Ex parte Burns – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Ex parte Burns, 601 S.W.2d 370 (Tex. Crim. App. 1980), Burns contended that his pleas of guilty on charges of assault and murder were not voluntary due to ineffective assistance of counsel, contending that counsel misinformed him as to the range of punishment that could be imposed. Id. at 370.

According to Burns's counsel, he had advised Burns that, if Burns did not plead guilty, there was a good chance that he would get the death penalty. Id. at 371.

However, that advice was given six months after the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), which made imposition of the death penalty in such circumstances unconstitutional. Id.

Based on this evidence, the court of appeals found that Burns had shown that his guilty plea, made based on counsel's erroneous advice, was involuntary. Id. at 372.

The Court made no determination as to what sort of evidence a defendant must present to meet his burden. Rather, the court determined that--on that record--which included the testimony of both Burns and his former attorney, Burns had met his burden. Id.