A big shout out to Richard Gladden of Denton for his recent appellate victory at the Second COA in Dowdy v. State, No. 02-18-00112-CR (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 7/30/19) (not designated for publication). The jury convicted Appellant of POM, Class A, and sentenced him to 180 days in the county jail and fined him $4,000. Somehow, the jury left the verdict form completely blank, though. Although the COA didn’t reach Richard’s argument that a blank verdict form is not a legal verdict regardless of whether the jury verbally announces its decision to convict, the COA reversed and rendered a judgment of acquittal based on insufficient evidence. This is an interesting opinion worth a read. Perhaps tellingly, the COA highlighted, among other things, that the corporal “admitted that Appellant and the Impala’s driver did not look alike. But he asserted that the person he saw coming from around the wall near Apartment 12—who he could not identify as Appellant—matched the Impala’s driver ‘in certain ways’: Both were black men who happened to be wearing white t-shirts” (at p. 6). Really?! Way to go, Richard!
Kudos to Allison Clayton, chair of the Amicus Curiae Brief Committee, for her work through the Innocence Project of Texas—along with students of the Innocence Clinic at the TTU School of Law Clinical Programs—on the case of Ed Ates, chronicled for all to see in the Texas Monthly article “Crowdsourcing Justice” by Michael Hall (available here: https://bit.ly/2GYM0mj). Ed went to prison for 20 years for a murder he didn’t commit but paroled out through the work of Allison and friends—and the unlikely support of a podcast, as Allsion relates: “Thank you as always to the indelible Bob Ruff and his amazing Truth & Justice with Bob Ruff Army for insisting that IPTX Executive Director Michael Ware listen to a podcaster from middle-of-nowhere Michigan. Y’all are the army of change that our justice system so desperately needs. You deserve all the praise and more. Congratulations on such a well-deserved recognition!“ Allison and team have been working on exoneration for nearly 4 years and have no intention of stopping now. Y’all are an inspiration to everyone for the work you do.
Kudos also to Colin McFall of Palestine for an impressive win on a charge of Continuous Sexual Assault of a Child. Colin says the State abandoned the Continuous allegation just before they rested, but they still faced two counts of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child and four counts of Indecency with a Child by Contact. In addition, the State elected to include every lesser included offense of each of the six counts in the Jury Charge. But in the end, “the Judge read all of the jury’s 14 verdicts of ‘Not Guilty.’” Congratulations, Colin, on this big win.
Shout out to Ethics Chair/Editor Robert Pelton and an “HCCLA members defense team” for landing a plea for life when the prosecution sought death. Robert credits Terry Gaiser (who, he says, did most of the work), mitigator Amy Martin, and investigator Molli Steinly. D had been identified in the capital murder case by a Crimestoppers tip, a surveillance video, and witnesses. Sometimes you have to play the hand you’re dealt, and the Houston team did everything they could with those cards. Also of interest: Robert and fellow TCDLA members Jim Lavine, Earl Musick, and Jack Zimmermann appeared at a book signing because of their involvement in a case dramatized in a new true-crime book, Out Here in the Darkness by Abra Stevens. They’re our sort-of reality stars . . .
Kudos to DWI Committee Co-Chair Mark Thiessen of Houston for his latest wild win—a .342 blood test on a DWI 2nd in Harris #7. As he relates: “Car was pulled over doing 95 in a 60. In the almost 3 minutes that it took the officer to approach the driver’s window, my client and the driver switched seats. So my client was sitting in the driver’s seat drunk as a skunk when the officer came to the window. Client couldn’t even figure out how to open the door. Client told them the entire time that he switched seats and wasn’t the driver, but he wasn’t believed because of his prior 2004 DWI. Thank God for dash and body cams! The jury was able to see the brake lights and car movement while the officer was writing a ticket and not looking. The jury got all the evidence and got to hear how the real driver had warrants and a suspended license . . . Common sense prevailed the day, and the jury followed the law that the State did not prove client was driving beyond a reasonable doubt. I stipulated to everything but driving. Stipulated to all the evidence. Tried it solely on driving. Thank you to the jury for following the law and holding the State to their burden.” Way to keep it interesting, Mark.
A robust response from TCDLA and NACDL members to a vote at the ABA House of Delegates meeting in San Francisco saw ABA Resolution 114 postponed indefinitely, by a wide margin. You can read all about it in the ABA Journal: www.abajournal.com/news/article/resolution-114.
Note: In the print version of the July Shout Outs, a picture mistakenly identified Chuck Lanehart as the recipient of this year’s James G. Denton Distinguished Lawyer Award. In fact, Chuck, who won the award last year, presented it this year to Justice Phil Johnson, also shown. We regret this error. In traditional High Plains justice, the proofreader was pistol-whipped and turned out to pasture.