50 Years of Past Presidents

Hon. Frank Maloney 1971-1972
C. Anthony Friloux, Jr. * 1972-1973
Phil Burleson* 1973-1974
George E. Gilkerson* 1974-1975

C. David Evans* 1975-1976
Weldon Holcomb* 1976-1977
Emmett Colvin* 1977-1978
George F. Luquette* 1978-1979

Vincent Perini, President 1979-1980

“This Is a War Story and Homage to Emmett Colvin, One of Dallas’s Great Criminal Defense Lawyers and Seventh President of TCDLA”

In the first decade after the Death Penalty was re-established in Texas in the 1970s, I was appointed (with David Loving), to represent Howie Ray Robinson, a young 22-year-old black man with no significant criminal history, who had been looking for trouble one summer night and found it in a South Dallas bar in the person of an experienced old criminal from out-of-state who offered him, and another sucker, Ernest Benjamin Smith, a chance to make some quick money. The author of this enterprise had a substantial criminal history. He had a car and pistols and proposed that the three of them stick up a convenience store – in this case, a Schepp’s Dairy, where the night clerk, also marked by fate, was an ex-con with a pistol under the counter.

Their fearless leader drove to the convenience store, gave Howie Ray and Smith each a pistol and sent them in –- alone — to rob the store at gunpoint. The tough old clerk behind the counter reached for his gun. Smith tried shooting but said his gun jammed and he yelled, “Shoot him, Howie!” Howie complied. They cleaned out the cash register and fled out to their waiting sponsor in his car with the engine running. The old clerk died.

The older criminal, who had planned the fateful episode, was arrested in his car in possession of the two pistols. His prior criminal experience served him well. He cut a deal with Dallas Chief Assistant District Attorney, Doug Mulder, for identifying and testifying against the two hapless recruits whom he had directed and armed. Mulder offered him a sweet reward for his cooperation, but as a condition, insisted that he pass a polygraph test.

At trial, the older man testified against Robinson, as he had already against Robinson’s accomplice, Smith (who had been convicted and sentenced to death). On cross-examination, the very favorable plea bargain between the witness and the First assistant DA was admissible to impeach the witness, who had everything to gain by performing well for his sponsor. But the assistant D.A., in turn, insisted he be permitted to offer evidence in rebuttal that the witness had “passed” a polygraph test. The judge, Richard Mays, who would become one of Dallas County’s great criminal district judges, at that time was very new to the job. Although refusing my objection to the admissibility of the polygraph, he made it clear how much he hoped I would not cross-examine the witness on that point.

I had been in trials for almost ten years, but never in a capital case. I was tormented that the polygraph testimony would foreordain a guilty verdict. So that night, I needed a mentor. And I was a member of the nation’s very first state association of criminal defense lawyers. I sought help from one of its leaders, Emmett Colvin, whom I called at home.  Emmett did not hesitate: “Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead!”

The next day the clever old crook testified. I impeached him with his very favorable plea bargain, and the judge admitted evidence of the polygraph test. Robinson was convicted and sentenced to death.

Epilogue: Robinson’s conviction was reversed on appeal because of the polygraph. (The Co-Defendant Smith’s conviction was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court because of the testimony of “Dr. Death” – Dr. James Grigson.) Robinson was tried again –- twice –- ably represented by Ed Gray. Neither conviction stuck. The State agreed to a plea bargain. In those days before Life Without Parole or “3G” offenses, Robinson soon paroled. One day as he assumed his bench, the Hon. Richard Mays gazed out at the expectant faces before him in the courtroom. In the back, standing, one looked familiar. “Howie?” It was Robinson, come to pay his respects to the man who had sentenced him to death three times.

Robert Jones 1980-1981
Charles M. McDonald* 1981-1982
Clifford W. Brown* 1982-1983
Thomas Gilbert Sharpe Jr. * 1983-1984
Clifton “Scrappy” Holmes* 1984-1985
Louis Dugas Jr.* 1985-1986

Knox Jones 1986-1987
Charles D. Butts* 1987-1988
Edward Mallett, 1988-1989
James Bobo, 1989-1990
Tim Evans, 1990-1991

Richard Anderson, President 1991-1992

As a puppy lawyer I remember in 1974 V Perini dragging me to join this new organization, TCDLA.  The next year he coerced me in to writing the Ethics outline for the first SBOT Advanced Criminal Law Course for Phil Burleson’s speech.  Both opened doors for which I will be forever indebted.

I remember lean years when the hat was passed at Board meetings to keep the organization financially going.  I remember recruiting new members by going to their office with Tim Evans and Rusty Duncan to get them to sign up. It was always easier to get them to write a check when Jim Bobo went along and blocked any avenue of escape. I remember marveling at Board meetings of the eloquence of a young Gerry Goldstein.

I remember the strategic work by Scrappy Holmes and Frank Maloney to wrestle away the responsibility of educating the criminal defense bar from the SBOT and placing it in the hands of CDLP, ensuring quality CLE for years to come.

I remember attending as a student, rooming with Chuck Miller, the first Huntsville Trial Advocacy course.

I remember, perhaps as not distinctly, the President’s Parties at the Saint Anthony Hotel with the TCDLA Advanced Criminal Law Course ( now Rusty Duncan ), dancing the night away to Rotel and the Hot Tomatoes, then 50 of us showing up a Mi Tierras at 1:30 in the morning for breakfast margaritas. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much from those annual meetings that very same morning.

Mostly I remember how my affiliation with TCDLA, the organization and its members, shaped my legal career and forged lasting friendships.

Gerald Goldstein 1992-1993
David Bires 1993-1994
Ronald Goranson 1994-1995

Bill Wischkaemper, President 1995-1996

One of the best war stories occurred when I was serving on the TCDLA Strike Force. One of our fellow attorneys was subpoenaed to the Grand Jury to produce some photos that allegedly were taken in the Jones County Jail. It seems that some of the prisoners had become friendly with the jailers, and the jailers would let the prisoners out to party from time to time. There was a festive party on New Year’s Eve which possibly involved alcohol, women and marijuana. My client asserted her attorney-client privilege and refused to produce the photos, if there were any. She was held in contempt of court, which was ultimately dismissed. It seems that Anson at one time had an ordinance against dancing which was voided by the ACLU. Texas Monthly had in their Bum Steer Awards the following: There ain’t no dancin’ in Anson, but there’s tail in the jail.

I’ve always been honored to be on the Strike Force as many years ago I had to use their services. My client’s airplane crashed with some illegal substances on board. He called the person he had loaned the plane to and (unfortunately) used his phone credit card to make the phone call. I later got a subpoena for the Federal Grand Jury in Albuquerque to discuss the conversation I had with the person who had borrowed the plane. The Strike Force came to my aid, and the subpoena was quashed and I did not have to testify.

TCDLA has had a major impact on my professional career. My best friends are fellow members. This camaraderie has had a monumental effect on both my professional and personal lives, and I am truly grateful for it.

David Botsford 1996-1997
E. G. Morris 1997-1998
Kent Schaffer  1998-1999

 Michael Heiskell, President 1999-2000

“Reflections on My TCDLA Membership”

My introduction to TCDLA came courtesy of the legendary Tim Evans in 1983 as he was one of the defense counsel in a fraud case I was prosecuting  in U.S. District Judge Robert Porter’s court in Dallas. At the time I was seriously planning to leave my post as an Assistant United States Attorney to enter private practice with two other civil AUSA’s and set up shop in Fort Worth. Tim extolled the virtues of Fort Worth, and being a member of TCDLA, in his usual convincing style. How right he was! It was one of my very best moves, professionally and personally. He also proved it by skillfully walking his client out of the federal courthouse with a “Not Guilty” label on his forehead.

Tim’s guidance on this did not end with simple words during the course of  that trial.  He backed it  up by not only his introductions of me to the Tarrant County crowd of defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges, but  he made sure that I got my application in and encouraged me to sign up for  the  seminars and to  attend the meetings of the  Association.  As a result, I ingratiated myself with TCDLA members and leadership so that I could squeeze every benefit offered and plagiarize every tidbit of trial skill that I could to improve my practice. Along the way, dear, long lasting friendships developed that I continue to cherish. The CLE seminar trips were greatly anticipated and the resulting “Happy Hour” discourse was incomparable-as was the  downing of the “refreshments”. Eventually, I was convinced to  make an effort to  get on the  “officer chain” in order to  work my way up as President  of  this well respected, august body.  I did so with the support of  my dear friends  and colleagues, and ended up wielding the presidential gavel in 1999.  It  was the  turn of the century and I was the  first African American to  hold that gavel. I gleefully accepted the challenge and discharged my duties to the best of my abilities. Since those heady times, I continue to stay as active as I can because my love for this Association will never abate. Not only has my practice thrived as a result, but I became a better person due to  the  authentic and generous relationships that developed with my many TCDLA friends. Long live TCDLA!

Robert Hinton 2000-2001

Betty Blackwell, President 2001-2002

TCDLA was incredibly welcoming 41 years ago when I was licensed to practice law.  Three years earlier, I had been told by none other than Roy Minton that I shouldn’t go to law school because no one was going to hire a woman lawyer.  He was not being unkind, only truly concerned for my future as he was a dear friend of my family even before I was born.  When I decided to open my own office in Austin, TCDLA came in person and asked me to join.  Then shortly after that they asked me to join the board of directors. At my first meeting Weldon Holcomb directed me to a room full of ladies, saying that the Friends of TCDLA were meeting next door.  I soon realized that he didn’t know I was an attorney or that I was on the board.  Much to his embarrassment, Scrappy Holmes and I corrected him. Weldon always made a point of enthusiastically greeting me at each board meeting after that. 

Scrappy decided that if anything was happening in Austin, I need to go as the TCDLA representative.  This opened a huge number of doors for me to see the inner workings of the Legislature, the Governor’s office, the State Bar of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals.

In the last 50 years, TCDLA has had made a tremendous impact on the criminal justice system in Texas and my life.

Mark Daniel, President 2002-2003

TCDLA is more than merely an organization. It is a living breathing organism. TCDLA is unquestionably the strongest and most passionate criminal defense association in America.

I joined TCDLA in 1985. I look back over the years and marvel at how my career and my practice have been enriched. I am truly a TCDLA beneficiary.

I have had the privilege of traveling to every corner of this wonderful state and meeting criminal defense lawyers I would have never known but for TCDLA. I have  had the undeniable privilege of trying cases with great lawyers I would have never known but for TCDLA.

I have attended what is  far and away the finest criminal law CLE programs in America. I have learned from others. I have come to understand that seasoned and experienced criminal defense lawyers are the most generous people on earth with the next generation. All a younger member has to do is simply ask. I have stolen ideas from other members of TCDLA and incorporated them into my practice and cases.

I have watched while TCDLA leadership battled valiantly against overreaching legislation, something no individual practitioner could ever hope to  do on their own .I have watched while TCDLA lawyers sprint to stand beside a member who has stumbled into the wrath of an oppressive judge. I have always enjoyed the concept that the individual criminal defense practitioner enjoys the never ending support of this organization and its 3,000+ members.  Because of TCDLA, an individual criminal defense practitioner never stands alone or practices by himself.

Finally, I have been privileged to have the opportunity to give back to the upcoming generation and share with them the lessons I have learned from my experiences. It is an honor to try and make things a little better for those that follow. There is no greater privilege and TCDLA provides the ideal forum.

That is what TCDLA is to me. I am truly blessed.

Cynthia Orr, President 2003-2004

There are many cases past and present that are important to all of us. Each case presents an opportunity to improve the state and federal criminal justice processes. Here are a few folks might recall. Representing Michael Morton resulted in relevance- based discovery in Texas.  Michael taught us about his irrepressible human spirit. He served 24 years and 7 months for a crime he did not commit; yet when he was released, he saw through significant reform in our justice system. He cared about consequences for wrongly hidden exculpatory information.  And so, he also saw through the prosecution and incarceration of the prosecutor who hid that evidence in his case. Hannah Overton also decided to provide service to those who are subject wrongful imprisonment.  After her exoneration, she worked to provide a reentry home for women to reintegrate into society and has even established a re-entry home for women in Mexico who are deported after their release. She continues to advocate for humane conditions in women’s prisons and provides faith-based services to incarcerated women.  In the Cameron Todd Willingham case, Texas executed an innocent man. We continue to fight for the restoration of his good name for his family. I hope the knowledge that our system is imperfect and often is shamefully inadequate will lead us to conclude that we must abolish death as a penalty in Texas. Our imperfect criminal justice system should not meet out irremediable punishment. All of the cases where we continue to strive for exoneration of the innocent and for fair and just results for those accused of crime improve justice and ensure that the Texas and US Constitutions remain living and meaningful. TCDLA promotes these ideals and provides places where we can gather, hone our skills, and stand with each other in the effort.

Daniel Hurley, President 2004-2005

“The Ralph Erdman Debacle”

In 1992, a Lubbock Police Detective, Bill Hubbard, hired me to represent him in an indictment for Falsifying Government Documents.  A very long story condensed, Hubbard had pissed off two West Texas District Attorneys for criticizing “their” medical examiner, Ralph Erdman, who they controlled hook, line and sinker.

Hubbard and partner, officer Pat Kelly, testified in a capital murder hearing in Amarillo, after being subpoenaed by famous Atlanta Capital defender Millard Farmer, that Erdman was a fraud and a cheat and should not be trusted.  Farmer was indicted in Randall county by DA Randy Sherrod for witness tampering and Hubbard and Kelly were indicted in Lubbock by DA Travis Ware for false documents.

Bill Wischkaemper suggested I let Gerry Goldstein take over Hubbard’s case.  I was hurt (it was my career case) but soon came to realize that Goldstein could probably do the job.  They allowed me to come along and carry a briefcase for them.  Captain Goldstein put together a team that included Racehorse Haynes, Cynthia Orr, Chicago Lawyer, Jed  Stone, and the wealthiest law firm in the world, Skadden Arps, for the 1983 Civil rights side.

Judge Mary Lou Robinson summoned us to Amarillo to tell us she would give us a few hours to present our suit to enjoin the prosecution of the aforementioned accused.  An injunction to stop criminal prosecution had been granted two previous times in the U.S. prior to our case.  Captain Goldstein and his team said no problem, we got this, “Hold my beer.”

We began the hearing in an Amarillo winter blizzard that would make Eskimos shiver.  Our two-hour hearing lasted four days.  About one month later Judge Robinson found that the plaintiffs had presented “substantial evidence” that the two DAs had unlawfully and unconstitutionally charged Farmer, Hubbard, and Kelly for exercising 1st Amendment rights and Farmer for exercising his 5th and 6th Amendment duties.

We settled the civil rights claims after all criminal charges were dropped for about $300,000.00.

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been 40 years since I first got to hold Gerry Goldstein’s briefcase.  I will cherish that memory to my grave.

Randy Wilson, President 2005-2006

After over 50 years of combat in the trenches defending the “citizen accused”, I can state without reservation that TCDLA and TCDLEI have been the major contributors to my career. As a Past President and former Chair of TCDLEI, and member of the faculty of the Tim Evans Criminal Trial College for over 28 years, I have had the privilege of meeting, working with, and for not only the “big names” in criminal defense, but also watching the young lawyers grow into competent and devoted criminal defense attorneys.  I have been fortunate to contribute in a small way by my involvement with the two organizations. The young attorneys now are our hope for the future.  We should advise, mentor, and assist them as well encourage them to become more involved with our two organizations.  We should encourage non members to join.  I feel privileged to have been not only an officer but also a member of  TCDLA and TCDLEI and to thank those that have supported me through the years with their advice and counsel.  I composed the following many years ago and thought it might be appropriate to share with our members.

The Advocate

With head held high
Armed with wit and knowledge
He attempts to aid
His fellow man.
With little appreciation
From his peers
He continues his battle
Against intolerance
Injustice, and the unscrupulous
He often sacrifices his own
Goals and desires
To protect his client from such.
His beleaguered figure
Oft marred from previous battles,
Nonetheless, ever-striving to
Protect his client
From the injustices set against
His clients.
His weapons,
The word, his wit and preparation
Always armed,
Ever ready,
For the defense of the citizen accused.

-Randy Wilson

Robert Lerma, President 2006-2007

Craig Jett, President 2007-2008

“The Banditos Defense Team”

In 1983 the Banditos Motorcycle Club and the Banshees Motorcycle Club were rival motorcycle clubs in Texas. The Banditos were considered a “national” motorcycle club with chapters in many parts of the United States, including Texas. The Banshees were considered a regional club with chapters in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.1

On April 30, 1983, members of both clubs attended drag races at a track in Porter, outside of Houston. An altercation between members of the clubs occurred resulting in several Banditos being shot, and one killed. On July 5, 1983, explosive devices were set off at the residences of two members of the Banshees in the Dallas area. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. Almost five years later, on March 31, 1988, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging twenty-three members of the Banditos with conspiracy to make explosive devices that were to be used to retaliate against members of the Banshees. Some of the accused were national officers of the Banditos and others were members of the Texas chapter. The accused Banditos had nick-names like Stepmother, Stubbs, Frio, Sarge, King Crabs, Sir Spanky, Dirty Ed, Crash, Kawasaki John and Pee Wee. The defendants hired or had appointed defense lawyers from Lubbock, Ft. Worth, Dallas, Longview, Tyler and Houston. Some of the lawyers received Harley-Davidson motorcycles for their fees. The defense team included TCDLA presidents-to- be Tim Evans, Bob Hinton, Kent Schaffer, Ron Goranson, Bill Wischkaemper, Richard Anderson, Mark Daniels and Craig Jett; future TCDLA Hall of Fame member George Milner II; future Dallas Bar President Barry Sorrells; and future United States District Judge John Hannah.

On November 7, 1988 the case was called to trial before the Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, who was well known for his sense of humor. A task force of federal and state law-enforcement had gathered evidence based on information provided by cooperating former Banditos. Many of the defendants were arrested wearing their “colors”, which ended up hanging in the office of the prosecutor. Eight defendants plead guilty prior to trial. Two of those agreed to testify for the government. At trial half of the courtroom was packed with fifteen Bandito defendants and their fifteen lawyers. The cross-examination of one of one of the cooperating Bandito witnesses included a graphic description of his killing of a man in a bar. During cross- examination of a Banshee witness, Kent Schaffer produced a very large photograph of the Banshee that was taken during the altercation at the race track, with his arm extended and something metallic in his hand, which he agreed was not a “Coors Lite can.” It appeared that Kent had solved the murder of the deceased Bandito. At the conclusion of the cross-examination, all of the Banditos gathered around Kent to congratulate him. Kent suggested that his performance might qualify him for membership in the Banditos. The Banditos hesitated, and then explained to Kent that membership in the Banditos required doing something sexual in front of the members. Kent responded, “I just butt—-ed a Banshee, isn’t that good enough?” It wasn’t.

After three and a half weeks of trial the government rested. The defendants made a Rule 29 motion for an instructed verdict contending that the government had not proved that the defendants had the deliberate, knowing and specific intent to join the conspiracy and accomplice its purpose. Rather than suffering an instructed verdict, the government filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, with prejudice, as to six defendants. The motion was granted. Two of the defendants were acquitted by the jury. The remaining seven defendants were convicted. One of those defendants was allowed to stay out of jail on bond during his appeal because the judge knew there was Bruton error, which required, and resulted in, reversal of that conviction. He was not retried.

One of the Banditos, DJ, was a skilled illustrator, and made drawings throughout the trial. Judge Buchmeyer noticed and took an interest in the drawings. The judge was later presented with copies of the illustrations. There was also a t- shirt for the Banditos Defense Team, designed by Sue Benner (wife of this author), a photo of which accompanies this article. We heard later that one of Judge Buchmeyer’s law clerks rode a motorcycle into a restaurant where the judge was having breakfast.

The Banditos trial was a great experience for the defense lawyers, young and not so young. We learned how to cooperate, and the value of cooperation among defense lawyers and defendants. We learned to appreciate and learn from our co- counsel. We learned how to look after the interests of our client and at the same time, not to harm other defendants, which benefitted all of the defendants. We started, or cemented, long personal and professional relationships that we value to this day. The  spirit of what we learned started with TCDLA, and I believe continues as TCDLA continues.

H.F. Rick Hagen, President 2008-2009

When I first started practicing criminal law, over thirty years ago, there was virtually no discovery.  Prosecutors could operate with a closed file.  What I called “bedtime story discovery” was common.  The prosecutor could read you the file, or a portion of it, but was not required to give you a copy.  Defense lawyers did not get police reports or witness statements until the trial started, after the witness testified, with the jury watching.

The most significant change in criminal law the last fifty years is the Michael Morton Act.  During my term as TCDLA President in 2009, I was a strong advocate for discovery reform.  At that time, I advocated for reciprocal discovery.  I honestly believed we would never be allowed access to the prosecution’s file without giving something up ourselves.  The leadership of TCDLA after my tenure proved I was wrong.

Another significant change is how society views law enforcement.  Not too long ago a significant percentage of the population would blindly accept that law enforcement could do no wrong.  Eyebrows were raised when wrongful convictions were occasional.  The eyes of society are wide open now that wrongful convictions are common.

Law enforcement abuses seem to make headlines on a weekly basis.  Our law enforcement officers must be better trained, especially in how to deal with a person in a mental health crisis, and regarding the use of force.  TCDLA must continue to advocate for the protection of individual freedom and reform. 

I have been fortunate during my career and enjoyed my fair share of acquittals and favorable punishment outcomes.   I will never forget Rusty Duncan telling me that if I wanted to have any kind of success practicing criminal law that I had to join TCDLA.  Growing up my heroes were cowboys.  Today, my heroes are members of TCDLA.

Stanley Schneider, President 2009-2010

“Racehorse Haynes and the Levenworth Art Colony”

In 1980, after the Cullen Davis trials, Richard “Racehorse” Haynes was the most famous lawyer in America. Imagine my excitement when he invited me to work on a federal bank robbery case in Spokane, Washington representing Bubba because Bubba wanted me to be Haynes’ “go-fer”. I will never forget my first meeting with Bubba and Haynes. As I was ushered into Haynes office, Bubba proudly pointed to a painting on the wall and telling me that he painted it while in prison for a bank burglary when Haynes had first been his lawyer. Little did I realize the significance of that painting. Bubba surrendered to authorities and was promptly released from custody as Haynes argued to a federal magistrate that Bubba was not a robber but a burglar. I traveled to Spokane to meet the prosecutor and began our investigation. We learned that a guy named Joe, after a grant of immunity, told law enforcement that Bubba and a guy named Sunny flew to the Northwest where they stole cars and robbed the three banks in three different cities. After the robberies, they would hike into the surrounding mountain wildernesses to hide. According to Joe, after a few days, he would pick them up and drive them to an airport for their return to Houston. The story seems feasible because Joe, Sunny and Bubba spent a number of years together in a federal prison. An FBI agent called the three men members of the Levenworth Art Colony because of their hobby in prison.

When he heard the details of the informant’s deal, Haynes proclaimed Bubba’s innocence because of Bubba’s health would have prevented him from hiding in the woods. Haynes instructed Bubba to search his personal and business

records for evidence that he was in Houston when the robberies occurred. Bubba presented us with witnesses and documents proving that on the day of Spokane robbery, he had moved his mother by ambulance from a nursing home in Galveston to a nursing home in Deer Park. There were documents relating to his movements in Houston for the dates of the other robberies. Except for being in jail, Haynes could not have been presented with more perfect alibi defenses. We filed the required notice of alibi which listed the identity of our witnesses and presented the supporting documentation. The witnesses were quickly interviewed by the FBI. A couple of weeks later, the prosecutor called. He said that the judge wanted to know if video depositions were taken of the alibi witnesses, could we try the case the three days before Thanksgiving. I remember laughing and saying something like: Haynes is going to cross each of your three snitches for three days a piece and the trial is going to last three weeks. The call quickly ended. The following week I was notified that the charges were dismissed. The dismissals seemed hollow because I wanted to try the case with Haynes. And, I also thought there were facts missing from the story… Little did I know. Years later, I learned the backstory. The members of the Levenworth Art Colony had carefully crafted a scheme involving four men not three. The success of their plan depended on three things:

  1. Bubba’s relationship with Haynes;
  2. Bubba’s iron clad alibis; and
  3. Racehorse Haynes was the greatest trial lawyer in America.

The four men knew that if successful, no one would be convicted. And the plan worked.

William Harris, President 2010-2011

The True Meaning of TCDLA”

We were asked to write of an example of the meaningful moments of out TCDLA experience. I do not think so much of what has been contributed to my skills as an attorney, although much has, but rather of the friendship and the feel of family that comes from actively belonging to this great organization.

In January of 2019, my wife, Ann Abbe, suffered a massive stroke. In June she was in a long-term acute care hospital in Fort Worth. She seemed stable so I traveled down to San Antonio for the Rusty Duncan.  My first day was interrupted by a call from the hospital that she had been moved back to intensive care. I rushed back and it was obvious that she was failing.  Two days later she died surrounded by family.

The service was on Thursday of the following week.  At the visitation on Wednesday evening, I arrived to be greeted by four of my friends from Lubbock, who had driven straight through to attend the visitation that evening. At 8:00 p.m. they climbed back in the car and drove back to Lubbock. There were many others from my TCDLA family who attended that evening or who were present for the funeral the next day. However, I single these out because they came the farthest to support me. I cannot express how much I appreciate the support of all of my TCDLA family.

We do a lot to educate lawyers, support them when they are unfairly attacked, and try to influence the powers that be in ways that promote the welfare of our clients.  We are not the most popular of lawyers and the law is not the most popular of professions. But like a good family, despite some disputes, we support each other.  That, I believe, is TCDLA’S greatest contribution to our members.

 

Gary Trichter, President 2011-2012

“Reflections as a Cowboy Lawyer”

As I reflect upon TCDLA’s 50th Anniversary, I also reflect both upon my own 41 years in the practice of criminal defense law and my approximately 50 years in the criminal justice system.  There have been many changes in that system since I have been involved in it, some good & some bad, and for the most part, I have witnessed that TCDLA’s involvement has brought about many good changes.  However, just like in our government, where we need to be forever vigilant in protecting constitutional rights, we must also be forever vigilant in protecting both the primary mission, defending the accused, and in protecting the membership of our organization.  In particular, I see the greatest danger to TCDLA as not being from some outside threat, but rather, from an inside threat!  That threat has already raised its evil head in our organization and has firmly planted its roots within.  In many ways, I think a great number of our membership have forgotten that the ultimate purpose of a defense lawyer is not just to win cases, but rather, to see that both constitutional rights and that the spirit of the law are protected.   In my view, our criminal justice system is also under attack, and it too, needs to be protected.  If the criminal justice system fails, then we fail with it.  Our law cannot have a blind eye that protects and/or shields certain favored persons from prosecution.  If we, as a country, lose our respect and belief in our justice system, then we are on the road to destruction.  We as lawyers have to inspire non-lawyers that the rule of law is important and that it needs to be respected.  To this end, I see that the “cancel culture” has become embedded in our organization.  It is also my observation that there is a movement that very openly attacks lawyers who dare to take an opposite view of political circumstances.   Here, the danger is that such a culture chills open and needed debate.  We must always have patience and an open mind to consider dissent.  Typically, I see and hear this where political movements are championed by past & present leaders within this organization and dissenters and minority voices are belittled. Our dissenters must always be treated with dignity, due process, and regard.

WE, as Champions of Liberty, must never become like those who say, “do as I say and not as I do”.  Each of our members deserve to have a free and open forum for open debate.  We owe that to each other!  That debate, however, needs to be focused and limited on our missions as defense lawyers.  Unless that happens, we will cease to be Protectors of Liberty, and sadly, we will become robbers of it. 

On another note, in order to protect the ultimate mission of our organization, we must continue to recognize that there is strength in numbers.  It is only by being united in purpose that we can have a voice that will be heard!   Here, so that our combined voices do not become muffled, we must limit our outcry to those causes that advance our system of justice and protect the role of the criminal defense lawyer.  This brings me to my final thought on TCDLA’s secondary mission, and that is to continually upgrade the skills, knowledge, and advocacy of each defense lawyer.  To that end, TDCLA has been incredibly successful in its mission to be a teaching organization.  Through its teaching, mentorship, and inspirational leadership, TCDLA has not only done much to protect the rights of so many individual defendants, but more importantly, it has proven that by protecting a single individual, that we can protect everyone else. That is what we teach and that is how we should live!  It is that mindset and practice that allows us to protect our family, our friends, our neighbors, and both the guilty and the innocent from tyranny.  To that end, it has been one of the greatest honors of my life to be member of this organization and to have played, and to continue to play, a part of TCDLA’s teaching legacy and continuing mission of protecting inalienable rights.

 

Lydia Clay-Jackson, President 2012-2013

“Remembrances”

It was May nineteen hundred and eighty-five, I was in the UT arena along with other new “gold card” members, to be officially sworn in as members of the State Bar of Texas. The only thing I remember about the event is what happened as I was leaving the arena. In that long ago time, when face to face conversation was the rule and not the exception, and when a law degree could be earned at four dollars a credit hour, the State Bar invited all bar sections and state-wide bar organizations to have a booth at the formal swearing in ceremonies.

It was a bright and sunny day, and not a dark and stormy night, I passed by a booth with a tall grey haired man and short grey haired lady. Let’s call them John and Lillian. Lillian called me over and my career as a criminal defense lawyer was started. John spoke with me about the greatest thing in criminal justice – TCDLA. He said it was an organization of criminal defense lawyers who were working daily to make a difference in the lives of those who had been charged with a criminal offense. If I wanted to make a difference, he said, in criminal law then I had to join TCDLA. Lillian’s pitch was a bit more down to earth for a new lawyer, she said TCDLA had scholarships that would pay the tuition and travel to TCDLA seminars. It was the personal touch of John and Lillian that made me signed up on the spot and have not looked back.

I received scholarships and attended the seminars and started to stay over for the TCDLA board meetings. I got hooked and started to recruit other new lawyers. Undoubtedly the only TCDLA bill-board larger than mine was Randy Wilson’s. Sure, I had to re-introduce myself to the same people, a couple of times, but in the end it was worth it. I joined committees and I was placed on committees. I made a concerted effort to encouraged (and yes badgered) others lawyers I would see, to join TCDLA, not only for their benefit but for the benefit of their clients.

Now in 2021 I am honored to say that I have served TCDLA as one of its Past Presidents, (thank you KAD for the pen I wear it with pride). I am pleased with the many accomplishments of our organizations. I yet personally go up to lawyers in the courtroom and ask if I can be of assistance. I always finish with “ by the way are you a member of TCDLA”?

I have written this remembrance to lend you my experience. We members of TCDLA have many common goals. I truly believe the foremost goal is to be the best advocate for the Accused that we are capable of being. Our face-to-face contact with one another is one way important way we may reach this goal. Our willingness to go above and beyond to help our fellow Defense Lawyers makes each one of us grand warriors. We must not hesitate, when we see a fellow warrior in need, to personally step us and offer whatever assistance we have in our arsenal. It is this personal touch that allows us , as an organization, to be unbeatable.

The Tim Evans Texas Criminal Trial College has as its adopted motto, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway”. Let us all make a concerted effort to honestly speak (not text, not email nor any of the other ways of avoiding personal contact) with one another and always be there to lend a helping hand. We will all be better for it.

Bobby Mims, President 2013-2014 and Melinda Carroll

“Restorative Justice”

We were appointed at the last minute to assist on a high-profile death case in Smith County. The Judge had denied contract lawyers a delay. She told them to choose from the death penalty list a 3rd chair. The crime drew national attention from CNN, ABC, and Fox since a black man was charged with kidnapping, raping, and murdering a white woman. We started getting death threats and expected the KKK to show up. We were under tremendous pressure, so we decided to put pressure on the Judge.

Melinda Carroll contacted the “Big Three” Wischkamper, Niland, and Byington. TCDLA’s listserve was livid. Botsford and Recer volunteered to help brief and file a Writ of Mandamus. President Wilson issued a press release charging that a Tyler Judge was forcing a hasty death penalty trial on a young Marine war veteran. 

During voir dire, we Batson Challenged every DA strike on a minority. The Judge denied each. The New York Times called the Judge to comment on why she was forcing a Marine to trial when the lawyers were unprepared. We flipped the drama triangle, and the defendant became the victim with the Judge, the villain. Finally, the Judge suggested the parties settle.  She then ordered the DA voir dire notes sealed for the record and carried our Batson motions.

The DA offered to waive death if the family consented and the defendant told the family what happened.  He agreed.  Scary stuff for defense lawyers! We learned that they had sued Walmart.  I called their lawyers, saying if my client waived the 5th, they could depose him, but I needed their clients to agree.

We all met under armed guard for 8-hours. He told them what happened and why. He put in the details and showed remorse. Mom asked if some man did that to his daughter, what would he want. He said he would want them to die. The mom then said that because we are all God’s children, she forgave him. Incredibly, Mom stood and hugged him.

He was sentenced to stacked life sentences. The family recovered a seven-figure sum from Walmart.

We learned later that it was Restorative Justice we obtained.  We did not know it since we were “winging it.”

Emmett Harris 2014-2015

 

Samuel Bassett, President 2015-2016

I tried two consecutive jury trials in Alpine, Texas (Brewster County) in the late 1990s for a businessman falsely accused of sexually and physically assaulting his young children. I’ll never forget the experience because I was young (in my early 30s) with a small firm and in a “foreign land” of far West Texas. The case arose out of a custody dispute so we were able to take depositions and unravel the State’s cases before trial. It was fun deposing the CPS caseworker on the case for six (6) hours, with all of her records in my possession. We set up shop at the Ramada Inn the week prior to trial and worked very hard to prepare. The trial was going really well for us and the District Attorney was noticeably frustrated, not having realized how much information we had developed in the civil case. During closing arguments, the District Attorney gathered a bunch of uniformed law enforcement personnel in the courtroom and I wondered why. As my client was declared “not guilty” and we hugged, he was immediately arrested and charged with a new charge of physically abusing his children. He spent the next two days in the Brewster County Jail. Once released, we went to Juarez to celebrate our victory and to begin to prepare for the second trial. The State had the same problems with their second case given our extensive discovery efforts. After I filed a motion to recuse the District Attorney for the second trial, a visiting prosecutor and a new judge (Former D.A. Royal Hart) tried the second case and the jury deliberated less than an hour finding my client not guilty. We again went to Juarez for a couple of days with a much more hearty celebration. An interesting post script – my client obtained primary custody of these same children a few months following the second criminal trial.

This case taught me the value in handling concurrent civil or family law litigation when there is a parallel criminal action. From that point forward, much of my practice has been devoted to criminal allegations arising out of family law cases. However, I’ve never again had back to back not guilty verdicts in two first degree felony trials with the same client. I’ll never forget that experience.

John Convery, President 2016-2017

A few random thoughts for the 50th. When I joined TCDLA over 30 years ago we were both pretty young. I was finding my way as a brand new lawyer.  TCDLA was finding its way as a young association.  I was simply overjoyed to socialize with criminal defense lawyers and be schooled by legends. I still am. TCDLA was pretty happy in its little house office in Austin. Executive Director John Boston operated on a shoestring budget, with TCDLA ever eager to swell its ranks with new members. Year after year my TCDLA colleagues schooled and encouraged me in the art of criminal defense through education and training programs.  I amassed a ton of paper TCDLA CLE course materials and subject manuals on my bookshelves. I purchased TCDLA check lists, cheat sheets, inspirational t-shirts, and waited eagerly for each delivery of the next issue of our exceptional magazine – Voice for the Defense. I still do.

Through the wonder of technology, vision, and the dogged determination of individual members (Grant Scheiner), TCDLA now provides me with the digital wizardry of its website, listserve and cell phone app.  Through these tools I access a vast library of information not imagined by me as a young lawyer. Members and the TCDLA organization have become more professional, better organized. From the TCDLA building in Austin, with a decent budget, we grew and thrived with Executive Director Joseph Martinez, and now flourish under CEO Melissa Schank, super CFO Mari Flores, and staff.  A once rag tag group of member Legislative lobbyists has morphed into a professional group (Keith Hampton, Alan Place) now led by Alan and Shea Place.  In increasingly divisive and difficult times TCDLA serves as the voice of Texas criminal defense lawyers.

I have socialized and partied with TCDLA friends for over 30 years. I have no plans to stop.   

David Earl Moore , President 2017-2018

“Heroes”

When I first joined 30 years ago at the cajoling of Odis Hill and Scrappy, I did so in part like many of us because of what TCDLA could do for me, in the form of outstanding CLE combined with all the other terrific benefits that come with membership. But, I think that I primarily joined to be part of the tribe.  I wanted to be around other lawyers that were walking the same pathway that I was on, folks that understood. I wanted to meet and get to know the great lawyers I had always heard of, many of them among those TCDLA founding members who met at that hotel in Dallas 50 years ago to conceptualize and create our organization. I hoped that TCDLA would give me an avenue to rub shoulders with them and to be a part of something that those individuals, my lawyer heroes, our predecessors, had formed.

Through the years I was certainly blessed to be able to meet many of those legendary giants.  I also have had the good fortune to make many of my very best and lasting friendships through TCDLA. But, at an early point, the collegiality aspect became secondary as I began to become involved in the critical work that TCDLA does. I have always been cognizant that our actions as criminal defense lawyers have an immense impact on people’s lives, one case, one client at a time.  However, TCDLA gave me the opportunity to make a difference beyond my immediate horizon.  Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K), one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports, said it this way, “People want to be part of a team.  They want to be part of something bigger than themselves.  They want to be in a situation where they feel they are doing something for the greater good.”

TCDLA affords each of us an avenue to make that kind of difference.  Can you imagine the absolute chasm that would exist in criminal justice in Texas without TCDLA’s involvement?  From training and educating lawyers, to our legislative efforts, to standing up for our individual brother and sister members through Strike Force, and in other countless ways, I do not know where we would be, where I would be, without TCDLA.

Cornel West said, “I have always felt called to serve, to empower and ennoble as many people as I could – teaching, truth-telling, exposing lies, bearing witness, and being willing to live for something bigger than yourself.”  If you feel that kind of call, then TCDLA is the home for you.  To be sure, you will certainly be rewarded from the bounty of benefits that you personally receive from your dues, but to really get the blessing of what TCDLA is, roll up your sleeves and take part.

I am proud to have been a small part in the cog of what we do, of what we stand for.  I realize that my tiny contribution is but a drop in the ocean, but the ocean is made up in total of individual drops of water like mine. By ourselves, we may not influence much, but collectively we are formidable.

I came to TCDLA in part to meet people like the TCDLA Founding Fathers. Then I had the great fortune to participate with later torch bearers like Goldstein, Anderson, Botsford, Blackwell, Schneider, Evans, Hurley, and Heiskell et al.  And, based upon the character, devotion, and drive of younger folks who have actively taken up the banner, TCDLA is very much in good stead as we now pass the baton to a younger generation.

When I have crossed over and am no longer here, I want my children and my grandchildren to know what I stood for.  I want them to know that I was a proud member of TCDLA, and that I loved this organization.  My feelings for our group are reflected by the words of Major Richard Winters who commanded Easy Company during World War II. When he was asked years later by his grandson if he had been a hero in the war, Winters replied, “No, but I served in the company of heroes.”

Lord knows that there are storm clouds on the horizon as our constitutional protections are under constant threat.  I believe personally that the Rule of Law itself is endangered.  Come join in this company and be a part of the greatest group of criminal defense lawyers in the world.  I hope for society’s sake that TCDLA will still be a beacon for justice in another 50 years.  And, in the words of General Dwight Eisenhower, issued on the morning of June 6, 1944, on D-Day, “Let us beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

Mark Snodgrass 2018-2019

 

Kerri Anderson Donica, President 2019-2020

I’ve been a proud member of TCDLA since 1987. There are so many adventures I’ve had over all those years with TCDLA that are best kept between the adventurers. You know what they say – what happens with TCDLA stays with TCDLA! Most of the best friends I have in the world arose from my relationship with this organization.  We share war stories, we call each other for advice about cases, the law, our families, our love life. We vacation together, we share our joys and our heartbreaks.

As I think back over the past 34 years during which I’ve been involved with TCDLA, perhaps the most significant was 2019-20 during which I served as our President. We were seriously ROCKING along until March 2020. I’d told Melissa Schank that I could not believe what an easy, harmonious year we’d had. I mean NOTHING had rocked the boat… Then God smiled and COVID-19 hit. And the world (and the courts) locked down. We learned how to say ZOOM and wear masks and shelter at home. It was terrifying. Even more terrifying for our clients – many of whom are locked up and had no idea when we could ever get them the heck out of jail or how we could conclude any of our clients’ cases.

Together, we formed the COVID-19 task force. With Melissa’s help, we selected some of the finest leaders and legal minds to assist our members and their clients wade through this uncharted territory. New leaders were born – or at least recognized (Clay Steadman was my fearless point man and NEVER disappointed. Allison Clayton, Jeep Darnell, Kyle Therrian… brainiac rock stars).

The bottom line – we old(ish) guys and gals were able to see that the future of our much loved family/organization is safe and will continue to rise to even new heights.

I will forever be thankful for TCDLA and the memories I cherish – and plan to continue making! Thank you, TCDLA! I’ve loved you for ALMOST 50 years!


Honoring Our Veteran Lawyers 50+ Years Before the Bar

Sam D. Adamo
Paul F. Anderson
Gordon V. Armstrong
Shirley Baccus-Lobel
Cecil W. Bain
Richard Edward Banks
Robert T. Baskett
Jim Sharon Bearden Sr.
David R. Bires
Kenneth E. Blassingame
Stephen E. Blythe
Bill Booth
Paul Brauchle
Alan Brown
Stan Brown
Michael J. Brown
Jim Burnham
Robert Marcus Cady Sr.
Charles Campion
J. A. Canales
Harold L. Comer
Richard Johnson Corbitt III
Dennis R. Croman
Jerald D. Crow
Jackson Qlo Crum
Dick DeGuerin
Gary F. Dennison
Danny V. Dent
Blake C. Erskine
Tim Evans
Wallace T. Ferguson
F. R. “Buck” Files Jr.
Louis J. Fohn
Paul L. Fourt Sr.
Errol N. Friedman
G. Rudolph Garza Jr.
Michael R. Gibson
Victor H. Gillespie
Smith E. Gilley
Gustavo E. Gonzales
Ronald L. Goranson
Dan Green
Lealand W. Greene
Frank Hale
Lynn P. Hardaway
Emmett Harris
Joseph C. Hawthorn
Tom M. Henderson
R. Charles Hoelscher
William M. House Jr.
Guy W. Hull II
Lynn Reed Ingalsbe
Frank H. Jackson
Tim James
Elizabeth C. Jandt
Paul G. Kratzig
James H. Kreimeyer Jr.
James Lane
Ken D. Lipscombe
Edward A. Mallett
Robert A. Markowitz
Edgar A. Mason
Richard Mayhan
Tom S. McCorkle
Dan R. McCormack
Wayne Meissner
Ebb B. Mobley
Charles G. Morton Jr.
Stephen M. Orr
Juan “Sunny” Palacios Jr.
Douglas H. Parks
George J. Parnham
Robert Pelton
John F. Pettit
Jimmy Phillips Jr.
John M. Pinckney III
Robert A. Price IV
Tom L. Ragland
Robert E. Richardson Jr.
Grady L. Roberts Jr.
Allen C. Rudy Jr.
Ted L. Sansom
Larry  Sauer
Eloy Sepulveda
Polk Shelton
Monte Sherrod
Don C. Smith
Buddy Richard Stevens
Jack V. Strickland
Larry B. Sullivant
Ronald L. Sutton
Alex R. Tandy
Bill  Trantham
Theodore F. Trigg
John Trube
Robert A. Valdez
John W. Warner
Sheldon Weisfeld
Phillip Westergren
Charles F. Wetherbee
Norman True Whitlow
Dain P. Whitworth
William K. Wilder
Randy Wilson

Recognizing Members Who’ve Belonged to TCDLA for 50 Years

Cecil Bain
Roy Barrera Sr.
Alan Brown
Dick DeGuerin
F. R. “Buck” Files Jr.
Michael Gibson
Frank Maloney
James M. Morris
George J. Parnham
Vincent Walker Perini
Jimmy Phillips Jr.
Theodore Trigg

Footnotes

  1. The factual information set forth herein is taken from the indictment, testimony from the trial and newspaper reports. None of the factual statements recited herein are from the defendants or their attorneys unless made in open court.
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