Shout Outs

Robert C. Hinton (left), Michael P. Heiskell (middle), and Ronald L. Goranson (right) at Baylor Lawyer of the Year Luncheon. Photo Courtesy of Nick Teixeira, Baylor Law.

Michael P. Heiskell grew up in the small central Texas community of Pelham. Formerly known as Forks of the Creek, Pelham was settled by ex-slaves in 1866 and had an estimated population of 75 families in the 1950s. He is a proud “Double Bear,” graduating from Baylor University in 1972 and Baylor Law in 1974. When he arrived at Baylor in the late sixties, he was one of just five Black students on campus. By the time he finished his undergraduate degree in 1972, that number had grown to nearly 100— largely due to his efforts. During his time at Baylor, Michael was the first president of Agiza Funika (“Blacks Involved,” in Swahili), a social-service club designed to give African-American students a social outlet while helping them become more deeply involved in campus and community life. Michael was also president of the political science club Pi Sigma Alpha, the Phi Alpha Delta Pre Law Society, and a member of both Baylor’s Student Foundation and Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society.

Following his graduation from Baylor, Heiskell enrolled at Baylor Law in 1972, was an active member of the Student Bar Association, and became the law school’s first Black graduate in 1974. Michael has remained an active Baylor alumnus and currently serves on the Baylor University Board of Regents.

“Michael exemplifies every quality of a Baylor Lawyer. He is a fierce yet compassionate advocate for his clients and has an unswerving dedication to improving the quality of our justice system while maintaining the highest ideals of the legal profession,” stated Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben. “He is an outstanding lawyer and a truly authentic person. His career and life bear testimony to his richly deserving this honor.”

Michael was one of the three founding partners of Johnson, Vaughn & Heiskell. He now serves as the firm’s senior attorney. Before founding the firm in 1984, he served as an Assistant District Attorney for Galveston County from 1975 to 1980, and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of Texas from 1980 to 1984.

A big round of applause for E.G “Gerry” Morris, of Austin, TX. He received the Robert C. Heeney Memorial Award from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) at the Association’s annual meeting in Palm Beach, FL on August 13. The Robert C. Heeney Memorial Award is given annually to the criminal defense attorney who best exemplifies the goals and values of the Association and the legal profession. Congratulations, Gerry!

Kudos to Allen Ross of Rusk, TX and Jeff Herrington of Palestine, TX. They received a NOT GUILTY on Capital and lesser included Murder. This case previously ended in a mistrial when evidence was not properly disclosed by the Sheriff’s Office. The State’s only evidence was an alleged confession of the then 17-year-old, in Sheriff’s custody. The Defense attacked this confession as involuntary and pointed out potential culprit for the murder. The client was 17 years old when he entered the jail, and 21 years old when he walked out with an acquittal thanks to Allen and Jeff. Outstanding job!

Shout Out to Mitch Adams who won his burglary of a building case in the 4th District Court. This case also ended in a mistrial because Mitch’s client was hospitalized. The State’s only piece of evidence was a traffic citation left in a car that was the alleged getaway vehicle. The citation listed demographic details contrary to an eyewitness’s description of the female suspect. Mitch pointed out the discrepancies and won the day for his client. Great job, Mitch!

Amazing work by attorney Beverly Melontree, who won her Assault Causing Bodily Injury juvenile case in CCL3. This was a bench trial in front of the County Court at Law No. 3 Judge Getz. Victories in front of that Court are very seldom, so she was advised not to move forward in this manner. They were proven wrong when the Judge found the assault not true and stated Beverly had proven self-defense for her juvenile client. Tremendous work, Beverly!

Congrats to Joseph Esparza, who won a general court martial for an USAF NCO client accused of multiple sex offenses, rape, sexual assault, and an assault and battery involving two alleged victims at JBSA Lackland in San Antonio. He prepped the case hard and was able to show in cross examination that both alleged victims had their own reasons to fabricate their claims against his client and that, further, they colluded to bring their accusations against his client. Client testified in his own defense and multiple character witnesses testified after him as to his excellent character for truthfulness. The verdict after a 4 day trial was NOT GUILTY on all charges. Amazing work!

Pat on the back to Mark Griffith for a Not Guilty charge Client was arrested for DWI and blood test procured that came back over the limit. At the scene, officers were made aware that client was on the Autism Spectrum but ignored the fact that he had a neurological disability on the scene and in their testimony. Expert for defense described behavioral and mental issues that can appear due to being on the spectrum. The defense empowered the jury to stop disregarding disabilities. The verdict was the beautiful two words. Way to go!

Shout Out to Dean Watts for a case dismissal by reason of insanity for a felony evading case in Nacogdoches. Accomplished after 2 years and countless hours of hard work. Fantastic job!

Staff Highlights: The New Voice Behind the Voice

Alicia Thomas

Title: Communications Coordinator
Native State: South Dakota
Zodiac Sign: Leo
Favorite Color: Teal
Loves: Crafting & Exploring

Alicia Thomas started with TCDLA in March of 2021 as the Media Specialist and has recently been promoted to Communications Coordinator. In her time at TCDLA she has gotten to know many of the members and enjoyed working with the staff. Before TCDLA, Alicia has had a variety of jobs ranging from working at an ice cream shop to customer service in IT. She graduated from South Dakota State University with a BFA in Graphic Design in May of 2020. In June of the same year, she and her high school sweetheart, David, got married, packed up, and moved to Texas. In her free time, Alicia can be found doing a variety of graphic design projects, playing with her dogs, crafting, or watching The Office.

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