Court reverses felony conviction

June 28, 2014

Court reverses felony conviction

A Fort Worth appellate court reversed a Hood County conviction that had resulted in a 10-year prison sentence and parole for a 36-year-old man.

Christopher James Hensley’s parole is expected to end shortly because of the ruling.

The appeal focused on fingerprints.

Hensley, a Fort Worth resident, had prior theft and drug convictions when he was arrested by Granbury police in 2012 on a new charge of theft under $1,500.

A Granbury jury had convicted Hensley of his latest charge – a felony because of the prior convictions – and gave him the maximum sentence – a $10,000 fine in addition to the 10 years in prison, according to Hensley’s attorney, Pamela Walker of Granbury. Hensley has been out on parole since early April.

“Fingerprints from two prior convictions being used to enhance the misdemeanor up to a third-degree felony were unreadable on the certified court documents,” Walker said.

The appellate court ruled that those prints could only be used during the punishment phase of Hensley’s trial – not the guilt/innocence phase.

“The court of appeals ruled that the authentication of the fingerprints was legal error, resulting in the reversal,” Walker said.

With the May 15 appellate ruling, the latest charge was reversed. His offense reverted to the original misdemeanor level. The time he spent behind bars since the arrest – about 21 months – surpassed the maximum penalty allowed for that misdemeanor.

The attorney for Hensley’s Hood County trial was Richard Mitchell of Weatherford.

“I think (Walker) did a good job on (the appeal) – laying out all the facts, all the arguments,” Mitchell said.

The appellate mandate will be issued about July 11, Walker said.

“The mandate is needed to obtain a hearing before Judge Walton, at which time the court should vacate the felony conviction, enter a Class A misdemeanor conviction and sentence Hensley to time served.”

Walker added that then Hensley will no longer be on parole.

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