St. Mary's Law Journal


This Article deals with the admissible evidence during the punishment phase of a non-capital trial in Texas. In 1989, the Texas Legislature amended Article 37.07, Section 3(a) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to widen the scope of evidence admissible during the punishment phase of a non-capital trial. Grunsfel v. State, the leading case, the Court of Criminal Appeals interpreted the statute so narrowly as to render the changes meaningless. In 1993, the legislature amended the statute a second time; it provided for a more expansive range of evidence to be introduced, but deleted a critical definition of what type of evidence was admissible under the statute, added a burden of proof for certain types of evidence, and included a provision for notice to the defense of the State’s intent to introduce particular kinds of evidence. This Article will examine the current state of admissible punishment evidence, examining, where necessary, the impact of legislative changes following Grunsfeld. Having initiated sweeping changes in the admissibility of punishment evidence, the Texas legislature has shown no inclination to return to the issue and “micro-manage” the admissibility of punishment evidence during a jury trial. Instead, the legislature appears to have turned its attention to issues of the admissibility of evidence before the court in a non-jury trial, widening the scope of what a judge may consider far beyond which a jury may be entitled to hear.


St. Mary's University School of Law