AUSTIN and LUBBOCK, Texas — Lawyers for Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for a rehearing on Friday. The Texas high court on January 15 ruled that Dixon’s conviction can stand.
Dixon was convicted in Lubbock of arranging for the stabbing and shooting death of Dr. Joseph Sonnier in Southwest Lubbock in 2012. It was described as both a murder-for-hire and a love triangle. The case made national news.
David Neal Sheppard pleaded guilty and admitted to the murder. He is serving a life sentence in prison. Dixon was accused of paying Shepard to commit the crime because Dixon and Sonnier were both romantically interested in the same woman.
Dixon appealed the capital murder conviction on two grounds. He claimed his right to a public trial was violated and prosecutors used cell phone data without a proper warrant. Dixon won on appeal at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. If the case had stopped there, the conviction would be thrown out.
But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overruled the Seventh Circuit.
Dixon’s legal team on Friday claimed that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals went beyond its proper jurisdiction. Dixon’s team argued that the highest court cannot review facts; only the appeals courts can do that, Dixon’s team claimed. Instead the highest is supposed to review the legal analysis.
Dixon’s team claimed the high court decided on factual disputes, rather than legal disputes.
Unless the highest court grants a rehearing, here’s where the case stands. The conviction is put back on the record and the appeals court still has some follow-up work to do because not every issue was decided yet on appeal.