Kudos to our own Robert Pelton, recipient of the Jim D. Bowmer Professionalism Award presented by the College of the State Bar of Texas for his work in ethics statewide. As noted in the presentation letter: “Awarded annually since 1994 to an outstanding College member based on achievement or contribution to professionalism, the award is named in honor of Jim D. Bowmer, of Temple, Texas, the originator of the idea of the State Bar College and a co-founding father of the College.” Robert notes that the TCDLA ethics hotline keeps him busy: “I get calls day and night from lawyers all over the state,” says Robert, chairman of the TCDLA Ethics Committee. The award will be presented in July. Congrats, Robert.
Roy Barrera Sr. and son Bobby scored a controversial NG recently in a murder case in Bexar County, involving the shooting of a “Craig’s List” escort. The sensationalism of the verdict was covered by the national media as another “crazy Texas gun law” which said it was okay to kill a prostitute “who refused to have sex with you.” The facts in the case tell a different story.
The evidence showed that on Christmas Eve 2009, Defendant Ezekiel Gilbert called an “escort” on Craig’s List and arranged for her to join him at 4 a.m. in his apartment for “sex.” She told Gilbert to place $150 in cash in an envelope for 30 minutes of her “time.” Upon her arrival the defendant handed her the envelope and she handed it to her “protector,” who then returned to his car to count it and wait for her return. The escort entered the apartment, walked around looking into every room, and exited after less than 20 minutes, saying she had to “check on her driver.” She walked out of the apartment giggling. The defendant followed the escort and told her and her protector that he hadn’t received the sex he paid for and wanted his money back. The protector (6’2”, 240 pounds) laughed in his face and said: “You paid for her time. If you want your money back you’re going to have to take it from me.” D said, “Give me my money back or I’ll call the police.” As D turned to retrieve his cell phone, the escort and her protector began to drive away. D fired two shots at the tire of the fleeing vehicle in an attempt to stop them from leaving with his money. A fingernail-size shrapnel fragment ricocheted and hit the escort in the neck, paralyzing her. She died seven months later when her tracheotomy tube became dislodged. Gilbert’s original charge of assault with a deadly weapon was enhanced to Murder.
The defense—allowing the use of deadly force to prevent the commission of theft in the nighttime—was successfully used to gain the acquittal. The evidence showed that other “johns” had also been taken by the same ruse. The protector himself testified he had conducted this type of business scheme regularly, making “obscene” amounts of money. After 11 hours of deliberation, the jury agreed that the conduct of the escort was fraud, amounting to “theft in the nighttime,” and found Gilbert not guilty of murder. Kudos to the Barreras.
Steve Lee of Copperas Cover sent along congratulations to Kellie Price, who got a two-word verdict in an assault case. This came after the State “found” a new witness just days before the trial. The new witness happened to be a recent former client of Ms. Price, and she immediately filed a motion to withdraw in order to avoid having to cross-examine her former client. The motion to withdraw was denied. Kellie then attempted to get the complainant’s significant criminal (and, in particular, assault) history before the jury under a theory of self-defense, and was denied at every turn. Despite all that, the jury came back with a verdict of not guilty after about eight minutes of deliberation. Way to go, Kellie.
Katherine D. Stone of Stickels & Associates in Arlington represented a client in the first successful deregistration case in Tarrant County. Katherine waged a frustrating battle, treating with the Council on Sex Offender Treatment to secure approval for early terminiation. The Tarrant County DA’s office had no policy established on such hearings and ended up arguing vigorously against it. It had been 19 years since the conviction and her client had not re-offended, had always been in compliance with everything from probation to counseling to registration, and the counselor who evaluated him came to testify on his behalf. The judge stated as she signed the order that this was probably the only one should would ever sign (after requiring client to pass a polygraph). Way to keep fighting, Katherine.
Courtney Stamper and Mark Griffith of Griffith & Associates tried an Injury to a Child case in Ellis County, Texas. Parental justification was the defense. The child, through his own testimony, stated that he was being punished for not doing what D had told him. The issue then for submission in the charge was raised and ready. Problem: The judge did not follow the law, apparently became invested in helping the State. Solution: Courtney Stamper hammered this defense in voir dire and got the entire panel talking about it. They did not get the special issue or defense in the charge to the jury, but did get a 5-minute “not guilty” based on Courtney’s incredible voir dire. Congratulations, guys.
Pat Metze sent along kudos for Charlie Pelowski, Assistant Public Defender for the Caprock Regional Public Defender Office and Clinic, who received the two-word verdict from a jury on a 0.26 breath-test DWI in Knox County. He was assisted in trial by clinic fellow Terri Morgeson. Pat also gives special thanks to Chief PD Donnie Yandell and the entire third-year class that just graduated for working the case up for trial. Pat does caution, however: “Pelowski is one hell of a young trial lawyer. Keep your hands off him. I’m not ready for him to move on yet.”
Congratulations to Williamson County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, our newest affiliate association.