Said & Done


The dynamic duo of TCDLA Director Sarah Roland and brother George faced a tough case in Denton County—a 19-year-old client charged with the murder of a 2-month-old baby, with 3 lesser included offenses to boot. Sarah had tried a similar shaken-baby case a year ago and had some recent experience against the very same prosecution team. Nevertheless, the two made a lot of trips to the UNT medical library and, as Sarah says, “learned the science and learned how to translate it into normal people language.” Convinced of their client’s innocence over the 2 years they worked the case, they wanted to be sure the prosecution couldn’t talk above her head. A good expert testified for them that the best anyone could say would be “undetermined,” saying there was evidence of a stroke but just couldn’t time it. TCDLA member Patty Tress joined them for the trial. After more than a week, the jury took a little under 4 hours to return the two-word verdict. Great job, counselors. Your commitment to your work makes us proud.

Today John Hunter Smith, Mitchell Nolte, and their team resolved a difficult capital murder case involving the death of a two-year-old child and injury to the victim’s sibling. In 2012 their client, Michael Herman, was charged with capital murder, a charge always difficult to handle in Texas for many reasons. The team settled the case with a plea to injury to a child and a 15-year sentence. Congratulations go out to them for their hard work in reaching this resolution in such a difficult case.

Carlos Garcia sends word along that through the hard work of Brownsville attorney Ed Cyganiewicz, ACLU attorney Brian Stull, and others, a grave injustice was remedied in the freeing of Manuel Velez from prison. Velez, a native Spanish speaker with little knowledge of English and an IQ of 65, was convicted in 2008 of killing his girlfriend’s baby son. Despite evidence that Velez was not with the child when he suffered the injuries leading to his death—he in fact was in Tennessee—and evidence that his girlfriend had been abusive to her children, he was found guilty. Velez’s girlfriend was also charged with capital murder, but was given a plea deal in exchange for her testimony against Velez. After four years on death row, Velez is now free. A big kudo for Ed and all the lawyers who worked to bring this to light.

Justin Kiechler of Lubbock deserves a big “well done” for his work on a client facing a lifetime behind bars. D had a laundry list of charges against him—including Sexual Assault of a Child (5–99 or life), Intoxication Assault Serious Bodily Injury (2–20), Failure to Stop and Render Aid with Serious Bodily Injury (3 Counts, 2–20), Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle (2–10), Evading Arrest with a Vehicle (2–10), Fraudulent Use or Possession of ID Info less than 5 (2–10), Theft $500-1500 (<365 days), and Harboring a Runaway Child (<365 days). To make matters worse, D had done time on three previous occasions. Justin convinced him to take a plea bargain, which he had earlier refused outright. Kudos, Justin, for making the absolute best of a bad situation.

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