In March, Patty Tress, Lisa Fox, and Oni Groves received a not guilty verdict on a murder case in Dallas County. In a hard-fought battle over 5 days of testimony and many hearings, the jury heard very little testimony as the defense team came prepared with the rules of evidence and objections to evidence. After deliberating for 3 hours, the jury returned the two-word verdict. The jurors stated they did not believe any witnesses except the medical examiner about the deceased being shot. That was the only uncontested issue.
In April, Lisa Fox received a not guilty on an Aggravated Assault Family Violence case in Dallas County. The jury returned the verdict after 5 hours of deliberation. Her client had been in jail for 2 years.
Also in April, Patty Tress won a Motion to Set Aside the Indictment in an Assault Family Violence enhanced case. The issue was that the prior alleged assault family violence had the affirmative finding struck through on the judgment. Judge Bailey determined that while a negative finding is not required per the Code, the language being struck through on a judgment is the same as a negative finding, and the State was collaterally stopped from pursuing this enhancement. Good work, team.
Paul D. Key of McKinney heard the two-word verdict in a capital murder case. D was father of Down syndrome three-month-old who died after six hours in the ER—no external signs of injury. ME declared subscapular hemorrhage an “impact point.” D had no record and had been married for ten years to mother, with two other children. Child had history of apnea, respiratory distress, choking, documented in 1,500 pages of hospital records. Forensic MD for Paul testified that a hypoxic event wherein baby stopped breathing then was revived led to hemorrhage. State couldn’t refute, resorting to ad hominem attacks as they had no other evidence to support the charge. Paul cited help from Mark Griffith, Joseph Connors, and Sarah Roland, but it was some fine courtroom work on his part. The jury only deliberated for 2½ hours to find for D. Congratulations, Paul.
Kudos to former TCDLA president Cynthia Orr for her work in the Hannah Overton case. In April, the Nueces County DA dismissed charges against Overton, who has served seven years of her sentence, after examining the evidence. Overton was granted a new trial in September 2014 after the CCA found that key evidence was withheld from the jury that could have changed the outcome—including testimony from a salt poisoning expert who suggested the boy’s death was the result of an existing medical condition and not an intentional act by Overton. Cynthia put in long hours convincing the DA’s office that the scientific assumptions made originally were bogus—and that many of the prosecution witnesses had now reversed position and were willing to testify for the defense. Cynthia praised the DA for doing “the right thing, not the easy thing,” but it was through her persistence and diligence that this came about. Congratulations, Cynthia.
TCDLA’s Danny Easterling won two big dismissals in the 337th just before trial on PCS of 2 kilos of cocaine and 225 pounds of marijuana. The case involved a traffic stop where dope was found in the trunk. The DA accepted his argument there were insufficient affirmative links and a prolonged detention before consent to search was granted. The new SCOTUS case Rodriguez v. United States was a timely case for his client this week. Kudos, Danny, on a big win.
Kudos to Baylor Law School, which has been selected to receive the 2015 American Bar Association (ABA) Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since 1984. Since 2010, Baylor law students have devoted more than 3,600 hours to pro bono efforts. The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service presents five awards to individual lawyers and institutions in the legal profession that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged. Baylor will be recognized at the ABA annual meeting on August 1.
Katherine Scardino, recipient of TCDLA’s 2011 Percy Foreman Lawyer of the Year Award, was honored again in March, this time by Center for American and International Law (CAIL), with the Niland-Wischkaemper Award. It’s presented to lawyers who have dedicated themselves to the defense of those charged with capital crimes—named in honor of John Niland and Philip Wischkaemper. (John and Philip, recipients in 2010 of the formerly named Atticus Finch Award, were honored by having the award renamed because of their outstanding contributions to capital defense throughout their careers.) Katherine became the latest recipient and was lauded in the ceremony as number one in Texas for the number of capital cases tried and the number of clients kept off death row. Congratulations for the honor, Katherine, well deserved in a career fighting for justice.