Cantu v. State (1997)

In Cantu v. State, 939 S.W.2d 627, 636 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997), the appellant was charged with murdering Jennifer Ertman. The evidence showed that another girl, Elizabeth Pena, was killed during the same transaction. Id. During the punishment phase of the trial, Pena's mother testified at trial about the effect that her daughter's murder had had on her and the rest of her family. Id. The court held that because Pena was not the victim named in the indictment, her mother's testimony about the impact of her death was irrelevant. 637. In Cantu v. State, the defendant was found guilty of the capital murder of Jennifer Ertman. Cantu, 939 S.W.2d at 630-31. Both Jennifer and Elizabeth Pena were brutally raped, beaten, and murdered during the same criminal episode. Id. at 631. On appeal, Cantu alleged the trial court erred in admitting victim impact evidence from Pena's mother who testified at the punishment phase regarding her daughter's good character, the search for her daughter, and the impact her disappearance and death had on her and on the rest of the family members. Id. at 635-36. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed because Pena was not the "victim" for whose death Cantu had been indicted and tried. Id. at 637. The court also held such evidence was irrelevant under Rule of Evidence 401: The danger of unfair prejudice to a defendant inherent in the introduction of 'victim impact' evidence with respect to a victim not named in the indictment on which he is being tried is unacceptably high. The admission of such evidence would open the door to admission of victim impact evidence arising from any extraneous offense committed by a defendant. Id. In Haley, the defendant was found guilty of possession of a controlled substance. Id. at 512-13. She was tried with a co-defendant, Kristofer Marsh, who had faced the same indicted offense and had been convicted of the unrelated murder of Michael Adelman. Id. at 512. During the punishment phase, the State introduced victim impact testimony from Adelman's mother who testified about the emotional impact of her son's hospitalization and subsequent death. Id. at 517. The Court of Criminal Appeals held the victim impact testimony was irrelevant since Haley's indictment did not identify a victim and only charged the offense of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. Id. at 518.