The Supreme Court delivered an unusual rebuke to a Texas appeals court today by unanimously setting aside the murder conviction of a teenager whose confession, the justices found, was the product of an illegal arrest and should not have been introduced at his trial.
The decision, which gives Texas the chance to retry the defendant, Robert Kaupp, for the 1999 crime without introducing the confession, made no new law. Rather, the Supreme Court viewed the Texas Court of Appeals as having made such obvious errors in upholding the conviction that the justices overturned its decision in an unsigned opinion, without even bothering to hear arguments in the case.
Kaupp, then 17, was suspected of having taken part in the murder of a 14-year-old girl, but the Harris County Sheriff’s Department lacked evidence to obtain a warrant for his arrest. Instead, six police officers went to his home in the middle of the night and, after his father allowed them in, roused him from his bed.
The Supreme Court’s seven-page opinion was scathing, calling it “beyond cavil” that Kaupp had been arrested unconstitutionally without either a warrant or probable cause.