Greg Westfall

Greg Westfall graduated in 1993 from Texas Tech School of Law, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. Board certified in Criminal Law since 2000, Greg practices criminal and civil trial law at Westfall Sellers in Fort Worth, Texas. Greg has regularly published and spoken at seminars since 1994 and has served as Editor of the Voice for the Defense. Greg is married to Mollee Westfall and has two children. Greg can be reached at .

Editor’s Comment: Driving My Kids to School on Monday Morning – By Greg Westfall

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So this morning I’m taking my kids to school and listening to the radio. My son and I are talking about the debt ceiling, and I explain to him about debt, budgets, and the politics of the debt ceiling. At one point, my explanation becomes something like this: “It’s a lie. Everything the politicians say is a lie. The politicians who hate Obama lie about Obama and his policies. The ones on the other side lie about those guys. Politicians never tell the truth. They always overstate their claims. They always posture. They always lie. But somehow we keep moving forward.”

I have thought about this all morning. My son is 10 years old, my daughter is 7. What kind of message am I sending them by talking about our elected officials this way? Actually, to my mind, I am sending them an eminently truthful message; just check http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/, where you will find a detailed list of 400 statements, mostly from politicians and those who support or attack them in the media, that are classified as “false.” Another 160 such statements are classified “pants on fire,” meaning falser than false, I guess. But still, what should I tell my kids?

The ironic thing is that right now, our family is watching the HBO miniseries “John Adams.” We just saw the segment on drafting the Declaration of Independence last night. Are my kids going to assume the Congress that included John Adams are all liars?1 Probably not. But really, I wouldn’t care if they did.

I have decided that what I wish most for my children is for each to have an inquiring mind. I want them to think for themselves. I want them to take available information and come to their own conclusions regardless of the positions being staked out by advocates. Thankfully, in this country we do have the freedom to do just that. And I’m going to let them know that when we drive to school tomorrow.


1. If so, he’d be partially right. Sam Adams was a member of the Massachusetts delegation. After the “Boston Massacre” he distributed pamphlets that were demonstrably untrue.

Editor’s Comment: And Then There Were Three: A Non-Law-Related Story – By Greg Westfall

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I figured out several years ago that emotional devastation over the death of a dog is kind of optional. Our first standard poodle died due to a bad reaction to anesthesia. Mollee and I were devastated, of course, and sat at our dining room table in shock. At once, without giving it much of a thought, I went to the recycling and pulled out the classified ads. Five hours after our first standard poodle, Truman, died, we had our second standard poodle, Hugo, who is black. Later, Mollee decided she wanted another standard poodle, and we added Scarlett, a red female, to our stable.

Two standard poodles is a handful. They are big dogs. It’s like having two miniature ponies walking around the house. They eat a lot. They used to knock the kids over. And they, like the kids, love to go to our ranch. We went there for spring break this year.

At the ranch, we just let the dogs (and the kids) take off. The dogs do more exploring, seemingly, than the kids do. They walk the trails side-by-side in formation, tails up and wagging in unison. They have been sprayed twice by skunks. They have gotten indescribably dirty. But never have I worried about them.

On about day two of our spring break, around five p.m., my son hollered to me that Hugo was foaming at the mouth. I went to check and he was indeed, but it was from panting. His glands had also cut completely loose, which necessitated an immediate bath. I got that done and went back to hanging around. An hour or so later, just before dark, Mollee asked, “Where’s Scarlett?” Immediately I started adding it up. Hugo’s condition, which I had not given much thought to, was totally consistent with some kind of traumatic event. This was not good. The moon was basically full during this time and the coyotes had been very active. Evening-time coyote attacks are not unheard of. Hell, one attacked our beloved governor during the morning, right? But I digress.

In any event, I quickly decided that Scarlett was dead. Of the two, Hugo is much bigger. He is the leader. Scarlett is the follower. Worse, she never struck us as being all that smart—at least when compared to Hugo or other standard poodles. And now she was gone. And it was dark. So I figured it was the classic deal. Hugo and Scarlett are trotting along and happen upon a pack of coyotes, hungry, agitated, yelping like they do. Then, the first law of nature kicks in. For Hugo, the truism goes something like this: “Scarlett, my dear, I don’t have to run faster than these coyotes. I only have to run faster than you.” The whole chivalry thing is probably lost on a dog.

As you might imagine, that was a bad night in our little ranch house. My son was inconsolable. Surprisingly, my daughter didn’t seem to much care. Dogs have never really been her favorites. She quietly read a book while my son gathered up on the floor in a fetal position and cried. Quietly, Mollee and I started looking for a new dog.

We stayed out there one more night. Still, no Scarlett. Even Hugo was depressed. He lay on the couch looking out the window, sighing from time to time. But the conversation inside had shifted. Mollee had found a new little female standard poodle puppy—red, just like Scarlett—in Ada, Oklahoma. She had emailed with the breeder, and the puppy was there and available. So on Wednesday, Mollee put up a little “lost dog” sign on our fence, mainly to appease our son, and we took off from our ranch in Dublin, made a stop in Fort Worth to drop off Hugo, and immediately drove to Ada, Oklahoma. Twelve hours after our journey began, we arrived back in Fort Worth, catatonic and $1,200 poorer but with a very cute little 13-week-old female red standard poodle who had been named “Stella” in the truck on the way back. Friday morning, of course, I got the call.

It is hard to get to know people out in the country, when you just own some land out there. Neighbors are far away. You really don’t see people except on the road. So when Lonnie Smith called me that morning as I was on my way to the office, I didn’t recognize him. But the conversation started, “I think I’m looking at your dog.” He described her. Red poodle. Big. Groomed. Yep, that’s her. He said he first saw her jogging to Proctor about a mile away from our place and knew she belonged to someone, so he didn’t shoot her. But he couldn’t get her to come to him. He would keep trying, though, and give me a call. I told him I would head directly there. I went home and got the two dogs at the house and went. I got updates from Lonnie as I went. He still couldn’t get her to come to him, but he was about to get a burrito from the store and he’d try that.

As it turns out, the burrito worked. I got there and Scarlett was curled up in the back seat of his truck—weak, simple little Scarlett, who had just spent four nights in the wild with the coyotes. Needless to say, I have never looked at her the same since. Scarlett the survivor. There’s a great lesson in there about assumptions and judging books by their covers. Once that burrito finally left her system, I was able to ponder such things. It was great to have her back.

So then there were three—three standard poodles. They are a nice complement, I guess, to our one cat, one python (my daughter’s, of course), two fish, and two kids.

We criminal defense lawyers work hard and our jobs take a lot out of us. Here’s hoping you also have a “non-law-related” story to tell.

Editor’s Comment: Voice for the Defense Online – By Greg Westfall

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1972

The first video game (PONG) and the first handheld calculator (HP-35) are introduced. Five White House operatives are caught burglarizing the Watergate Hotel. The Volkswagen Beetle sets the record for the most cars sold worldwide. And Voice for the Defense is born as an eight-page hole-punched pamphlet issued four times per year. Over time, we have evolved into a ten times per year publication averaging between 40 and 52 pages per issue.

Thirty-nine years later, we take the logical next step. On February 11, 2011, Voice for the Defense Online was launched. See http://voiceforthedefenseonline.com/. With it, we also launched the Voice for the Defense Blog and the Voice for the Defense Online Facebook page. I affectionately call it “Voice Online,” or “VOL” for short.

The concept for Voice Online began at the 2009 Texas Criminal Trial College. I circulated a rough draft in September 2009, and the Board approved funding. Melissa Schank took the lead on getting a web designer lined up and found Stacy Clifford and Chili Pepper Web (http://www.chilipepperweb.net/). Melissa, Stacy, and Craig Hattersley have all gone way above and beyond in getting VOL off the ground. The support of the Board has been unflagging.

This is a major milestone in our evolution. In fact, fairly shortly we will phase out our print version, which, by the way, is really breathtakingly expensive to produce. This is not just a replacement for our print magazine, however. VOL is quite a bit more. I want to introduce you all to some of the features.

Archives

First of all, the VOL Archives contain almost every Voice for the Defense TCDLA has ever published—all the way back to Winter 1972 (I think we may be missing one issue). The archives section is keyword searchable. If you have ever written an article, run your name. It will probably come up. If the keywords you enter do not pull up what you think they should, just know that keywording is a work in progress and will be for a while. The tables of contents will be, for a while, continuously updated to include more information for searches. To help, there is a downloadable index available on the Archives page.

Each of the back issues has been scanned in as a downloadable PDF file. Click on the cover once and the table of contents will expand to show the features. Click on the cover a second time and the columns become visible as well as a blue button at the bottom of the page you click to download the entire issue. Good quality scanning is also a work in progress. We will be working on improving the quality of the archives for some time.

Voice for the Defense Blog

Click on the “BLOG” button and you will be taken to the blog page. Blog feeds appear on both this page and the front page. This is mainly for search engines and to showcase posts from the blog. You must click “Voice for the Defense Blog Home” at the top of the “BLOG” page to get to the front page of the stand-alone blog. Also, if you click on any of the feeds, you will be taken to that post on the blog, after which you can click either “Voice for the Defense Blog” at the top of the page or the little “Home” button with the green house to take you to the front page.

It is very easy to register with the blog, after which you can leave comments. Please do so. Also, if anyone wants to become an author, just let me know. Authors can post. Everyone else can comment. I would like to have a bunch of authors who would like to post as often as they can. I want both substantive posts and commentary. You can see the categories we have so far. There will be more. New categories will emerge as the content emerges. If someone wants to write on DWI, the Legislature, practice in a small town, whatever—just let me know. We would love to have you.

I have created a how-to PDF slide show that guides you though registering with the blog, viewing the blog, and leaving comments. You can access it by going to the BLOG page.

The Future

As it stands right now, Voice Online is technically not an online magazine. Over the coming weeks, we will become one. When you look at the opening page, across the top of the page you will see buttons for “FEATURES,” “SDR,” etc. At that point, we will be a true online magazine. Searchability will improve dramatically as individual articles become archived. We will still have archives back to 1972, but those will always be dependent on keywords for searchability, as they are scanned-in PDFs. From 2011 on, as actual text gets archived, everything will be searchable by words in the entries themselves. You will immediately see the improvement in searches.

This site is not for our members only. Anyone can research and download the archives. Anyone can leave comments on our blog. The site has been up for five weeks as of this writing, and we have had 75,000 hits. With content constantly changing, I can see a time in the not-too-distant future when we will be getting millions of hits in the space of a year. If some of our members become active bloggers and start to gain a following, we could see tens of millions. This would be a huge benefit to TCDLA as a whole.

Finally, I want to stress that this is still a project in the works. We need your input and suggestions. Every one of us will have a part in making this experiment work.