I am fortunate. I’m not headed to jail right now. Given a trial date of November 30, and firmly believing we could not receive a fair trial under present circumstances, we filed an edited version of TCDLA’s COVID-19 continuance motion. It was summarily denied without discussion, and a second emergency motion was filed raising the issues that an expert witness was unavailable and that my co-counsel on the case is a severe asthmatic who could not and would not participate until he’d be able to get a vaccine for this virus.
The trial was moved to December 7. I knew that, if ordered to go to trial under COVID restrictions, I could not do my job up to my own standards, and I would not agree to go forward. I would have to commit contempt of court and risk jail, because I could not allow my client to be convicted due to my reluctance to anger the court. With some trepidation, I started to prepare myself for being convicted of contempt.
I contacted the Task Force, and several stellar members—Mark Thiessen, president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, Nichole Hochglaube, and Mark Bennett all stepped up. Mark Thiessen and Nicole both appeared via Zoom at the emergency continuance hearing, and made their presence known. Knowing lawyers of this caliber had my back was critical in my going forward and insisting that this case could not be tried, and a jury simply could not be selected, under circumstances in which the face of every venire member and witness was concealed. The trial was continued—until April 2021—in the belief that a vaccine can be provided by that time.
I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years now, and I still find the Strike Force to be an essential resource when the going gets tough. None of us can do this work without, occasionally, having to take a stand that risks our becoming the defendant, instead of the defender. And when that occurs, knowing that we’re not alone is invaluable.