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Shout Outs - Page 6

Shout Outs


David Michael Ryan sent a shout out to Mark Bennett and Lane Haygood for their recent NG verdict in DC441. D, an 18-year-old senior, plead out to DADJ after asking 14-year-old freshman if he is gay and wants to copulate. Mark got the statute found unconstitutional, then was retained to get D out of plea. Done. Miffed state files criminal solicitation of a minor charges. Turns out D was acting as middleman for interested party. CW admitted on cross he knew interested party, and interested party also had made a pass at CW. State finds interested party and calls interested party, whose testimony was short and sweet—and would have been really damaging, but for the fact that it contradicted both D’s and CW’s stories. This let Mark argue in closing that both D and CW were telling the truth (CW was merely mistaken in his apprehension of D’s intent), while the State’s “star” witness was a “non-truth-telling person.” Jury returned the big NG in just over 3 hours, including lunch. Congrats, gentlemen, on a job well done.

Congratulations due to Houston’s Mark Thiessen and co-counsel Ryan Deck of Round Rock for a recent win in Williamson County. D, a father of three and a former Army sniper (recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Medal of Valor), had never been arrested. He was charged with Intoxicated Manslaughter of a fetus and Aggravated Assault with a deadly weapon after a terrible accident. Although the jury convicted him, they gave him probation on the charges. Mark thanked in particular his defense team: Amanda Culbertson, who helped with the blood and retrograde extrapolation (.161 blood test 5 hours after the accident), Dr. Lance A. Platt with the SFSTs, Ricardo Palcios with accident reconstruction, and Jonathan Haymon for educating everyone on what is in an El Niño at Chilis (other driver was intoxicated). In an emotional trial against tough DAs in an unforgiving county, D got his family and freedom back. Good work, team.

Kudos to warriors Gerry Goldstein and Cynthia Orr, who succeeded in getting the state’s highest court to spare the life of one of Texas’ longest-serving Death Row inmates, Pedro Sosa. Sosa has been stuck in a solitary Death Row cell for the past 33 years. Gerry and Cynthia have represented him in both Federal and State habeas actions for the past 17 years.

Congrats to Austin’s Richard Segura for recently being awarded the Adjunct Professor of the Year award at the University of Texas School of Law. The law students appreciate his hard work and supervision at the Criminal Defense Clinic!

Shout out to Jason Luong of Houston for his win in the First Court of Appeals. D was convicted of Assault-Family Member, but Jason got a reversal in the Court of Appeals. Jason credits Renee Nguyen and Stephen Aslett for assistance on the legal briefing in the case.

Shout Outs


A big Shout Out to Deandra Grant and Sandra Reynolds, who recently gave a 20-year-old mentally ill client back his life after a three-year ordeal. D, who’s being treated for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, severe anxiety disorder, and panic attacks with twice-daily (6 a.m. and 2 p.m.) doses of Adderall and a small amount of Klonopin, was pulled over at 1:30 a.m. by an officer who claimed he was “weaving.” He was made to perform SFSTs despite no alcohol smell (SFSTs are only validated for alcohol intoxication). D’s balance was problematic and he was arrested for DWI—despite scoring 0 clues on the HGN. He told the officer he took his medicine that day as prescribed, and tried to explain that his car alignment suffered from an accident earlier in the day (showing him pictures of it on his phone). A blood test showed no ethanol, a small amount of amphetamine ,and a very small amount of clonazepam.

 At trial the State called two analysts from DPS Austin, the first testifying she reported the amphetamine in the low therapeutic range, matching up to D’s story about what meds he took and when, but she could not testify that the amount in his blood would have impaired him. The second analyst, who has a bachelors in biochemistry, did the analysis for clonazepam, which showed in the low therapeutic range. Deandra says that State attempted to have this highly unqualified individual with no formal training in pharmacology make some sort of argument that there was a synergistic effect when you take a CNS depressant and a stimulant. “His lack of knowledge about these two specific drugs was easy to impeach,” she says, “as well as his lack of preparation for trial. He had done no research on Adderall and Klonopin and had not even bothered to watch the video.”
 D’s diagnosing psychologist testified about his conditions. He had watched the video and went step by step through it, pointing out behavior that is consistent with individuals suffering from his issues. Defense further argued that D’s behavior was based on his medications wearing off as opposed to impairing him. The jury agreed and returned the big NG in 12 minutes. That’s showing how it’s done, counselors!

Kudos to TCDLA Director Jani Maselli Wood for what might be termed a little big win in the case of Salinas v. State. After 5 years of litigation and 14 briefs, along with 2 trips to the CCA, Jani was victorious in a case involving court charges to every defendant. In the decision, two of the court costs charged to defendants were found to be facially unconstitutional because the money was not used for court costs or even criminal justice purposes—one, in fact, actually deposited money into Texas’ general revenue fund. The CCA agreed that it violated the separation of powers. The ruling didn’t mean a big refund to her client in the case, but will ultimately result in millions of dollars saved for all Texas defendants, as these charges are assessed all defendants.

Member Rick Flores of Austin heard the two-word verdict in the kind of case you don’t see every day. D was charged with making a Terroristic Threat after a run-in at a restaurant with his former apartment complex manager, who had evicted him days earlier. The State alleged that after berating her and her co-worker with misogynistic and homophobic insults, D said “I’m going to kill you” and left the restaurant. Rick argued that his client was guilty of being an a**hole, but that he was not guilty of the offense because there was no intent to place anyone in fear of imminent injury. The jury deliberated for 35 minutes before agreeing. Jurors told him afterwards that reasonable doubt hinged on “intent” and “imminence,” noting complainant didn’t call police from the restaurant, but instead finished her meal, left the restaurant, and called the police to report that she was “terrified” two hours later. Congrats, Rick on the quick win.

Shout Out to Jason Luong of Houston on a recent victory in the First Court of Appeals in Lopez v. State, reversing a conviction on an Assault-Family Member charge. Jason, who acknowledged the able assistance of Renee Nguyen and Stephen Aslett, argued that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence the complainant’s out-of-court statements made in a 911 recording, in violation of D’s right to confrontation, and in complainant’s statements to a police officer, inadmissible as hearsay. The Court ruled that because complainant’s 911 statements weren’t testimonial, the trial court didn’t err in admitting them. But the Court agreed with Rick about complainant’s statements to the police officer, noting that she did not testify in the trial: “[W]e find no evidence in the record—nor does the State direct us to any—showing that the State made a good-faith effort to obtain Anderson’s presence at trial.” Because of the weight the State had attached to the statements of the police office, the Court sustained Rick’s second point. Congratulations on a job well done, guys.

A happy Shout Out to Houston attorney Pat McCann from Jani Maselli Wood upon the verdict in the game-changing case Moore v. Texas. In its decision, the Court held that the Briseno test employed by Texas courts was insufficient and often misused in diagnosing mental disability. As Jani notes, although Pat didn’t argue the case at the Supreme Court, he did the hearing that got it there. Jani represented Moore in the original 1980 case. Big win, y’all. Congratulations all around.

Shout Outs


A big Shout Out from Bill Habern to his fellow recipient of last year’s Percy Foreman Lawyer of the Year award—Richard Gladden of Denton, Texas—for his daunting work landing a restraining order against the DPS. DPS had forced his client, who had no conviction for a sex offense, to register as a sex offender without bene­fit of the required due process, disregarding established law. Richard then learned the DPS had posted the identifying information of D on the sex web page without any kind of prior notice. Within 24 hours, working through the night, Richard drafted a petition with TRO, drove to Austin and filed it, and got subpoenas issued. To his surprise, he obtained a TRO order against the DPS, which Bill says is in itself noteworthy: “For those of you who do not know, obtaining a TRO in a federal civil rights case where one’s client is the sole plaintiff is about as likely as me getting pregnant. This is the second time I have been involved with a Gladden case where he obtained such a temporary order from a Federal Court.” Bill hastens to add that though he’s listed as co-counsel, “I had nothing to do with what Richard has accomplished in those 24 hours. I will be second chair when Richard can use my support, but the lesson here is when it comes to the Constitutional rights of one of his indigent clients, don’t piss off Richard Gladden.” Exemplary work, Richard, and a lesson for us all. And kudos to the dynamic duo for once again fighting—and winning—the good fight.

Kudos to Kerri Anderson-Donica, TCDLA’s second vice president, for her recent big win in a Navarro County sexual assault case with some weird twists. Complainant claimed she was passed out drunk at a party on a twin mattress on the floor and awakened with a naked man, D, beside her. She felt a “discharge” so she decided he must have flipped her over, removed her shirts, all his clothes, climbed on top of her, and had his way with her—and she never felt a thing. She claimed she passed out on her belly and never, ever turns over during sleep, but “came to” on her back. A gentleman sleeping in the other bed in the room also didn’t hear or see anything. Complainant then left the room and made this claim to the man who lived in the party home, who then beat the hell out of D. CW’s friend (whose husband is the one who beat up D) called 9-1-1 the next afternoon, CW says, because said friend told her they needed to report the “rape” to avoid assault charges against her husband.
 No investigation was done other than taking audio statements from a group of the partygoers who were all together at the house the evening after the party. Not one called at trial to testify claimed to have been sober. A SANE exam done that night only showed that D could not be excluded. Kerri notes the DNA report was quite bizarre, not separating out the likelihood of contributors: It even had client and complainant at the same likelihood (1 in 11,000). Although the prosecution knew that D had passed a polygraph—given by the guy the prosecution uses—he insisted on going to trial.
 But it got stranger, Kerri discovered: “The SO investigator had the name of the homeowner (really renter) misspelled, so I didn’t get a hit on him through DPS. When I learned the actual spelling of his name, I found that he had been to prison for Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child. The State failed to tell us this despite having filed a 39.14 request and repeated questioning during the early phase of the trial. A prosecutor texted me the night before they called this guy that he’d learned of the offense. We raised hell with the court about the withholding of this info, to no avail. The prosecutor says he didn’t know of it, so he didn’t have to tell us AND that I should have found out myself anyway.”
 When all was said and done, after an 18-month ordeal, jury only took about 20 minutes before coming back with what Kerri calls the two most beautiful words in the English language: NOT GUILTY! She notes that D’s whole family, who’d sat through the entire trial, wept.

Mark Thiessen, co-chair of the TCDLA DWI Committee, continues to walk the walk, this time in face of a .135 blood test in Brazos County. D, who had been fighting for more than two years to clear his name, was parked on the road side, hazard lights flashing—while his wife was throwing up outside the car and two marines were passed out in a pool of vomit in the back seat. D looked good on the SFSTs, and Mark attacked the blood draw. The nurse improperly withdrew the blood and caused potential fermentation issues. Then he took on the DPS analyst, walking through diabetes, fermentation, and retrograde extrapolation.
 As Mark noted: “Of course she testified she never makes a mistake, the machine always performs correctly, she always follows proper protocol and always testifies the result is accurate.”
 The jury, allowing that D just didn’t look drunk on the video, questioned the forensic science. The kicker: The analyst testified that SFSTs don’t test intoxication, so Mark then got her off the stand and made her do the Walk-and-Turn—which she failed. Yowzah. Mark expressed thanks to a tough, professional prosecution, a judge that didn’t “small-town” him, and a jury that sent his client back to his daughters and wife as a free man and not a criminal. Congrats, coun­selor, on another in a string of big wins.

Shout Outs


A shout out to Cory Roth of Houston for his recent success in an extremely convoluted case (assault family violence). D, a 57-year-old Navy vet who accumulated some wealth and property, was accused by the half-sister of one of his kids. She moved from California to “take care of” D though she hadn’t spoken to or seen him in over a decade, bringing 9 kids. D rented her a house, but worried the kids were being left alone and called the police. D went to house, where she claims he kicked, hit, punched, slapped, and pulled her hair, leading to 911 call. Judge decided there was no evidence of family relationship, so he did not include family violence language in the jury charge. Cory says the prosecutor told him before trial they were going to dismiss and proceed on the Vio­lation of Protective Order charge that came out of the case. Bottom line: The VPO was dismissed and a Kidnapping charge was reduced to an Unlawful Restraint, time served. Congrats, Cory, on persevering through all the twists and turns for a just end.

Sarah Roland sends a shout out to Chris Abel, board mem­ber from Denton. Chris has started the year off on a huge winning streak, with Not Guilty verdicts in three DWI trials and two assault family violence trials, as well as a huge appellate reversal in a solicitation of capital murder case in the Second Court of Appeals, Lathem v. State. Sarah says he’s too humble to include his string of dismissals, but we’ve got no problem mentioning his successes. Way to go, Chris!

Kudos to new editor Michael Mowla for his work on the online version of the SDR. The critics are raving about the new format he’s introduced to the feature, adding to its functionality with his characteristic panache.

Vik Vij and second chair Daniel Lazarine experienced slight consolation in one of those losing cases that are all too familiar to defense lawyers. As Vik noted: “Horrible facts. 6th DWI, all since 2009. Terrible driving. High blood. Awful behavior. . . All on video.” A tough case with difficult witnesses, one who “argued and exaggerated.” In the end, D got six years—but it was less than the offer as well as the maximum sentence. Sometimes it’s the little victories that sustain us through the hard times.

Shout Outs


Kudos to Lubbock’s David Guinn on a big win in the toughest of cases. Defendant, who became U.S. citizen in 2013, faced dual charges of Super Agg Sexual Assault of Child < 6 and Agg Sexual Assault of a Child > 6. In addition to the adorable complainant (now 7 years old), SANE nurse, CAK interview outcry, mother of complainant, and detectives with recorded “confession,” there was an extraneous offense from a 29-year-old niece, who claimed the accused did “the same thing” to her when she was 10 years old. But as the case developed, things did not quite add up: Little girl’s mother was having to move out from her sister’s house (D’s wife) and came off vindictive, wanting to ruin sister’s life (if I can’t have it, you can’t either—not so high & mighty), motivation for coaching daughter into claims against her uncle, D. She hit all the right buttons for the state, David says, but it was kinda too perfect and seemed . . . contrived. Client, wife, and two kids who lived in the home where this was claimed to have taken place all testified. Jury deliberated 4 hours before breaking their 10–2 deadlock with two Not Guilty verdicts late at night. Congrats, David, on a tough win.

TCDLA Director Clint Broden of Dallas tried a federal case related to the theft of firearms in June 2016. The jury acquitted the client of one count and convicted the client on the second count. On December 28, 2016, Chief Judge Barbara Lynn granted the defense motion for a judgment of acquittal on the remaining count, adopting Clint’s argument that a theft from the booth of a licensed federal firearms dealer at a gun show is not a federal crime unless it can be shown that the gun show was “sponsored by any national, State, or local organization, devoted to the collection, competitive use, or other sporting use of firearms, or an organization or association that sponsors functions devoted to the collection, competitive use, or other sporting use of firearms in the community.”  This was Clint’s 21st federal criminal trial and his 11th federal acquittal (he has also had 2 federal hung juries). Kudos, Clint, for a big win—and for presenting a convincing argument.

TCDLA Director Don Flanary sends along this shout out: “Congratulations to our fearless leader, TCDLA President John Convery, and Col. (retired) Julie Hasdorff for an epic not guilty in a really tough sexual assault court martial.” In the case, decided December 2 at Joint Base Lackland AFB, Texas, Technical Sergeant Hogan was tried on one charge and specification of sexual contact of a child, one charge and three specifications of sexual abuse of a child, and one charge and specification of assault of a child. John notes that members of the defense team also included Air Force Captain Mark Schwarz and new attorney Jonathan Chavez. Congratulations, team, on giving the sergeant his life back.

Kudos to Houston’s Neal Davis and Dick DeGuerin for receiving a big not guilty verdict in Tarrant County on a sexual assault case more than 20 years old. D, sentenced to life in prison after his conviction in 1995, gained retrial after the CCA ruled in April that his conviction should be thrown out because his accuser later admitted lying during his trial. The court said that led other witnesses to give false testimony. It took a jury just over an hour to find him not guilty. The unfortunate thing was that the client spent 20 years in the pen. Great job, guys, on the writ and the retrial.

Board member Carmen Roe of Houston celebrated a highly successful end to 2016, coming out on the winning end in three sucessive appeals in the last three months of the year. In Her most recent, a case out of the First Court of Appeals, a third DWI tried by Steve Gonzalez and Kristi Urban, involved an implied consent blood draw prior to the final Villarreal ruling, where the State attempted to argue exigent circumstances, unsuccessfully, as it turns out. Congratulations, Carmen, on your incredible winning streak.

Kudos to Amicus Curiae Committee member Allison Clayton of Lubbock for filing an amicus brief on behalf of TCDLA in the Court of Criminal Appeals in the case of Ex parte Steven Herbert Speckman, No. WR-81,947-02. The Court of Criminal Appeals had issued an order in Mr. Speckman’s case for the parties to brief three questions concerning the standard that should govern whether a habeas applicant can have an existing Article 11.07 application dismissed if the motion is filed after the record has been factually developed in the trial court, and when findings of fact and conclusions of law have already been issued. As with all amicus briefs filed on behalf of TCDLA, Allison contributed her time pro bono on behalf of the organization. Our thanks to Allison for taking time away from her busy practice on our behalf!

Steven R. Green of Athens recently won a motion to suppress hearing in Van Zandt County in a case where the judge who signed the search warrant granted the motion to suppress. D was indicted for manufacture/delivery of controlled substance, 1 to 4 grams. Because of prior convictions, he faced 25 years to life in prison. Police officers obtained a search warrant for D’s residence based on finding drugs on a person they saw leave client’s house.  Based on this and the fact D had previously been to prison for drugs, officers obtained a search warrant from the district judge to search his house, finding methamphetamine. The same district judge who signed the search warrant presided over the indicted case, and after a hearing on the motion to suppress, Steven convinced the judge the facts submitted in the search warrant affidavit were insufficient probable cause to support the search warrant. Congratulations, Steven, on a good win.

Former president Stan Schneider of Houston notched a big win when the 14th Court of Appeals affirmed the granting of double jeopardy habeas relief, upholding the ruling by State District Judge Stacey Bond that the trial prosecutor intentionally “goaded” him to ask for a mistrial during final arguments. The COA stated that the trial court’s findings were supported by the record and noted the affidavits of jurors that suggested that an acquittal was imminent. The case involved an accusation of indecency against a doctor who examined a seven-year-old boy in a hospital. He was prosecuted even though all statements by witnesses indicated that the boy said the man entered his room once. Hospital records and the testimony of three residents indicated that they accompanied the defendant into the boy’s room and were present the entire time that he was in the room. Kudos, Stan, on a job well done.

TCDLA Director Courtney Stamper of Waxahachie had good reason for celebration. Aside from his own recent successes, Courtney had further cause for jubilation when wife Ashlie Alaman Stamper got word that her Commutation Petition on behalf of a federal inmate had been granted by President Obama. D was serving a sentence of more than 15 years for possession of a very small amount of crack cocaine. He had been sentenced in 2006 when the disparities between sentences for crack versus those for powder cocaine were much larger than they are today. (In 2010 the crack/powder sentencing disparity was reduced from 100:1 to 18:1.)
 During the summer of 2016, Ashlie had started volunteering with the Clemency Project, an organization created to support President Obama’s efforts to bring the existing sentences of inmates more in line with current laws. Through the project, she came to represent D, who had been in prison over 10 years. In reviewing the case file, Ashlie determined that the calculation of D’s criminal history, which contributed to his disparately lengthy sentence, was fraught with errors. One example: Juvenile status offenses and public intoxication offenses were included in the calculation, although they should have been categorically excluded in accordance with Sentencing Guidelines. In August, she filed a commutation petition, arguing that based on the calculation errors and sentencing disparity, he had already served more time than he would have been sentenced to had he been sentenced in 2015. On December 19, President Obama commuted his sentence to expire on July 31, 2017—over five years early. D was notified that his release would come a little earlier than that, placing him back home with his family in time for the holidays. Professor Pat Metze said it best on Facebook: “I am so impressed. This is the most noble example of how lawyers doing good work change lives. Thank you, Ashlie. You make me proud.”

Patty Tress and Susan Anderson worked their magic again and received a hung jury on an Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child under 6 years old. This was a hard-fought battle with many complex issues. Patty and Susan tried this same case once before back in August and received a hung jury. Stay tuned to see what happens next. Kudos for fighting the good fight, counselors.

Houston’s Lloyd van Oostenrijk had a busy December planned. Lloyd first heard the two-word verdict in CCL 2 in Fort Bend County in a shoplifting case. The key was showing that the asset protection employee was untruthful when he said that he was the only AP employee on duty, and that he followed the client to her car. This was the third trial Lloyd had set for December. The first was a family violence case that was dismissed on the day of trial. The second was a DWI in CCL 5 that was reset as Judge Cohen was sworn in. All in a month’s work, eh counselor?

Shout Outs


Kudos, congratulations, and plaudits to Mike Ware, Gary Udashen, Walter Reaves, Casie Gotro, and Keith Hampton, as the Court of Criminal Appeals declared their clients, the San Antonio 4, actually innocent. In 1994, the four women, Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez, were accused of sexually assaulting Ramirez’ nieces. They spent years in prison before Mike Ware and other attorneys with the Innocence Project of Texas picked up their case and asked for habeas relief. The habeas court ultimately recommended reversal based on due process violations, but not complete exoneration. The CCA went beyond the habeas court’s recommendations and fully exonerated all four. The opinion (available here: included the following excerpt:

The State does not prove that a person has committed a crime beyond all doubt, or even beyond a shadow of a doubt. By proving its case at trial according to the applicable standard, the State secures the ability to proclaim to the citizens of Texas that the person responsible for a crime has been brought to justice, that the person is guilty. When defendants have accomplished the Herculean task of satisfying their burden on a claim of actual innocence, the converse is equally true. Those defendants have won the right to proclaim to the citizens of Texas that they did not commit a crime. That they are innocent. That they deserve to be exonerated. These women have carried that burden. They are innocent. And they are exonerated. This Court grants them the relief they seek.

Deborah S. Esquenazi’s documentary “Southwest of Salem” documented the strange case, called “the last gasp of the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic,” a bizarre hysteria that swept the nation in the 1980s. The ruling of actual innocence will allow the women to seek recompense for their long battle. Finally, an end to the nonsense after a long, grueling journey. Congratulations again to those involved in bringing an end to this dystopian nightmare.

Kudos to Darlina Crowder, who recently heard the two-word verdict for a client accused of Agg Assault with a deadly weapon. D was on his way to church with his 8-year-old daughter when set upon by a driver in the throes of road rage. D defended himself with a golf club, which led to the charge. Said D of Darlina: “I am 47, a professional, and have never been in trouble in my life. I was facing the possibility of serving prison time and am very thankful to her for seeing the truth and defending me. Her powerful demeanor and presence in the court room, without question, helped the jury to decide my fate.” Congratulations, counselor, on returning his life to him.

Congrats to Chad Crowl of Texarkana for hearing the two-word verdict on a sexual assault charge. D, a 38-year-old African-American man who had no prior felony convictions, was accused of sexually assaulting an adult female. D, who had known the alleged victim for more than ten years, had been in a long term romantic relationship with her cousin. The supposed “sexual assault” was alleged to have occurred at the victim’s home while her father was sitting on the front porch outside. On the witness stand, the victim made several statements of what happened that were very inconsistent with the written statement she had originally made to law enforcement. She also admitted on the stand that synthetic marijuana was involved in the incident, and that she had a prior history of both using and selling the drug. The jury only deliberated for about an hour before deciding. Kudos to Chad and second chair Will Williams for a job well done.

Mark Griffith and Courtney Stamper fought all the way to a Not Guilty on a Continuous Sexual Assault of a Young Child case. For two weeks in November, Mark and Courtney tried the case after having already tried it to a hung jury earlier in the year. Mark took apart the State’s expert on child abuse, one truth at a time, until in the end, the expert became as beneficial to the defense as he was to the State. There were as many legal battles as there were factual ones, it seemed. Their client lost three years of his life fighting for his life and for justice, and even with the Not Guilty verdict, he found himself lost and broken because of a false allegation. After a day and a half of jury deliberations—and three notes stating they were deadlocked—the judge announced that she would declare a mistrial and sent the bailiff to go get the jury. Moments later, the bailiff returned, telling them the jury wanted to take one last vote! A few minutes after that, the bailiff announced the jury, who then announced the verdict. As Courtney noted: “It was a battle that exhausted and exhilarated. The courageous jury followed their oath and gave a man his life back.” Kudos, guys, on a job well done.

Sam Bassett, former TCDLA president, recently related a story describing why he does what he does: “This week, I represented a father charged with a serious but non-violent crime. If no deferred adjudication probation was ordered, the minimum sentence was 15 years. He admitted guilt, and we had a long hearing on sentencing. The prosecutor (understandably) asked for a 20-year prison sentence. I put on witnesses (including his employer), telling the court about his family, and my client testified—making no excuses and asking for a chance to continue supporting his family. This was a guy who grew up and lived on the East Side of Austin—not wealthy by any means. His wife works two jobs. He is a truck driver. The judge struggled over the ruling, but agreed to give him that chance under a deferred adjudication sentence. Four kids still have a dad working to support them and not in prison. Did he deserve prison? Perhaps. But I was glad to play a small role in what I hope was the right result.” That about says it, Sam.

Kudos to Editor Sarah Roland and brother George for their recent victory in a felony assault case recently in Denton. The complainant had a bite mark on her cheek and a black eye, so something had happened. The question was what. Sarah and George’s argument was that D was at work and that she was mad because he had recently broken up with her and had already moved on. Sarah noted that she had too many holes in her story for it to make sense and things just didn’t add up. “The complainant did herself no favors by answering some of my questions with ‘It’s none of your business.’” All in a day’s work, eh counselors?

Shout Outs


Kudos to Jim Huggler of Tyler on a big win in the CCA, gaining a reversal in the Walker v. State case. The Walkers—who legally adopted their three grandchildren after abuse and neglect of their druggie parents—were sentenced to 25 years in 2012 based on “expert” testimony in the scalding of their 3-year-old granddaughter, Bridget. The Twelfth Court of Appeals subsequently affirmed the decision in 2014, and the couple immediately began serving their sentences. Jim argued that the appeals court erred in holding that the evidence was sufficient to sustain their convictions, and the CCA agreed. The TCDLA listserve lit up with congratulations, noting that justice was served in a case where an overreaching prosecutor and an overly zealous CPS investigator got a jury to go along with suspect evidence and manufactured indignation. The CCA file can be viewed here: Worth noting is this quote: “The human desire to defer to an ‘expert’ is innate and not always rational. In this case, the jury acted irrationally in deferring to the experts’ unsupported conclusions that Kenneth, Shelley, or both of them intentionally caused the injury . . . We do not know, nor can we know, how the child came to be injured without resort to speculation.” Way to go, Jim, on a job well done.

Congratulations to Michelle Latray and Michael Dahlenburg of Groesbeck on a recent win. In October, a Limestone County jury found her client not guilty of Evading Arrest with a Motor Vehicle, which the State alleged was a deadly weapon. D’s checkered history had him facing 25 to 99 years as a habitual offender. State only called one witness, the state trooper who arrested D—after observing two vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed in the opposite direction. Trooper testified that the video shown of the incident wasn’t as accurate as his own vision. The jury, after deliberating an hour and a half, disagreed. Kudos to the home team, Michelle and Michael, for the big NG.

Kudos once again to Patty Tress Morris of Denton, who won a Motion to Suppress in October on a coerced confession. The police interrogated her client and told him his wife had been threatened in order to obtain a confession—without telling him the specific threat or any details. The judge agreed that this was coercion and suppressed the statements of her client during the police interview. Good job, counselor.

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