Johnson, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Meyers, Price, Holland and Womack, J.J., joined. McCormick, P.J., dissented. Keasler, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Mansfield, J., joined, and Keller, J., joined as to Part I.
A jury convicted appellant of delivery of cocaine, and assessed his punishment at two years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. The fine and sentence were suspended, and appellant was placed on four years probation.
Appellant challenged the admission of a confession he allegedly made during custodial interrogation, on the grounds that the statement was involuntary. A hearing was held and testimony was taken to determine the voluntariness of the statement. The trial court then determined that the statement was not involuntary. The statement was subsequently admitted at trial.
On appeal, the parties agreed that although the trial court determined that appellant's statement was voluntarily made, the trial court failed to reduce its findings to a written order. The Court of Appeals abated the appeal and remanded the cause to the trial court, for compliance with Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 38.22, 6.(1) García v. State, No. 07-97-0008-CR, slip op. at 1-2 (Tex. App.--Amarillo April 14, 1998) (order to abate appeal) (not designated for publication), 1998 WL 175513, at *1. Apparently realizing that the trial judge to whom the cause was being remanded was not the same as the trial judge who held the hearing on the motion to suppress, the Court of Appeals noted that "the regular judge of a district court generally has the power to review orders made by a predecessor judge." Id. at 2, 1998 WL 175513, at *1.
Following return from remand, the Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. García v. State, No. 07-97-0008-CR (Tex. App.--Amarillo October 1, 1998) (not designated for publication), 1998 WL 675869. On motion for rehearing, it addressed appellant's contention that
"another judge was not authorized to make findings of fact and conclusions of law from an earlier hearing presided over by a former judge." García v. State, No. 07-97-0008-CR, slip op. at 2 (Tex. App.--Amarillo December 8, 1998) (on motion for rehearing) (not designated for publication), 1998 WL 842290, at *1. In overruling the motion for rehearing, it relied on Bass v. State, 626 S.W.2d 769 (Tex. Crim. App. 1982), and concluded "that a second judge could make his determination of the voluntariness of appellant's confession based upon the evidence presented at the earlier hearing. The second judge could read the record and make or adopt the findings of the first judge without the necessity of a second hearing." García, slip op. at 3 (on motion for rehearing), 1998 WL 842290, at *1.
We granted appellant's petition for discretionary review to determine "whether appellant was entitled to remand for a new suppression hearing or new trial" and "whether the appellant's statement was inadmissible at trial and should have been suppressed." We will reverse and remand.
The determination of whether a statement is voluntary is a mixed question of law and fact, i.e., an application of law to a fact question. See art. 38.22, 6 ( if trial court finds that statement is voluntary and thus admissible, court must enter an order stating its legal conclusion, along with specific finding of facts upon which conclusion was based). In the instant case, the trial court held a hearing pursuant to appellant's motion to suppress his statement on the basis that it was involuntary. At the hearing, testimony was taken from Abdon Rodriguez, the police officer who took appellant's confession, and from appellant. Thus, the trial court's conclusion that appellant's statement was voluntary was based on a direct evaluation of the witnesses' credibility and demeanor.
Recently, we stated that "appellate courts . . . should afford [almost total] deference to trial courts' rulings on 'application of law to fact questions,' also known as 'mixed questions of law and fact,' if the resolution of those ultimate questions turns on an evaluation of credibility and demeanor." Guzman v. State, 955 S.W.2d 85, 89 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997). This is the proper standard of review because the trial judge viewing the witnesses and hearing their testimony is in a better position to evaluate their credibility and demeanor than is an appellate judge who must rely on only a written transcript of the hearing. See id. at 87. For the same reason, it is not appropriate for the second judge in the instant case to make findings of fact based solely on the written transcript of the initial hearing. It is inconsistent to restrict an appellate court's review of such findings because it has nothing to review but a "cold" record, yet allow a trial judge to make such findings based on nothing but that same "cold" record.
Bass v. State, supra, relied upon by the Court of Appeals, is distinguishable from the instant case. In Bass, the defendant was originally convicted of murder, but this conviction was reversed on appeal. Bass, 626 S.W.2d 770. On retrial, he was again convicted. Id. He complained on appeal that the trial judge in the second trial erred in allowing into evidence his confession without holding a hearing on the voluntariness of the confession. Id.
During the first trial, the trial judge held a hearing, pursuant to Jackson v. Denno(2) and art. 38.22, to determine the voluntariness of the defendant's confession. He entered findings of fact and conclusions of law as to the voluntariness of the confession. Id. At the second trial, conducted by a different trial judge, that judge found the confession to be voluntary and admissible, and made findings of fact and conclusions of law based upon both the court reporter's notes at the original Jackson v. Denno hearing and the first trial judge's findings of fact. Id. at 771. We abated the appeal so that the record could be supplemented with the transcript of the hearing at the first trial and the first trial judge's findings of fact and conclusions of law. Id. In doing so, we stated that
[w]hen evidence on this issue has already been presented outside
the presence of the jury, and the judge who heard the evidence has
filed findings of fact and conclusions of law, the judge presiding at
trial may reconsider that evidence and those findings and
conclusions in determining the voluntariness of the confession, or
he may order that a new hearing be held, in his discretion. If he
chooses not to hold a new hearing, and neither the State nor the
defendant has new evidence to present on the issue, he shall enter
an order stating his findings and conclusions and file it among the
papers of the cause. He shall also include among the papers of the
cause the evidence previously submitted on the issue and the
findings and conclusions of the judge who heard the evidence.
Id. at 773 (emphasis added).
As this statement makes clear, it was permissible for the second trial judge in Bass to decline to hold a hearing on the voluntariness of the confession because such a hearing had already been held and findings of fact and conclusions of law had previously been entered by the trial judge who presided over that hearing. That is, both the second trial judge and the appellate court could rely on written findings of fact and conclusions of law made by the judge who presided over the hearing and evaluated the credibility and demeanor of the witnesses. In the instant case, however, an order containing such an evaluation does not exist, and the only order which does exist was not based on a direct evaluation of the credibility and demeanor of the witnesses by the judge who made the written findings. Thus, Bass not only fails to support the Court of Appeals decision in the instant case, it supports the opposite conclusion -- that appellant was entitled to a new hearing on the voluntariness of his statement.(3)
The legislature has specifically authorized "paper hearings" in a limited number of contexts.(4) That the legislature has used language which specifically authorizes such a procedure in one specific setting (e.g., habeas hearings pursuant to Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 11.07), but has omitted such language in another (e.g., hearings pursuant to Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 38.22), suggests that the legislature did not intend for such a procedure to be used in the latter setting; if the legislature had so intended, it would likely have said so specifically, as it did in the former setting. The legislature did not use language permitting use of affidavits in Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 38.22, and, therefore, we must assume that "paper hearings" are not approved in that setting.
Appellant's first ground for review is sustained.(5) The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the cause is remanded there for proceedings consistent with this opinion.(6)
Date Delivered: March 29, 2000
1. Art. 38.22, 6 provides in relevant part:
In all cases where a question is raised as to the voluntariness of a
statement of an accused, the court must make an independent
finding in the absence of the jury as to whether the statement was
made under voluntary conditions. If the statement has been found
to have been voluntarily made and held admissible as a matter of
law and fact by the court in a hearing in the absence of the jury, the
court must enter an order stating its conclusion as to whether or not
the statement was voluntarily made, along with the specific finding
of facts upon which the conclusion was based, which order shall be
filed among the papers of the cause . . . .
2. See Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S. Ct. 1774, 12 L. Ed.2d 908 (1964).
3. The dissent argues that a trial judge should be able to make findings based upon a "cold" record because "it is no different from a trial judge, in the first instance, making findings of fact based upon affidavits." Post, at ___ (slip op. at 7-8) (Keasler, J., dissenting). If the first judge in the instant case had made written findings of fact and conclusions of law or had used only written evidence to make his ruling, the dissent's rationale might be persuasive. These are not the facts presented to this court, however. The first trial judge concluded, based on live testimony, that appellant's statement was voluntary but made no written findings of fact and conclusions of law. (S.F., vol. II, at 85-106.)
The dissent also equates the transcription of live, sworn testimony with an affidavit. Post, at ___ (slip op. at 7-8) (Keasler, J., dissenting). However, the two are not the same. While the latter is a complete statement in and of itself, the same cannot be said for the former; the credibility of the witness through his/her demeanor on the stand is crucial to an evaluation of live testimony.
4. See, e.g., Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 11.07, 3(d) ("To resolve [the designated] issues [of fact] the court may order affidavits, depositions, interrogatories, and hearings, as well as using personal recollection").
5. The dissent argues that Wicker v. State, 740 S.W.2d 783 (Tex. Crim. App. 1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 938, 108 S. Ct. 1117, 99 L. Ed.2d 278 (1988), should be overruled and appellant should be held to have waived error, based on his failure to object to the trial court's failure to make written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Post, at ___ (slip op. at 1-6) (Keasler, J., dissenting). However, we have no jurisdiction to take such action.
This court's jurisdiction is limited to review of decisions by the courts of appeals. See Tex. R. App. P. 66.1 ("The Court of Criminal Appeals may review a court of appeals' decision in a criminal case on its own initiative under Rule 67 or on the petition of a party under Rule 68"). While Wicker and the failure to object were implicated in the court of appeals' decision of April 14, 1998, we do not review that decision today. Instead, the court of appeals' decision before us today, from December 8, 1998, concerns only whether the court of appeals was correct in deciding that those findings of fact and conclusions of law could be made by a judge who did not preside at the earlier hearing on the voluntariness of appellant's confession, based upon the "cold" record of that hearing. Therefore, the issues of the continuing validity of Wicker and appellant's failure to object to the lack of written findings of fact and conclusions of law are not before us now.
6. Based on our disposition of appellant's first ground for review, we find it unnecessary to review his second ground. Therefore, this ground is dismissed.