Copeland v. State (2008)

In Copeland v. State, No. 14-07-00475-CR, 2008 WL 4735199 (Tex. App.--Houston 14th Dist. Oct. 30, 2008, pet. ref'd) the Fourteenth Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by overruling the appellant's objection to the prosecutor's statement that reasonable doubt is "whatever it means to you." In that case, the appellant relied on Wansing v. Hargett, a habeas corpus case from the Tenth Circuit, to support his contention that the prosecutor's statement was erroneous. See 341 F.3d 1207 (10th Cir. 2003). Relief was granted in Wansing because the trial court's comments about the meaning of "reasonable doubt" in that case sufficiently emphasized subjectivity so as to include unconstitutionally low burdens such as a "stubborn refusal to budge even in the face of the strongest possible reasons." Id. at 1214. The Fourteenth Court of Appeals distinguished Wansing by noting that under Texas law, jurors must determine what proof beyond a reasonable doubt means to them, and the prosecutor's statement was not erroneous.