In an opinion rendered Thursday, 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.
Dana Brock, 45, 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. Evidence of that theft offense was introduced during the punishment phase of the trial.
“Ms. Brock’s long sentence was reflective of her long criminal history,” said Assistant District Attorney Jeff Swain, who tried the case for the prosecution with Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Catania. “She had convictions for solicitation of murder, two injury to a child cases, two credit card abuse cases, two felony trespass offenses, two thefts, and numerous other unadjudicated offenses like the Christmas light theft.”
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.”
“I think that, in a case like this, the appellate courts can’t help but consider the evidence of guilt presented at trial,” Swain said. “Not only was the defendant caught on video committing the crime, she also admitted it in an interview with sheriff’s investigators, and the property stolen from the house was found where Ms. Brock was living. Her contention at trial was that a man who appears nowhere on the video and who she admitted was not at the scene forced her to commit the burglary.”
“Ms. Brock could still pursue her appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal appeals court in Texas,” said Assistant District Attorney Eddy Lewallen, who handled the appeal for the prosecution. “But it is unlikely that they will hear her appeal since they have the discretion to choose the cases they accept and there were no novel issues of law presented in this case.”
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,” he added.