Cross Examining a Witness About His Pending Lawsuit

In Shelby v. State, 819 S.W.2d 544 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991), the trial court refused to allow the defense to cross-examine the complainant's mother (who was the State's outcry witness in that sexual assault case) about a pending lawsuit she had against the owners of the apartment complex where the assault occurred. The court of criminal appeals held that the trial court erroneously excluded the mother's testimony about her lawsuit because it was "apparent from the face of the record that the appellant wanted to question [the complainant's mother] about a lawsuit she brought two months after she reported the offense to the police against the appellant and corporate owners of the property." Id. at 545. It added, "It defies reason and logic to argue that the court did not understand the purpose or scope of the inquiry." Id. The court further held that the refusal to allow the questioning violated the defendant's Sixth Amendment rights.