Shout Outs

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Kudos to Alex Bunin and Gonzalo Rios, Jr. for being reappointed to the Governing Board of Texas Indigent Defense Commission. Congratulations, Alex and Gonzalo!

Congratulations to Tip Hargrove for earning the Palmetto Medal, which is one of the highest awards presented by the Citadel College Alma Mater. Mr. Hargrove’s service reflects great credit upon himself, the Citadel, and it’s Alumni Association, Kudos, Tip!

Congratulations Mark G. Daniel (Ft. Worth) on your Texas Senate reappointment to Texas Forensic Science Commission. Thank you for your public service and keeping TCDLA members updated, and fighting for justice.

Kudos to our TCDLA members who testified at the State Capitol led by our TCDLA Legislative Team Bill Harris, Chair and Lobbyists Allen Place, Shea Place, and David Gonzalez! TCDLA members who came to Austin to testify: Nicolas Hughes (Houston), Rick Flores (Austin), David Botsford (Austin), Michael Gross (San Antonio), John Convery (San Antonio), and Frank Sellers (Ft. Worth) #TCDLASTRONG.

Thank you Wilvin Carter (Houston) for assisting a fellow colleague to save his/her Bar License and his/her career and to receive an Order of Dismissal after a year-long fight. Their confidence and trust in you was well met.

Congratulations Carmen Roe (Houston) whose client received probation on a PSI today – an attorney who pled guilty to two felonies for unlawful practice of law after losing his bar card. The offer was 10 years.

Suzanne Spencer (Austin) received a phone call criminal defense attorneys wait a lifetime for in March 2021. Suzanne represented an Unaccompanied Minor Immigrant a few years ago. He immigrated from Honduras by himself during the 2014 migration. Upon turning 17 while in the throes of a psychotic episode, he was charged with 6 offenses ranging from Continuous FV to VOPO to Assault on PO.

Suzanne was court-appointed to represent him. He was found ITST (incompetent to stand trial). However, he was restored to competency at the State Hospital. She was able to bond him out on Mental Health PR bond (unique unwritten policy to Travis County). Over the next 2 years, he complied with conditions and maintained employment in construction. They were successful at getting 5 of the 6 cases dismissed and upon the advice of a good immigration attorney, the 6th case was reduced to a misdemeanor and amended in a carefully crafted plea bargain designed to have no effect on my client’s Immigration Petition. My work was done and we parted ways.

Two years later, on March 12th, out of the blue – the client called to thank her. The day before he had been Granted LPR in the US Immigration Court in San Antonio. (LPR stands for Lawful Permanent Resident). The client was so happy and told Suzanne that he owed it all to me. She reminded him that he did his part which wasn’t easy and the result was a team effort that included 2 amenable prosecutors. The client is doing well contributing to the GDP. He is married and a father now.

Thanks to Seth Fuller (Denton) who represented an adult client with a co-defendant juvenile brother (both victims of sex trafficking) in Bell County who was appointed a lawyer originally a blind man could see was not capable/willing to defend this kid on a murder charge (now that he’s been certified re-indicted to cap). We were desperately looking for a new lawyer for the juvenile, but a single mom with two kids in jail, there was no money to hire a lawyer. Bell county refused to allow a withdrawal of the court-appointed for a new court-appointed. Mr. Fuller, when asked, took this juvenile case pro-bono and has knocked Bell County off its feet. Bell county now  has a new policy because of Mr. Fuller. He has and is fighting this case like he’s being paid a million dollars an hour. His willingness to take this case pro-bono has and will literally save a 14-year-old (trafficking victim) life. We are forever indebted to Mr. Fuller. 

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Staff Highlights: The Voice’s New Communications Coordinator!

The Voice for the Defense is excited to announce that Austin-based graphic designer Rebecca Keith, has joined TCDLA as our new Communications Coordinator!

Rebecca is a solution-driven graphic designer and visual artist, proudly born and raised in the “Wild and Wonderful” state of West Virginia. She earned her BFA from Marshall University, graduating with honors in 2015. She developed a love for travel (and red wine) while studying abroad in Florence, Italy with the university’s College of Art and Media.

Rebecca has since built many strong relationships and gained ample experience generating creative content across a wide variety of industries. Utilizing her fine-tuned skills and expertise, creative problem solving is her happy place. She takes pride in the work she does and enjoys the design process, working passionately on each project that passes by her desk from concept to delivery.

When she is not putting the pencil to paper or the pixel to screen, Rebecca can be found with her nose in a good book, coasting around on her long board, exploring new places and being the best Aunt she can to five beautiful kiddos. As a recent Texas resident, she has summer plans to check out the desert and take surfing lessons at Port Aransas Beach.

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Shout Outs

Shout to Christopher Till of Comanche for the big NG in a recent delivery of meth case. Chris had filed a motion in limine attempting to block a video and audio recording made of the delivery by a confidential informant—who didn’t happen to make it for the trial. In closing he reminded the jury of a defendant’s right to confront the witness against him (which the court had disregarded in allowing the video), and the jury agreed. Way to go, counselor. The night before trial, Chris sought guidance on the listserve, and he had these kind words for the help he received:
 “Thank you to TCDLA and its members. As a solo practitioner it is comforting to know you have a group of attorneys that have your back. After my post I had several respond, and I received sound advice from the famous Michael Mowla. Thanks to Michael for his willingness to help and his sound advice. I used the cases cited by him and was able to research the topic late Monday night to be ready for trial Tuesday. I was able to make an excellent argument that the video and audio made by a missing confidential informant should not be allowed into evidence. Of course the Judge let in the video anyway, but I was able to keep out the audio. The video clearly showed my client holding a bag of some substance and handing it to the confidential informant. There were of course pictures admitted from the video showing that, as well as cash and a larger plastic bag. I did however try to make a record for appeal. Next thank you it all the presenters at seminars put on by TCDLA. I always get some ideas on how to improve as an attorney. I have not had the opportunity to thank them through the years, however, Thank you! and TCDLA. I am proud to be part of a group that is so willing to share what they have and know for each other.”

Kudos to TCDLA Board Member Laurie Key of Lubbock for her recent NG in in a four-day trial on an Agg Assault Bodily Injury/Deadly Weapon charge in Terry County. The case involved two female cousins, CW the one with a lengthy history of assaultive behavior: She’s known to carry a knife and is ”affectionately” known around town as “Pank the Shank.” CW heard D was sleeping with a man she herself coveted and after downing a few early one morning went searching for D—going from family member to family member “looking for that bitch” and proclaiming she would “get that bitch good.” D was apprised of the situation and went to buy something to drink after work. As she turned from the drink cooler, CW sucker-punched her. D pulled a box cutter from her waistband and took a slice out of her attacker (a 20cm x 6cm abdominal cut). Issue became whether D was justified in using ”deadly force” when CW only used “unlawful force.” Laurie went with reputation and opinion testimony, as well as the history of the complainant. Complainant no-showed. Laurie notes that judge wouldn’t allow her to cross State’s witnesses on these issues, so she “shouted and shouted it was a violation of client’s right to confront. I did not discharge one of their witnesses and recalled all in my case in chief. We were able to get in all reputation and opinion and nickname and even specific acts of violence.” Jury agreed and allowed D, a CNA who hadn’t worked in two years while awaiting trial, to return to her life. Way to fight for your client, Laurie, and see justice done.

A big shout out to TCDLA members Tristan Bouilly, James Rey, and Aaron Shnider for a huge win in a 7-day trial in El Paso County. D was charged with Indecency with a Child by Contact based on a delayed outcry that allegedly occurred when the CW was around 10 years old. CW, now 17, testified extremely well, but D’s team was able to show she had multiple reasons to fabricate these charges—including lies her parents made up about D. Jury apparently agreed and took just 10 minutes to declare D Not Guilty. Defendant expressed major relief to put this case behind him, as the weight of the charges had exacerbated his numerous health issues. Congratulations, team, for a job well done.

A shout out from TCDLA member Michelle Moore, head of the Burnet County Public Defenders, for the team of Nathan Kight, Scott Green, and Amber Ebeling Greer for their recent win on a Agg Assault Deadly Weapon case. D spent six months in the county jail after a dispute with a neighbor over a shed led to a confrontation. Nathan’s cross-exam of state’s witnesses established a self-defense claim, and the jury agreed, setting D free. Congratulations, team, on a job well done.

Congrats to Bowie County Public Defenders Shoaib Daredia and Sylvia Delgado, who recently scored a mistrial in an Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child jury trial. The pair gained the win following “yet another” release of discovery evidence not previously tendered—from both the city of Waco and the DPS. The jury in the case was deadlocked after more than 15 hours deliberating. D was accused of sexual assault of his 5-year-old cousin, alleged to have happened while he was babysitting. The outcry was made on the day of the alleged incident, and the child was immediately taken to get a SANE examination. The SANE nurse made no attempt to gather or preserve any potential DNA evidence, so Shoaib and Sylvia argued at closing that the state couldn’t meet its burden based on lack of evidence and improper procedure in collection and preservation of physical evidence. After the mistrial, the prosecution offered a plea of Injury to a child and 10 TDC. Counsels informed the state that they would be prepared to retry the case in front of a jury. The State ended up dismissing the indictment and dropped all sexual assault charges. D was able to walk free. Kudos, team, for a job well done.

Congratulations to Mark Griffith of Waxahachie for a good day in court, which he describes this way: “Suppression hearing on a 3rd and State Jail Felony. We had no shot on the State Jail felony. Client has been offered 5 years TDC on the 3rd and 400 days on State Jail felony. Suppression starts and prosecutor told me that I had him on the 3rd-degree felony if my opening remarks were what he thought they would be. They were, with case law. He immediately concedes that one and client gets 100 extra days over his 126 days in jail for State Jail (in which we were not going to win the suppression hearing). Show up, do your best, and good things happen. Kudos to the prosecutor that has complete candor to the Court. Rare in my world.” A good day, indeed, Mark. Kudos on your success.

Shout out to Team Thiessen of Houston for a big win for a client facing 5–99 for an Intoxicated Manslaughter Case enhanced with a prior felony. The jury only found him guilty of the lesser DWI, so he went in facing life and walked out with time served. Dynamic duo Mark and Taly Thiessen expressed thanks to the jury for their verdict and for “remaining true to their doubts.” D registered a .19 four hours after the accident but accident reconstructionist John Eftekhar was able to show the decedent pulled out in front of D .85 seconds before impact, making it unavoidable. The Ts also thanked forensic toxicologist Amanda Culbertson, who found 100% undeniable tampering with the blood vials (which allowed the jury to not even consider the result). Apparently somebody removed and replaced the integrity seals on all the vials sometime between them leaving the nurse on video and when the lab accessed them. Team T also thanked Jacob Shiffer, John Leo, and Steven Wright, who they say stayed the course and provided invaluable insight. Congratulations, Ts, on another in a string of big wins.

Kudos to Suzanne Spencer of Austin, who recently heard the big NG in an Assault Family Violence Jury Trial in Travis County Court at Law #4. D, as Suzanne notes, was a victim of a scorned ex-lover who tried to play the criminal justice system. CW did not appear to be credible: She was hostile toward the 911 operator when she called and actually hung up on them. She failed to cooperate with law enforcement, and testified to a story very different from the one she reported. Investigating officer didn’t do good job of investigating the crime scene, and the alleged injuries didn’t show up in the photos. D maintained his innocence throughout and testified in his own behalf. Suzanne also notes that TCDLA member Angelica Cogliano, a new young up-and-coming criminal defense lawyer by way of Emory Law School, sat second chair for the trial. Bravo, team, for clearing the name of this young man—and a big win.

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April 2012 SDR – Voice for the Defense Vol. 41, No. 3

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