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Shout Outs

Shout Outs

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Mitch Adams was appointed to represent a client in Cherokee County on a second-degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon case. After visiting with the client and reading the deputy’s report, Mitch figured that no one involved in the case had clean hands (read: drug deal), and that the alleged victim would probably not be a very cooperative witness. Mitch filed a motion for an examining trial to find out for sure. At the hearing on the motion (2nd District Court, Cherokee County, Texas), the prosecutor announced that he’d subpoenaed two sheriff’s deputies (who were present) and two civilian witnesses, including the alleged victim, neither of whom showed up. After a brief recess during which the prosecutor tried unsuccessfully to contact his witnesses by telephone, he announced that the State would have to file a motion to dismiss the case. Mitch decided not to object. Mitch called the State’s bluff, and he was right. Congratulations!

Scott Medlock, an attorney at Edwards Law in Austin, and the lawyers at Winston & Strawn won a permanent injunction against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Executive Director Bryan Collier on behalf of their clients, Laddy Curtis Valentine and Richard Elvin King. The plaintiffs are incarcerated in the Wallace Pack Unit in between College Station and Houston. The injunction alleges the defendant, TDCJ, “failed to properly protect (the plaintiffs) and other similarly situated Pack Unit inmates from the COVID-19 pandemic.” Congratulations to Medlock and the team at Winston & Strawn.

Letitia D. Quinones represented Arkema Inc. in Houston. Arkema, a chemical plant, was indicted on several charges, alleging the company endangered the lives of its employees and emergency personnel during Hurricane Harvey because the company had not properly moved or stored 350,000 gallons of organic peroxide, which is toxic once it reaches a certain temperature. Arkema executives argued they had real-time monitoring of all their chemicals. The trial was plagued with two instances of prosecutorial misconduct and ended with the DA’s Office dropping all criminal charges. Congratulations to Letitia on a hard-won case.

Shout Outs

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Not many lawyers have mastered the art of spitting a razor blade from their mouth, but Megan Rue has. A rising star at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, in Austin, Texas, Megan focuses on ferocious courtroom advocacy and complex motion practice. This month, Megan and partner Rick Cofer represented a young man accused of shooting a crack dealer in the thigh outside the downtown homeless shelter. The “victim” had started the altercation by pulling a razor blade from his mouth and slashing the client’s face in a fight. Megan researched the practices and habits of local crack dealers and discovered how many safely store a razor blade inside the cheek of the mouth. Megan was able to perform the demonstrative in front of the Court and the State to rave reviews. Ultimately, the case resolved on the day of trial, with the accused agreeing to a lesser included state jail felony deferred adjudication and back-time on an unrelated felony evading charge. Great result when he was looking at 30 years stacked! Megan’s willingness to risk bodily injury to represent her client is commendable, and her nickname henceforth shall be Megan “The Blade” Rue.

Kudos to Bryan Cantrell of Huntsville, Texas for his recent win in a Cruelty to Nonlivestock Animals case in Houston County.  The jury came back with a NOT GUILTY verdict in less than nine minutes!

Allen Place as lead counsel, with Shea Place as second chair, successfully obtained parole for Bobby Moore who was formerly on death row. Bobby Moore was originally sentenced to death in Harris County and his conviction was eventually commuted to life by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals,following two decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court focused on the issue of intellectual disability-586 U.S. (2019)/470 S.W.3d 481. In a reversal of roles, Shea Place was lead counsel and assisted by Allen Place in obtaining parole for Joe Bryan who was assessed a life sentence for a Central Texas murder conviction. Both men are now at home with their respective families.

Shout Outs

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Congratulations to Kristin Brown, who got a reverse and render verdict of acquittal in Harper v. State, 05-19-00323-CR (Tex. App.—Dallas, July 16, 2020, no pet. h.). The case revolved around a tampering with evidence charge. Kristin argued there was insufficient evidence to show tampering or attempted tampering. Rather, the evidence showed her client was trying to dispossess himself of a single pill, alleged but not shown to be alprazolam.

Shoutout to Shana Stein, who received a reverse and remand for abuse of discretion in the Tenth Court of Appeals. Way to go!

Kudos to Charles Arnone, who was appointed to an appeal of an assault/family-violence case in which the client received a sentence of 15 years. The state confessed error adjudicating the case as a second-degree offense when it should have been third-degree, making the maximum sentence 10 years. Great work, Charlie!

Excellent work by Shea Place, who represented Joe Bryan before the Board of Pardons & Paroles. Mr. Bryan was wrongfully accused for the murder of his wife and spent more than 30 years in prison. Together with the Innocence Project of Texas and Allen Place, Shea successfully represented Mr. Bryan and got Mr. Bryan paroled. Awesome job!

Shoutouts

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Shout out to David Hall and Ariel Payan, who were jointly awarded the Warren Burnett Award by the State Bar of Texas for extraordinary contributions to improving the quality of criminal legal representation to indigent Texans. TCDLA is proud to have you both as members!

Congratulations to Dr. Andrew Davies, who was awarded the Michael K. Moore Award for Excellence in Research or Writing in the Area of Indigent Criminal Defense by the Texas Bar Association. Dr. Davies is the director of research at SMU’s Dedman School of Law’s Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center. Thank you, Dr. Davies, for your contributions to the knowledge and practices of the bench, bar, and scholarly communities!

Kudos to the Rackspace Legal Team, which was awarded the W. Frank Newton Award from the Texas State Bar. The award recognizes the pro bono contributions of attorney groups whose members have made an outstanding contribution to the provision of, or access to, legal services to the poor. The Rackspace Legal Team launched a legal service called “Adopt a Non-Profit Legal Team,” the aim of which is to increase the team’s commitment to meet the CPBO Challenge initiative in which in-house legal teams across the country are challenged to perform pro-bono legal services. The Rackspace Legal Team, which is a branch of Rackspace Technology, “adopted” the in-house legal and compliance team at Haven for Hope of Bexar County, a San Antonio non-profit serving homeless individuals and families. The Rackspace Legal Team handled the legal and compliance issues for Haven of Hope. Thank you to the Rackspace Legal Team for setting an example of how corporate legal teams can contribute their expertise and resources to non-profits to benefit the poor and indigent. Congratulations!

Shout Outs

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Congratulations to Sally Ring, whose client was granted a writ of habeas corpus! The client was charged with three felonies but the judge granted PR bonds, stating Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-13 was unconstitutional, violating the U.S. and Texas constitutions, due process, and separation of powers. Way to go, Sally!

Shout out to Mark Bennett for his win in the Supreme Court in Ex parte EH 18-0932. Expunction ordered to be granted when case was based on former penal code 33.021(b) online solicitation which had been held by the CCA to be unconstitutional. Nice job, Mark!

Huge kudos to Northern District of Texas Federal Public Defender Jason Hawkins, Assistant  Federal Public Defender Michael Kawi, and civil rights attorney Stephanie Inman! The chief judge chose to hold a trial, despite the FPD office’s efforts to show, through several motions to continue, an emergency appeal, and a writ of mandamus, that holding a trial at this time is dangerous. The FPD office’s client, Timothy Tanner, was charged with felon in possession of a firearm with three-to-four witnesses. His trial was scheduled for June 1 – the first federal criminal trial in the nation post-pandemic. Mr. Tanner was found not guilty and knelt with the trial team outside the courthouse right after the verdict was rendered. Way to go!

If you see Gus Saper around, be sure to congratulate him on his getting his client’s nine-year sentence reduced to time served, six months home confinement, and 250 hours of community service. The case was not easy and only succeeded after Gus filed a motion for reconsideration of federal Judge Marina Marmelejo’s second order denying motion to reduce sentence. Awesome job, Gus!

From left to right: Civil rights attorney Stephanie Inman; paralegal Monaleeza Montalvo; investigator Roen Serna; client Timothy Tanner; and Assistant Public Defender Michael Kawi.

Shout Outs

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Allison Clayton, Jeep Darnell, and Kyle Therrian have continued to step up to the plate during these challenging and uncertain times. They have given endless hours in supporting our members by reviewing and editing motions, writing a declaration in opposition of the governor’s Executive Order GA-13, and completed any task asked of them. They are truly our emerging leaders of the future.

Congratulations to Juan Ramon Flores, who received a motion to suppress the seizure of client. Client’s criminal history would have put him in criminal history category 4 or 5. Before the motion to suppress was granted, client thanked Juan for his efforts, saying he’d never had an attorney do so much and hadn’t expected much now. Needless to say the client was very happy. The motion was granted on Christmas Eve – the most wonderful Christmas gift imaginable. Awesome job, Juan!

Thank you to Jason Edward Neihaus of Denton! Early during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jason drafted an application for habeas corpus and CCP Article 17.151 motion seeking to release inmates in jails and detention centers and made these applications available to other defense lawyers. Jason distinguished himself in generating and sharing these pleadings when there was yet no consensus on the severity of the pandemic, let alone agreement regarding course of action by criminal law practitioners. Events since have demonstrated Jason’s instincts were on point. The selfless sharing of his work product distinguished him as possessing foresight and the sort of leadership that is often talked about but less often demonstrated. Thanks again, Jason!

Shout out to the Innocence Project of Texas, who helped get Joe Bryan, who had been incarcerated for more than three decades, released on parole! IPTX Staff Attorney Jessi Freud represented Joe, under the guidance and supervision of IPTX Board Member and Waco attorney Walter M. Reaves, Jr. TCDLA is proud to partner and co-sponsor numerous events with IPTX. Way to go!

Big CONGRATS to Mark Thiessen, who recently passed the NCDD exam and is now board certified in DUI defense by the National College for DUI Defense through the American Bar Association. Mark joins Troy McKinney, Gary Trichter, Mimi Coffey, and Doug Murphy in becoming so certified. Mark is now one of only three lawyers in Texas who are board certified in criminal law by TBLS and DUI Defense by NCDD. What a HUGE honor!

Congratulations to Shellie Stephens and Investigator Billy Meeks, who won their client a $300,000 cashier’s check from the Central District of California! The battle started in December and Shellie and Billy are now fighting for another $250,000 plus interest and treble damages for fraud. Good luck to you both!

Shout Outs

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Michael Mowla successfully stayed the execution of John Hummel on March 18. Michael argued that the panic and concerns related to COVID-19 could impact the courts, the governor, and the Board of Pardons and Paroles making a fair decision when considering final appeals and clemency pleas. Congratulations once again to Michael for fighting for fairness in the criminal justice system!

Daniel Werlinger and Lisa Andrews of Harris County helped get a capital murder charge dismissed for Jeff Wax’s client, Amir Yarbrough, who had been in jail for two years awaiting trial. Werlinger and Andrews argued Yarbrough was not culpable and the state would have difficulty proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt in trial. Way to go!

Lisa Greenberg and Adam Rodrigue got another mistrial for their client accused of capital murder. One of their previous cases, also a capital murder case, was dismissed after three mistrials and two hung juries. Rulings like those are testaments to how outstanding your defense of the accused is!

Clint Broden obtained a rare reversal in the Eastland Court of Appeals for a client sentenced to 68 years imprisonment after a drug conviction.  Court of Appeals ruled the trial court committed reversible error when it refused to give a 38.23 instruction. Awesome work, Clint!

Veronica Veyhl and Phillip Hall obtained a verdict of not guilty on nine counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child in Tarrant County. The case was tried in the 371st District Court and the jury returned the not-guilty verdict within 50 minutes. Way to go, Veronica and Phil!

Shout Outs

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Congratulations to Troy McKinney, who received the Tom Garner Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Named after former TBLS Chairman Tom Garner, the award is given to an individual “who best epitomizes the best ideals of voluntary service by their knowledge, dedication, hard work and integrity.” You’re a rock star, Troy!

Congratulations to Gary Cohen for a great parole victory! Client received a 10-year sentence for intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault. He had a very high BAC after a day of tubing on the river in New Braunfels. After serving five years, this was the client’s first parole review. Gary gave a masterful presentation to the lead voter. He received a favorable vote in less than 24 hours with no counseling provisions. A huge win! Nice work, Gary!

Kudos to Clark Birdsall, whose defense of a permanent-resident woman accused of illegally voting in Texas was the subject of a USA Today article published on February 21! USA Today has an approximate readership of 2.6 million people, so congratulations are indeed in order for Clark for helping to spread the important work he and other Texas criminal defense attorneys are doing!

Shout out to Steven Wright, whose client was on trial for a DWI with a BAC of .18 and a charge for unlawful carry. Because of Steven’s advocation, the jury returned a verdict of not-guilty within 12 minutes on the DWI charge and a dismissal on the unlawful carry charge. Way to go, Steven!

To be featured in our shoutouts, email details to Billy Huntsman at .

Shout Outs

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A big shout out to ALLISON CLAYTON of Lubbock, whose sleuthing on an appointed case resulted in the reversal of a conviction just before Christmas. It seems that D was charged with failure to register as a sex offender based off a 2002 conviction in Oklahoma—for assault with intent to commit a felony (based on an allegation D, then 19 years old, had slept with a 14-year-old). Lady with Lubbock PD said that DPS had found that the OK conviction was “substantially similar” to sexual assault in Texas, which meant D had to register for life. D thought he was long done with the OK stuff and didn’t register—but then was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years TDCJ. Allison went through open records and discovered OK’s “assault with intent” was substantially similar to an attempt offense in Texas but not sexual assault. (Attempt would get 10-year registration, not lifelong.) She then dug into open records again to find out why DPS determined it “substantially similar”—and they said they never heard of the guy. Allison emailed the prosecution about this misrepresentation of material fact leading to the conviction, and they checked into it, discovering the PD lady had essentially done it on her own. A Motion to Reverse motion filed on Monday led to a reversal on Thursday. Fine detective work, Allison. Congratulations.

Kudos to the MIKE WARE LAW FIRM for their latest win—in the case of Lydell Grant, who spent eight years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of murder. In June, IPTX hired a firm to analyze the HPD’s data, finding another’s DNA under the victim’s fingernails. A search of the FBI’s CODIS database discovered a match, a man tracked down in Georgia where he’d fled after the murder. The suspect confessed to the murder to HPD detectives, and the Harris County DA’s office has charged him with murder. A landmark case, this is the first time an independent party outside of Iaw enforcement—in this case, the Innocence Project of Texas—initiated the use of the FBI’s database to identify the actual perpetrator of a crime. Six eyewitnesses had fingered Grant in a photo lineup, a classic example of mistaken eyewitness identification. The National Registry of Exonerations has said that mistaken eyewitness identification is the most common cause of wrongful convictions. In his tenure with IPTX, Mike has overseen at least 30 exonerations. Congratulations, team, on another blow for justice.

A hat tip to PATTY TRESS and NICOLE STEPHENSON of Denton, who recently received a just and right NOT GUILTY verdict on an Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. D, who is 69 years old, was enhanced to 5–99 years or life in prison. The police officers did not get permission from D to search his garage—instead got it from CW (who did not live there). Patty says in a strategic move they did not move to suppress, as everything there helped in showing D’s version of events. “He cried when the jury read the verdict and is now free after 6 months in jail waiting for trial.” Patty was effusive in expressing her thanks for the team helping her on this: “Thank you Alyssa Jade Piland of Joplin Investigations for all of your hard work. I really could not do it without you. Thank you to Emma Guzman Ramon for helping with my other cases while I was in trial. Thank you to Heather Fisher, Michael Kiesel, Jason Niehaus, Chris Abel, Chris Raesz, Clay Steadman, Sarah Roland for letting me bounce ideas off y’all and helping with the more complex legal issues! It takes a large team to make it work, and I couldn’t do it without y’all!” And thank you Patty and Nicole for your continued good work.

A shout out to MICHAEL YOUNG and the Bexar County PD office for their righteous decision in a habeas case out of the CCA. Parole requires that a final revocation hearing is held within 41 days of an arrest on a blue warrant, but this time is tolled if there are “charges pending.” Michael says their client was arrested in another county and posted bond, but hadn’t been indicted. The issue before the CCA: Were “charges pending” based only on the arrest or is an indictment or filed complaint needed to toll the 41 days. As Michael note: “As of the date of the decision, our client had languished in Bexar County jail for 260 days with no indictment filed on the new case or no final revocation hearing.” The CCA, in a 5–4 decision, ruled this was a denial of due process and ordered the blue warrant be dismissed and D released. Michael also said: “Our office was given the road map on how to file this writ from Dale Heish, a TCDLA attorney in Fort Worth, and we couldn’t have done it without his guidance. Dale was great about sharing his resources and we’d be glad to do the same with anyone who wants a copy of the pleadings we filed.”

Hats off once again to the Waco Wildcat, MARK GRIFFITH, for his recent win for a client charged with two counts of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child. Mark says the prosecutor never produced a Brady notice, but his team retrieved all counseling records and school records and found out the girls accusing the client had a habit of lying—and about big things. There were eight large binders of discovery they found that the DA never took the time to find. Dr. Aaron Pierce was lined up to talk about Reactive Attachment Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, which both children showed signs of. Says Mark: “Makenzie Keene and Sarah Jacobs organized the perfect trial folder, and we showed up for trial and announced ourselves ready—and the DA presented a Motion to Dismiss on both charges. I had, three days earlier, e-mailed the DA and told him I was going to ask for a mistrial if he did not provide an official notice of the more than 200 inconsistent statements made by the complainants. It was a good day for justice and a great day for my client. Keep the trial fires burning.” Way to take it to them, Mark.

Kudos to Senior Lobbyist ALLEN PLACE of Gatesville and Austin, who was successful in obtaining parole for two female clients recently. The first case involved a Harris County case originally resulting in a death sentence but later commuted to life. The second case involved parole being granted after 6 years of incarceration on a 99-year sentence for DWI. Both cases were decided by the Gatesville panel of the Texas Board of Pardons & Paroles. Congratulations, Counselor, on your good work.

Send your kudos, katcalls, and/or letters to Editor Sarah Roland at or Billy Huntsman at .

Shout Outs

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A big shout out to appellate adept Keith Hampton for his win in the long-running case of Greg Kelley—finally found innocent in the CCA. All the judges agreed he was innocent, and left undisturbed Judge King’s findings and conclusions regarding Kelley’s other claims of ineffective assistance and due process. His case was sent back to Williamson County, where DA Shawn Dick had no plans to further pursue charges against him. Then District Court Judge Donna King declared Greg actually innocent, making him eligible for a wrongful conviction payout of $80,000 for each year he was wrongly imprisoned. The former Leander football star, who can now entertain college offers, spent three years in jail and has waited another two years to hear the good news. Way to keep battling, Keith. We can now hope that you take your experience and provide a voice for justice on the Court of Criminal Appeals.

And a big shout out as well to Kristin Etter of Austin, whose painstaking efforts have lead to another victim of Williamson County justice under Ken Anderson being cleared of a charge haunting him for decades. D, railroaded in 1993 into a plea of molesting a 4-year-old girl, was hounded from neighborhood to neighborhood by the specter of a sex-offender status originally set to expire after 10 years. After 20 years, he contacted Kristin for help—who in her investigation of the case discovered that evidence not revealed at the time showed that the prosecutors of the time were ready to drop the case for lack of credible evidence. She then approached a district judge with her findings, who took minutes to undo the bogus conviction. This and the Morton case point to the crying need for a thorough review of all convictions during the Anderson era. The details of her efforts can be found in the Austin paper (https://tinyurl.com/shl6srn). Way to go, Kristin! You make us proud.

Kudos to Dean Watts of Nacogdoches, who recently had an Assault Family Violence case dismissed by the state halfway through trial. D was forced to trial in the Class C case because a plea would lead to immigration problems. The prosecutor would not change or reduce the charge despite the fact that an affidavit of non-prosecution had been signed by D and the victim asked several times that the charges be dropped. As Dean notes: “At trial, the victim did not show up. Undeterred, the prosecutor tried to use only the police officer to convict the defendant. After I objected to the State trying to offer inadmissible hearsay statements and a videotape without the proper predicate being laid, the State finally dismissed the case mid trial.” Congrats, Dean, for a righteous win.

Hats off to Dana Williams of Livingston for her recent win in Polk County. D, a 62-year-old man, was accused of 2nd-degree felony Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. State alleged that D entered CW’s yard and swung a machete at him, a paraplegic, and his family. Dana said D had complained earlier that day about CW’s loose pitbulls terrorizing anyone who passed on the street. Records showed over 20 complaints about the dogs. State called witnesses to back up CW’s story, but they admitted to taking the machete from D, almost severing his arm, before they kicked and beat him and left the scene. Officers tased D within 30 seconds of arriving, saying he was “resisting arrest”—even though video showed D to be compliant. Officers also admitted they never considered the statements of two independent witnesses, who called 911 because D was being severely beaten and testified that they never saw D enter CW’s yard or swing the machete at anyone. D was the only person injured, requiring 21 stitches after the incident. The DA argued “consciousness of guilt” due to D’s inability to return from out-of-state, resulting in his failure to appear. The jury returned a verdict of NG after an hour and 15 minutes. Congratulations, Dana, on a good win.

A shout out to Mark Griffith of Waxahachie for his latest win but in a different venue. Dallas client was charged with Sexual Assault of a child. The State gave discovery that did not have near enough in it, says Mark: “We got the rest and all was full of Brady. I had never met prosecutor until that day. She then spent an hour talking to complainant. She still did not know what she was doing, so I told her I had never lost a sex case without a confession.” Some 20 minutes later the case was dismissed. Mark says that Sarah Jacobs and Makenzie Zarate were co-counsels and deserve most of the credit. Great work, team, in the big D.

Kudos to Amber Vazquez of Austin for a recent Facebook post with a lot to say about the defense lawyer’s life: “Today I witnessed a great act of mercy and watched another client get sentenced to a long prison sentence—both events will forever change many lives. In the first, Judge Cliff Brown offered my young client another shot at redemption, even though he did something bad and reckless. This young man was truly remorseful, and I had the good fortune to work with Jeremy Sylestine as the prosecutor, who was fair and kind. My client’s parents cried with joy, as did my client afterwards. It’s amazing what one act of grace can do in changing a person’s path forever.
 “Then, this afternoon in a different court, I had a father of five children, one of whom is special needs, sentenced to longer than he deserved for an act borne out of desperation. My team and I had fought so hard to keep him free, so it was incredibly heartbreaking.
 “I never forget the heartbreaks and the humans that I could not save, but I know it’s the losses that make me a better lawyer, not the wins. It always makes me think of this passage from the Velveteen Rabbit about becoming real:
 “‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’”