The Overturning of Judge Bryan’s Order and Case’s Current Status

In a controversial move, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) threw out Judge Bryan’s 2015 order. In that order, Judge Bryan ruled that since Thuesen’s original attorneys failed in their duties, Thuesen should be granted a new punishment-phase trial. Judge Bryan reached these conclusions after a 5-day hearing that reviewed hundreds of pages of documents and cross-examined 13 witnesses.

In 2018, however, the CCA decided to disregard Judge Bryan’s ruling, void the results of this multi-day hearing, and instead hold another “do-over” hearing run by a different judge. During this “do-over,” Thuesen’s original sentence was upheld. The state appealsprocess later followed suit, launching Thuesen’s case into the federal courts.

Objecting to the overturning of Judge Bryan’s order, former CCA Judge Alcala (joined by Judge Walker) declared in a dissenting opinion, “The State’s flip-flop about its position—agreeing to have Judge Travis Bryan preside over the habeas case before he ruled against the State and then complaining about him having presided over the case after he ruled against the State—appears to be the type of gamesmanship or manipulation by parties that has no place in death penalty proceedings.”

Furthermore, Judge Alcala stated, “I agree with Judge Bryan’s assessment that applicant’s trial counsel was ineffective during the punishment phase, and I would accordingly defer to that determination as a basis for granting application relief in the form of a new punishment trial.”

Despite these legal concerns, however, Thuesen must now prepare for the federal appeals process. If he loses, he moves closer to execution.