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Shout Outs

Shout Outs

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Congratulations to Sarah Roland for receiving the Lubbock Area Bar Association’s President’s Award, as she just finished her term. Great work, Sarah!

Kudos to Carlo D’Angelo for receiving an acquittal on a big drug case last week in Federal Court. Congrats on your hard fought victory, Carlo!

We will miss Lisa Gonzalez, who will leave the TCDLA Board and served as Vice Chair of the New Lawyers Committee due to being appointed as the 268th Associate District Court Judge. Congratulations, Lisa!

Kudos to Stephanie Alvarado, whose client was released from jail. His children were so excited to be reunited with their Daddy, they ran down the sidewalk to leap into his arms. Continuous Sexual Assault of a Child under 14 dismissed!

Jessica Canter, Claire Profilet, Lynnette DeBault, and Victoria Saxe obtained a directed verdict for their client in a jury trial on a misdemeanor assault – family violence case. Before getting a complete dismissal of the charges for their client by pointing out to the judge that the State had failed to produce any evidence of two elements of the charge, they vigorously fought the case, challenging the jury array and getting two potential jurors to admit on Voir Dire they would be biased against their client because of his race. Great job, ladies!

Congratulations to Nnamdi Ekeh whose client’s 2019 DWI Speedy trial motion was granted/dismissed. He thought he’d made a losing argument, as the government argued that the pandemic prevented a trial. The judge thought otherwise. Big reminder to keep shooting your shot no matter what!

Kudos to Tyler Flood, whose first jury (DWI) trial since the pandemic lasted 9 minutes and resulted in a not guilty verdict. Tyler’s client drove his industrial water truck though a guardrail and off the freeway into a ditch at 10:30 a.m… cooler in the truck and bottle caps in his pockets. He then hid a beer bottle in his pants… but not very well. The police found the bottle in his pants, after seeing him shove said bottle in through the fly.

Thuy Le fought against a case of infant abuse after a caseworker accused parents of not believing in western medicine – falling back on stereotypes of Asian parents. Thuy argued that medical records show the baby was premature at birth. The judge ruled no evidence of abuse and the baby was returned home just in time to celebrate their first birthday. Great job, Thuy!

When Daniel H. Wannamaker was assigned to a federal conspiracy indictment case, he was cool, confident and reassuring from the beginning, stated his client. After Daniel was a successful advocate, his client decided to return the favor, saying “He worked his magic and the case was dismissed! He truly fights for his clients and kept in constant communication with me. He always treated me kindly and with respect even though I didn’t actually spend any money on him. I highly recommend Dan. God forbid I get another federal case, but if I do, I will be calling on him again!” Kudos, Daniel!

Kudos to Josh Tetens and Michel Simer – whose client was found not guilty after serving 818 days in jail. They argued that the state failed to prove its case, as no weapon was seen by witnesses in the stabbing accusation. Their client cried tears of joy as he left the courthouse after being found not guilty of aggravated assault.

May 9th marked three years since Stan Schneider and David Schulman presented an argument to the court of appeals in Waco on the Michael Morton Act. The appearance was David’s first before the Waco Court, meaning he had, after 32 years, finally appeared in front of all of Texas’ fourteen Courts of Appeals. Congratulations, David!

Congratulations to Ryan Kreck! He received his second not guilty in a row on Continuous SXAB of a child in Collin County. Great work, Ryan!

Congratulations to Michelle Simpson Tuegel, Russell David Hunt Sr., and criminal appellate attorney, Walter Reaves! The Texas Court of Criminal appeals vacated the death sentence of a client they represented at trial. The death sentence was vacated based on evidence of intellectual disability which they fought hard to prepare and present evidence on at trial. Sometimes they work comes through, years later…7 years to be exact. Great work!

Don’t be shy, brag on a colleague! E-mail your shout-out to to be featured in our next issue.


Staff Highlights:

TCDLA’s Executive Assistant: Keri Steen

Keri is the glue that holds our office together, helping to keep us organize & on track! -Melissa Schank

Title: Executive Assistant
Native State: Wisconsin
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
Favorite Color: Purple
Loves to: Play board games
Fun Fact: She’s a Green Bay Packers fan!

Keri was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years before she joined TCDLA five years ago. Her household has twin daughters and one son; along with two dogs, a cat, a bearded dragon, a hognose snake, a green iguana, and their newest edition – an Uromastyx. When she is not working, she loves to watch movies and play board games with her family.

Shout Outs

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Kudos to Alex Bunin and Gonzalo Rios, Jr. for being reappointed to the Governing Board of Texas Indigent Defense Commission. Congratulations, Alex and Gonzalo!

Congratulations to Tip Hargrove for earning the Palmetto Medal, which is one of the highest awards presented by the Citadel College Alma Mater. Mr. Hargrove’s service reflects great credit upon himself, the Citadel, and it’s Alumni Association, Kudos, Tip!

Congratulations Mark G. Daniel (Ft. Worth) on your Texas Senate reappointment to Texas Forensic Science Commission. Thank you for your public service and keeping TCDLA members updated, and fighting for justice.

Kudos to our TCDLA members who testified at the State Capitol led by our TCDLA Legislative Team Bill Harris, Chair and Lobbyists Allen Place, Shea Place, and David Gonzalez! TCDLA members who came to Austin to testify: Nicolas Hughes (Houston), Rick Flores (Austin), David Botsford (Austin), Michael Gross (San Antonio), John Convery (San Antonio), and Frank Sellers (Ft. Worth) #TCDLASTRONG.

Thank you Wilvin Carter (Houston) for assisting a fellow colleague to save his/her Bar License and his/her career and to receive an Order of Dismissal after a year-long fight. Their confidence and trust in you was well met.

Congratulations Carmen Roe (Houston) whose client received probation on a PSI today – an attorney who pled guilty to two felonies for unlawful practice of law after losing his bar card. The offer was 10 years.

Suzanne Spencer (Austin) received a phone call criminal defense attorneys wait a lifetime for in March 2021. Suzanne represented an Unaccompanied Minor Immigrant a few years ago. He immigrated from Honduras by himself during the 2014 migration. Upon turning 17 while in the throes of a psychotic episode, he was charged with 6 offenses ranging from Continuous FV to VOPO to Assault on PO.

Suzanne was court-appointed to represent him. He was found ITST (incompetent to stand trial). However, he was restored to competency at the State Hospital. She was able to bond him out on Mental Health PR bond (unique unwritten policy to Travis County). Over the next 2 years, he complied with conditions and maintained employment in construction. They were successful at getting 5 of the 6 cases dismissed and upon the advice of a good immigration attorney, the 6th case was reduced to a misdemeanor and amended in a carefully crafted plea bargain designed to have no effect on my client’s Immigration Petition. My work was done and we parted ways.

Two years later, on March 12th, out of the blue – the client called to thank her. The day before he had been Granted LPR in the US Immigration Court in San Antonio. (LPR stands for Lawful Permanent Resident). The client was so happy and told Suzanne that he owed it all to me. She reminded him that he did his part which wasn’t easy and the result was a team effort that included 2 amenable prosecutors. The client is doing well contributing to the GDP. He is married and a father now.

Thanks to Seth Fuller (Denton) who represented an adult client with a co-defendant juvenile brother (both victims of sex trafficking) in Bell County who was appointed a lawyer originally a blind man could see was not capable/willing to defend this kid on a murder charge (now that he’s been certified re-indicted to cap). We were desperately looking for a new lawyer for the juvenile, but a single mom with two kids in jail, there was no money to hire a lawyer. Bell county refused to allow a withdrawal of the court-appointed for a new court-appointed. Mr. Fuller, when asked, took this juvenile case pro-bono and has knocked Bell County off its feet. Bell county now  has a new policy because of Mr. Fuller. He has and is fighting this case like he’s being paid a million dollars an hour. His willingness to take this case pro-bono has and will literally save a 14-year-old (trafficking victim) life. We are forever indebted to Mr. Fuller. 

E-mail your shout-out to
to be featured
in our next issue!


Staff Highlights: The Voice’s New Communications Coordinator!

The Voice for the Defense is excited to announce that Austin-based graphic designer Rebecca Keith, has joined TCDLA as our new Communications Coordinator!

Rebecca is a solution-driven graphic designer and visual artist, proudly born and raised in the “Wild and Wonderful” state of West Virginia. She earned her BFA from Marshall University, graduating with honors in 2015. She developed a love for travel (and red wine) while studying abroad in Florence, Italy with the university’s College of Art and Media.

Rebecca has since built many strong relationships and gained ample experience generating creative content across a wide variety of industries. Utilizing her fine-tuned skills and expertise, creative problem solving is her happy place. She takes pride in the work she does and enjoys the design process, working passionately on each project that passes by her desk from concept to delivery.

When she is not putting the pencil to paper or the pixel to screen, Rebecca can be found with her nose in a good book, coasting around on her long board, exploring new places and being the best Aunt she can to five beautiful kiddos. As a recent Texas resident, she has summer plans to check out the desert and take surfing lessons at Port Aransas Beach.

Shout Outs

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Kudos to Jason Cassel, who helped dismiss the murder charge against his client, Deborah Smiley McFadden, for the death of her then‑boyfriend, Edward George, Jr. McFadden was accused of the murder in 2003. On Feb. 17, 2017, she was found guilty and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Cassel contended that the prosecuting attorney suppressed evidence that would have been beneficial for McFadden. Congratulations, Jason!

Kudos to Brent Mayr, who is representing a Eddy, Texas, man who is among those indicted for the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. In a February 11 court filing, Mayr argued that his client “is anything but insurrectionary” and that cell phone footage proves this. It may seem a daunting case to take on, but Brent is handling it with the same ethical professionalism that he uses when assisting lawyers who call the Ethics Hotline. Best of luck, Brent, and kudos for taking the case!

Congratulations to Jason Niehaus and TCDLA’s Amicus Curiae Committee for the work and win in Watkins v. State, PD‑1015‑18 (Tex. Crim. App. 3/3/21).

Congratulations to Josh Zientek, who handled an appeal before the 9th Court of Appeals and was able to get stacked sentences removed from his client’s conviction. Excellent work, Josh!

Congratulations to Eric Torberson, who saved a dog from the death penalty. The dog in question was out for a walk with his owner and was frightened by a jogger coming up behind, and the dog pawed at the jogger but didn’t even break her skin. Paws in the air for Eric!

Congratulations to Nnamdi Ekeh, whose client was no billed on a aggravated sexual assault charge and whose charge for felony assault of breathing impediment was dismissed!

To be featured in our shout outs, email details to Melissa Schank at

Shout Outs

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Congratulations to Amber Vazquez, who freed her client, James, after 17 months in jail awaiting sentencing. James is a felon who was arrested while possessing drugs and a gun. He was facing five to 10 years in prison. Judge Albright granted James probation on Feb. 3. Congratulations, Amber!

Congratulations to Stephanie Gonzales and Jeff Daniel Clark, who appealed and won on behalf of their client in Wheeler v. State. Stephanie’s cross-examination of the police officer at the MTS hearing has been called “brilliant” and “tremendous.” Awesome work!

Congratulations to the A Team – that is, TCDLA’s Ethics Committee for their continued hard work in aiding lawyers caught in ethical quandaries. The Ethics Committee includes Robert Pelton, Joe Connors, Keith Hampton, John Wright, Betty Blackwell, Laura Popps, Jack Zimmermann, Chuck Lanehart, Joe Pelton, Robyn Harlin, Stephen Doggett, Audrie Lawton, and Greg Velasquez.

Shout Outs

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Congratulations to John. F Shrode on his appointment to the 358th Judicial District Court in Ector County by Gov. Greg Abbott!

Congratulations to Susan Kelly for her appointment to the 54th State District Court in McClennan County by Gov. Greg Abbott!

Congratulations  to Keith Hampton, Marjorie Bachman, and investigator Caitlin Meredith, all of whom contributed to the exoneration of an individual falsely accused and convicted of misdemeanor assault. Accused of shooting a school monitor in a parking lot with a BB gun, the actual assailant admitted his guilt and the eyewitness recanted his identification of the defendant. The defense wishes also to give kudos to the Travis County Attorney’s Office, as well as Corby Holcomb and Judge John Lipscombe. Congratulations!

Congratulations to Gerald Goldstein and Cynthia Orr, who saved Geronimo Gutierrez from the death penalty. Gerald and Cynthia received notice from the Court of Criminal Appeals that Geronimo’s death sentence had been overturned. The defense wishes to give thanks to David Weiss and the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. Excellent work!

Congratulations to all the law firms associated with defending Arkema, Inc., against environmental crime charges during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The trial began in February 2020, went on a six-month break due to the pandemic, and resumed in October. Now the State has officially dismissed one charge against Arkema and three executives, and the judge has granted a directed verdict on the remaining charges. The four defendants were represented at trial by Rusty Hardin (Rusty Hardin & Associates), Letitia Quinones (Quinones and Associates), Derek Hollingsworth (Drumheller, Hollingsworth, & Monthy), Dan Cogdell (Cogdell Law Firm), Cordt Akers (The Akers Firm, PLLC), Paul Nugent and Heather Peterson (Nugent & Peterson), and Tim Johnson and Nick Dickerson (Locke Lord LLP).

Congratulations to past TCDLA President Betty Blackwell, who received the Distinguished Lawyer Award from the Austin Bar Association on January 28. The award recognizes the dedication and hard work of attorneys who have practiced for 30 years or more and have significantly contributed to the legal profession and the greater community. You deserve it, Betty!

Congratulations to Mark Thiessen and Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube of the Strike Force, who were instrumental in getting a continuance for one of Paul Looney’s cases. Looney feared contempt of court due to his expert witness being unavailable and his co-counsel being asthmatic and not participating in the trial until a COVID-190 vaccine was available. Thanks to the Strike Force, Paul’s case was continued until April 2021. Excellent work!

Congratulations to Alyse Ferguson for her appointment as a commissioner to the Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health!

Shout Outs

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Michael Heiskell was recently awarded Tarrant County Bar Association’s annual Blackstone award, their highest honor. The award is given to lawyers who have been in practice for 65 years or more and who demonstrate outstanding courage in the pursuit of justice. Mr. Heiskell was the first African-American selected to be “Mr. Navarro College” and his 50-year commemoration recently occurred in Corsicana. Past TCDLA President Mark Daniel said, “Mike Heiskell is a 40-year friend. Such an outstanding lawyer. He has the ability to adjust his style to fit the case. Mike can take on and win the most complicated white-collar federal matter or a straightforward state homicide or felony case. His preparation is only exceeded by his incredible courtroom delivery. Always humble. Always gracious. Always relentless. Always a professional. A lawyer’s lawyer.

Congratulations to Clint Snare, who represented a client in the Beaumont Court of Appeals. The client had been sentenced to 99 years for one count, 19 of a maximum of 20 on another, and the maximum 10 years on the five remaining charges, combined with $10,000 fines in each case ($70,000 total). Thanks to Mr. Snare’s advocacy, the Beaumont Court of Appeals reversed all the punishments and remanded. Awesome work, Clint!

Brian Wice and Dan Cogdell, who have faced off against each other in the never-ending saga of the State of Texas v. Ken Paxton since the Jimmy Carter administration, teamed up to win a 9-0 decision in the Court of Criminal Appeals, setting aside a judgment of direct criminal contempt entered against their client, Wayne Dolcefino, former ABC-TV investigative reporter and owner of Dolcefino Consulting, by Darrell Jordan, presiding judge in Harris County Criminal Court. The client approached Jordan while he was on the bench but not while conducting any official judicial proceeding to ask why the two young, inexperienced, and indolent special prosecutors Jordan had appointed to investigate the client’s four criminal complaints alleging violations of the TPIA had done nothing after 18 months. Jordan took exception to the client asking him questions he had every right to ask in a courtroom where he had every right to be, held him in direct contempt and put the 64-year old asthmatic, MS-suffering client in the COVID-ridden Harris County jail for two days before he made bond. Unbeknownst to Jordan, the client recorded the entire encounter with a video spy pen. The Dallas County DA’s Office, acting as attorneys pro tems appointed, agreed relief was warranted and CCA agreed.

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!

Shout Outs

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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!