Congratulations to Clint Broden and Dustin Howell. The Texas Supreme Court granted their now-adult client a new disposition hearing. The client, as a juvenile, was adjudicated for sexual assault of a child and sentenced to 20 years in 1999. The complainant recanted and Clint has been fighting for several years to get the client some sort of relief, all while the Bell County Attorney’s Office has stubbornly refused to admit the problems with its case. Dustin Howell with Baker Botts came aboard after the Court of Appeals denied relief and has worked tirelessly on the case as well. The Bell County Attorney’s Office has fought Clint and Dustin at every turn. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Phillips and former Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson lent their expertise and experience to the cause as well. Because the client would never confess, he has not been granted parole and has been incarcerated since 1999 in TYC and now TDC. All attorneys worked pro bono, and their commitment to justice should be commended.
On May 29, 2012, Felix Castañon and Rafael Morales, both Deputy Public Defenders with the El Paso County Public Defender’s Office, earned a Not Guilty on one count of Injury to an Elderly Person, and Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity on one count of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. This was a case in which the client, a gentleman who has a long history of schizophrenia and problems with the law, was living in his parents’ back yard. Wanting the police to help D find a better place to live, the parents called the police, and the transaction went wrong when the police started trying to force him to leave the only home he knew. Good work, Felix and Rafael.
Bill Habern recently scored a big victory. He procured a favorable parole vote for Eroy Brown, who was in prison for 27 years on a 90-year sentence for a $12 robbery—and he didn’t possess the weapon used in the robbery. Also worth a big shout-out: The Houston Lawyers Association (the Houston-area African American Bar Association) awarded Habern, O’Neil and Pawgan of Huntsville its Matthew Plummer Sr. award for the law firm that best exemplifies the effort to ensure equality in the criminal justice system—a great honor. Plummer, a Tuskeegee Airman and an instructor for the Airmen, graduated from law school in the first class at TSU. He passed the bar on his first effort, then Plummer and friends filed a law suit in 1955 challenging the fact that the cafeteria at the Harris County Courthouse would not serve Blacks—and won after about three years of battle. In the 1960s he was one of the lawyers who defended Muhammad Ali in Houston Federal Court when Ali was charged with evading the draft. In one of the most important civil rights cases to come out of the 1960s, Ali won. Plummer went on to be appointed a Judge of a Houston District Court, and later became a leading Houston authority on probate and property law. Congratulations, guys, for this well-deserved award.
Clint Broden won a rare appellate victory in the Dallas Court of Appeals. His client had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced to 60 years imprisonment. The Court found that it was error to allow a state expert to testify that studies show that 98% of children are truthful when making these type of claims and only 2% of children lie. The Court also found that it appeared, at least facially, that the studies were misrepresented by the state’s expert, and expressed amazement that “[t]he State contends its office—that routinely prosecutes sexual assault cases against children—it is not familiar with these studies of false allegations and is not aware whether or not its witness’ testimony is supported by the studies.” State v. Tran, 2012 WL 1194102 (Tex. App. 2012) (unpublished).
Broden has also been representing a client adjudicated as a juvenile for aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. He has engaged in this representation on a pro bono basis since 2006. After losing a habeas proceeding in the district court and losing in the Austin Court of Appeals, Clint brought Baker & Botts and former Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson into the case. They, too, worked pro bono. The Texas Supreme Court agreed to hear what appears to be the first juvenile habeas case it has heard in its history. On May 18, 2012, the Texas Supreme Court granted habeas relief and ordered a new disposition hearing. It found that the testimony presented by the state’s psychologist at the disposition hearing was false and contributed to the lengthy sentence. The Court reached this decision even though the client’s trial lawyer testified at the habeas hearing that the psychologist’s testimony had no effect on the sentence. Dustin Hoffman, an associate at Baker & Botts and former Texas Supreme Court clerk, put in numerous pro bono hours on this case. The client, who is now 29 years old, has been released from prison as a result of the victory. In the Matter of M.P.A., 64 S.W.3d 27 (Tex. 2012).