The next move in the felony case against Rick Perry belongs to the state’s highest criminal court, which will decide as early as mid-September whether to accept or reject two appeals in the case.
The Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision could go a long way toward determining whether Perry, indicted by a Travis County grand jury in August 2014, will be tried on a charge of misusing his power as governor, which prosecutors classified as a felony with a maximum term of life in prison, though probation is common for similar white-collar crimes.
A second felony charge, coercion of a public official, was dismissed in July when a lower appeals court declared the coercion law unconstitutional because it violated free-speech rights.
Perry has asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to dismiss the abuse of power charge, arguing that prosecutors cannot criminalize acts that are protected by the Texas Constitution — particularly freedom of speech and the separation of powers in the branches of government.
In a separate appeal, prosecutors asked the court to reinstate the law barring coercion of a public official, saying free-speech protections don’t apply “when a public servant illegally threatens to do indirectly what he does not have the power to do directly.”
The court could accept one or both appeals, or reject both. The first opportunity to make those decisions will be Monday, when judges will meet behind closed doors for the first time since the court’s new term began Sept. 1.
[State Prosecuting Attorney Lisa] McMinn has asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to schedule oral arguments in the case, but Perry’s lawyers have requested a ruling based solely on briefs, saying arguments would add an unnecessary delay.
Perry’s legal team also has a motion to dismiss the indictments that is awaiting a ruling by Richardson.
See here and here for the background. I believe this has to do with the other motion that Perry has before Judge Richardson, who as the story notes will not be a part of the appellate hearings in any way, but at this point it’s hard to say. I kind of hope that the CCA will do oral arguments and not just briefs, mostly because I think the issues involved should be fully heard if the court decides they’re worth hearing at all. We’ll know soon enough.