Appealing a Capital Murder Conviction In Texas

Before determining whether the evidence is legally sufficient to sustain the conviction for capital murder (murder in the course of robbery), we first review the essential elements the State was required to prove. Capital murder requires proof of, among other things, that appellant; (1) killed the decedent; (2) intended to obtain or maintain control of the decedent's property prior to or during the killing. See Tex. Pen. Code Ann. 19.03(a)(2), 29.02 (Vernon 1994); Hall v. State, 970 S.W.2d 137, 140 (Tex.App.--Amarillo 1998, pet. ref'd). The point at which the accused developed the requisite intent for robbery is critical, for it must show that he intended to take the victim's property before, or as, he murdered. Hall, 970 S.W.2d at 141. Evidence that shows the taking of property was an afterthought fails to satisfy these criteria and is insufficient to support a capital murder conviction. Alvarado v. State, 912 S.W.2d 199, 207 (Tex.Cr.App. 1995) (en banc). However, the evidence will be sufficient if the State proves that a robbery of the victim occurred immediately after the murder of the victim. Nelson v. State, 848 S.W.2d 126, 130-31 (Tex.Cr.App. 1992) (en banc), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 830, 114 S. Ct. 100, 126 L. Ed. 2d 66 (1993). If the State proves that the requisite intent was present, it has proven that a murder occurred in the course of robbery, even though the element of appropriation occurred after the murder. Id. Additionally, in determining what appellant's intent was at the time, the fact finder is free to look to the conduct of the accused and make reasonable inferences therefrom. Robertson v. State, 871 S.W.2d 701, 705 (Tex.Cr.App. 1993), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 853, 115 S. Ct. 155, 130 L. Ed. 2d 94 (1994).