“Christmas Grinch” appeal ruling

In an opinion rendered late last week, an appeals court upheld the burglary of a habitation conviction and 70 year prison sentence a Parker County jury assessed to a Hurst woman last December.

45-year-old Dana Brock was caught in the burglary case after an Aledo area homeowner caught her on his home’s surveillance video coming out of his garage with stolen property. However, she received notoriety during the 2012 holiday season for stealing Christmas lights from a different Aledo area home and being caught on that homeowner’s surveillance video, earning her the nickname the “Christmas Grinch” with local media. Officials said her long sentence was reflective of her long criminal history.

On appeal, Brock’s attorney contended that 43rd District Judge Craig Towson should have granted his motion for a mistrial when a witness misunderstood a question about Brock’s appearance and mentioned a prior theft arrest. In the trial, Towson immediately instructed the jury to disregard the answer.

The defense attorney contended that the instruction was not sufficient to correct the mistake.

In rejecting that argument, the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ruled that, since the error was not “clearly calculated to inflame the minds of the jury” or “of such damning character as to suggest it would be impossible to remove the harmful impression from the jury’s mind,” that Towson successfully cured any harm caused. Therefore, the appeals court determined that “there was no error in the trial court’s judgment.” Under Texas law, Brock must serve at least 15 years in prison before she can be considered for parole, Swain said. “Since good time is part of that equation, however, there is no certainty as to how long this defendant will actually have to serve.”

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