Shout Outs


A big shout out to Dean Watts of Nacogdoches for his recent win in the 12th Court of Appeals, who affirmed his motion to suppress. D was stopped for failing to change lane on a roundabout, then subsequently was arrested for DWI. The trial court granted the motion and the State appealed. The 12th said they agreed with the trial court’s finding that the officer in question turned on his lights to pull D over before he committed a traffic violation. Dean says the big challenge for him was making sure his brief said “the trial court did not err” instead of the usual “the trial court erred.” Congratulations, Dean!

Kudos to Assistant Bowie County PD Amanda Gunn of Texarkana on her 20-minute NG verdict in an Assault with Bodily Injury–Family Violence trial in Bowie County. The alleged victim had signed two) Affidavits of Non-Prosecution and refused to contact the DA or appear at trial. The DA filed a motion requesting the Court find that D forfeited his 6th Amendment right to confrontation based on his efforts making the alleged victim unavailable. The State called three witness at the hearing, but they had no evidence D did anything to keep the alleged victim away from the trial. Amanda presented evidence the AV voluntarily appeared in the DA office and signed an ANP in their presence. Yet the Court granted the State’s motion allowing them to present hearsay evidence—evidence violating his right to confrontation. The State called two police officers, who both presented hearsay evidence on what the AV stated happened. The AV had no marks or bruises on her body, but D had scratches on him. He asked to press charges against her, but the police officers refused and arrested him. Over counsel objection, the Court also allowed an unauthenticated audio recording played to the jury of an argument between the two. There was no evidence who recorded the event, who turned it over to the DA, or when the recorded argument occurred—but it was still allowed into evidence. Way to hang in there, Amanda, and see justice done.

Kudos go out to our own Larry McDougals, both of Richmond, with the senior Larry writing: “Our Aggravated Sexual Assault of a child trial is over—not guilty on all counts. Special congratulations to Larry McDougal Jr for his amazing cross of the state’s experts, making them our experts.” Larry was quick to share the credit: “We had a great support team, David Green II doing lots of the behind-the-scene work, Mandy Miller sitting with us and researching all the law on all the objections, and our paralegals, Marissa Fuentes, Sarah Elizabeth Montalvo, and Tara Pirsch, who sat with us.” Congratulations, team, on a job well done.

A shout out to former prez Rick Hagen of Denton for an odd win in a strange case. D was accused of first-degree felony theft of over $300,000. Defense maintained that the complaining witness committed tax fraud and accused his bookkeeper after the IRS levied his account. After D’s opening statement, the Judge appointed a lawyer for the CW because the Judge was concerned he would be required to admit to multiple felonies during cross-examination. Lawyer then advised CW to plead the 5th. “In 29 years of practicing law,” Rick says, “I’ve never heard of a case being dismissed after a defense opening statement.” Good work, counselor, on this bit of oddity.

Sometimes a “win” can be described in different terms, and for this tale a shout out to DWI co-chair and board member Mark Thiessen of Houston. In his words: “Our Harris County jury showed tremendous heart and compassion today. Our client was a 26-year-old man that hadn’t been drinking in 6 months—and was way over-served. He didn’t remember anything but somehow ended up traveling 16 miles the wrong way on the highway. It ultimately ended in a tragic accident, with the victim sustaining a broken ankle. The client was incoherent. We pled guilty and begged the jury for mercy. He went to treatment and has been sober since the accident. The State’s case was tried by very talented DAs who put on a great case with a lot of extraneous offenses and conduct. We begged for mercy and the jury showed it, sentencing him to 5 years to be probated. (The State’s pretrial offer was 5 years prison in Texas Department of Corrections.) Thank you to the jury for showing us your heart and exercising mercy when they had ultimate power. He’s a good young man, he will earn his life and freedom back. Thank you to my second chair/wife, Taly Thiessen—you’re my rock! And thank you to Judge Brian Warren, who ran a very fair trial with tons of complicated and emotional issues. Not every case can be a Not Guilty. Sometimes all we can do is try and save you from years in prison. Thanks to God for bringing all the moving parts together.” A win by any other name—to go along with wins in three different DWI trials in the month, with one a personal-best .342 blood test. Congrats for walking the walk, counselor.

Taly Thiessen can be excused for a bit of prejudice in mentioning that hubbie Mark was one of only two criminal defense lawyers named to the 100 Top Super Lawyers in Texas in 2019—the other being David Gerger of Houston. Congratulations, you two, for being so honored.

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