Kudos to Mike Head and Justin Weiner of Athens. Their client admitted to shooting his brother-in-law twice, once in the face and once in the chest with a single-shot 20-gauge shotgun. He was charged and indicted for Murder. After a week-long jury trial in Henderson County, the jurors deliberated for 8½ hours. The jury eventually sent the court a note indicating that they would not be finding the client guilty of Murder. Additionally, the jury indicated that they were deadlocked regarding a conviction for the lesser included offense of Criminally Negligent Homicide. Ultimately, their client plead guilty to the state jail felony of Criminally Negligent Homicide and was granted a four-year probation. As Justin noted: “We were able to use inconsistent statements and testimony to get a self-defense and defense of third person jury instruction. Our client didn’t have squeaky clean hands, but the deceased also had a propensity for violence that was well documented.“ A job well done, guys.
Shout out to former TCDLA presidents Gerry Goldstein and Cynthia Orr and Board member John Hunter, as all charges against the operators of the Schlitterbahn waterslide in Kansas City were dismissed. In August 2016 the 10-year-old son of a Kansas senator was decapitated riding the world’s tallest waterslide, the Verruckt (German for “crazy”). Two years later, the owners and operators of the waterpark, headquartered in New Braunfels, were indicted by the Kansas AG on 2nd-degree murder charges. After numerous and lengthy hearings, Kansas State District Judge Robert Burns dismissed all charges against all defendants, both individual and corporate, on grounds of grand jury abuse. Congratulations, Gerry, Cynthia, and John, on a big win in this horrific case.
Richard Segura, Mentoring Attorney of the Capital Area Private Defender Service, sends along kudos to Brian Erskine and Jason Jarvis of Austin for their big NG recently in a murder trial held in the 427th District Court. D, accused of murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide, said she was defending herself and her daughter when she fatally shot her fiancé. D, who testified during her trial that she was the victim of continued physical abuse, had been in jail since the shooting on bail set at $400,000 and faced up to 99 years in prison on the murder charge. In closing, Brian argued that the victim’s actions on the night of the shooting continued a pattern of erratic and violent behavior brought on by drug abuse. A toxicologist testified he had meth and other drugs in his system at the time of death. D’s 15-year-old daughter testified that she was scared of him and kept a butcher knife near her bed for protection. After five hours of deliberations, the jury acquitted her on all counts. Good work, Brian and Jason.
Shout out to TCDLA ex-prez Sam Bassett of Austin for reminding us why we do what we do. D, who served the community as a first responder, was falsely accused of sexual misconduct with his step-daughter. He was arrested and his wife filed for divorce, after which he was forced to resign from his job, humiliated in the press, and relegated to fighting to have time with his biological children. Forced to work a night job making 30% of what he was making, he listened to legal advice and fought on. A grand jury then considered his case, and after a review of the evidence found no probable cause and the case was dismissed. Good news, but as Sam notes: “Our client’s life has been turned upside down, and it will take years to recover—but at least a greater tragedy was avoided.” Congratulations, Sam, on a righteous win.
Kudos to Cody Cleveland of Waco for his NG on a charge of 1st-degree felony of injury to elderly. D heard 2 gunshots outside house and found that 72-year-old neighbor had shot D’s dog in his front yard. They squared off, and D pushed neighbor, who stumbled and fell down—causing traumatic brain injury. D testified he thought he was going for his gun. Cody noted, “Jury agreed this is Texas and you have a right to defend yourself on your property, especially when someone has just shot your dog.” Congrats on the win, Cody.
A loud shout out to Keith Hampton of Austin, whose efforts were recently recognized by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Keith, a two-time winner of the TCDLA Percy Foreman Lawyer of the Year Award, was presented with the David P. Atwood Founder’s Award, given to someone who has made a lifelong commitment to justice. On the TCADP website, they note: “Keith is the only lawyer in Texas to have twice won a death-to-life commutation from a Texas Governor (he persuaded Governor Rick Perry to spare another client in 2007). In June 2018, he was awarded the Judge Black Award through the State Bar of Texas.“ Congratulations, Keith, on your latest plaudit.
Shout out to Voice Editor Sarah Roland for doggedly doing her job with the mag despite three trials recently back to back to back. Under threat of extreme personal violence, she finally released the barest of details on the cases. The first, she worked with Frank Sellers of Fort Worth on his case, a DWI blood test, which ended in a hung jury and they got the obstruction offer they’d been requesting all along. The second, she worked with brother George Roland on his case, a charge of furnishing alcohol to minors: They got the big NG in 10 minutes. The third was the big one, tried with George and Chris Raesz, but since it’s still ongoing, we’ll hold off on the details. We’re prepared to hold her feet to the fire, though, when all is resolved. Kick back a bit, Sarah, and become reacquainted with the kids. Y’all have done yeoman’s work in the pursuit of justice.
Tip of the hat to Bill Trantham of Denton, who posted the following shout out to the Ethics Committee on the listserve following assistance from Robert Pelton et al.:
“Out of the blue on Wednesday a retired police officer and I were speaking when an email came in about a court appointment from a court where I have been banned from appearing. The email said the case would be transferred.
“I told the retired officer about it and he began chatting about a case tried a decade ago. Disturbing facts about a secret meeting with witnesses and prosecutors.
“I thought about what I was required to do or not do. So, I contacted the Ethics Committee. They were extremely helpful. Just another benefit we get from TCDLA.”