaring:
To compare the introduction of a confession to the victim's account is, in real trial terms, utterly ludicrous. But with the invocation of those two most nasty and despicable words, harmless error, the appeals court can rule in Wonderland where a blink and a phrase makes everything bad go away. This wasn't the "same evidence," unless the judges of the court have never tried a case and exist in some theoretical world where all evidence carries the same weight and impact.