Wednesday, April 13, 2016

TRIAL DOGS 2015: ACCOLADES AND RECOGNITION (BELATED EDITION)

AFTER LONG DELIBERATIONS AND CONTENTIOUS DEBATE, THE COMMITTEE FINALLY VOTED THE TRAVIS COUNTY AWARDS:

BEST QUOTE:
"I was laying in the field and the grackle said to me: What are you doing here?"
        --Defendant testifying in a murder trial

HUMANITARIAN AWARD:
Elsie Craven
Successful Asylum and Immigration Representation

TRIAL DOGS (Travis):
Jackie Wood
Armando Pena
Raymond Espersen
Tom Flanagan/Steve Lee
Skip Davis
Mary Ann Espiritu Conejo/Joseph Aragon
Russ Hunt
Charlie Baird
Ariel Payan
Bill Browning

LA ANTORCHA DE JUSTICIA AWARD
(Defense Lawyer who prosecutors fear the most)
Raymond Espersen

WORKHORSES OF THE YEAR
(Allows their employer to take those exotic vacations)
Robert Smith-Law Offices of David Chambers
Jesus Salinas-Law Office of Lusk & Evans
Mike Burke-Peek & Toland

BEST DRESSED MEN
Ricardo Maldonado
Novert Morales
Sidney Williams
Jeremy Sylestine
Ben Blackburn
Brad Urrutia
Todd Dudley
Lucio Del Toro
Josh Reno
Craig Moore
Geoffrey Puryear

BEST SHOES
Julie Arocha
Jessica Bernstein
Jana Ortega
Claire Carter
Sheila Merino
Kathy Erickson
Eloisa Garcia
Monica Flores
Yvonne Patton
Rory Perez
Adam Reposa

BEST INNOVATIONS IN THE PRACTICE OF LAW
AMP web site (second year in a row)

BEST BEARDS
none (they are out of style)

SHERLOCK HOLMES INVESTIGATOR AWARD
Mark Gillespie

SPECIAL AWARDS
Charles Popper-Del Valle Visitation Award (repeat winner)

BEST SIDE BUSINESS
Fire & Ice Pizza Bar (Round Rock)-Adam Reposa

BEST COURTHOUSE COFFEE
(tied)
299th District Court
147th District Court
Magistrate Court
427th District Court

NOTE:  THE COMMITTEE IS A SECRET CABAL WHO MEETS IN SECRET IN AN UNDISCLOSED LOCATION WITH ENTRY ONLY BY SECRET HANDSHAKE.


TRIALS 2016-QUARTERLY TRIAL REPORT

2016 is shaping up to be one of the busiest trial years ever.  With pending trials in both counties of my practice, I will be busy throughout the year.  So far, a couple potential trials were resolved, but the schedule is still on fire.  Here it is so far:

TRIAL #1
Travis County 147th District Court
Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child Enhanced
State v. Lonnie Brewster
Length: 2 Days
Penalty Range:  15-99/Life
Result:  Busted panel on Voir Dire/Pled to 5 years TDC non-enhanced

Father accused of Aggravated Sexual Assault of his daughter.  Outcry made to ex-wife
Rank:  None given

TRIAL #2
Travis County 450th District Court
Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon/Felon in Possession of a Firearm Enhanced
State v. Thomas Milton Buchanan
Length: 3 Days
Penalty Range:  5-99/Life
Result:  Convicted 50 years TDC

Son held shotgun to mother's head after throwing her to floor.  Mother had called 911 prior to this and the line was open which recorded entire incident.  Mother fled to bathroom, crawled out window, fled to neighbor's house and called 911 again.  Mom was 72 years old.  SWAT standoff, robot broke door down, and client submitted peacefully.  Defendant had history of mental illness and drug/alcohol abuse.
Rank:  None given

TRIAL #3
Travis County 147th District Court
Murder
State v. Joseph F. Karr
Length: 5 days
Penalty Range: 5-99/Life
Result: Life & $10,000.00 fine

Boyfriend came to visit Austin with Southwest Airlines flight attendant girlfriend.  After arriving on Tuesday and seeing the town, they went with friends out on Friday (Halloween).  After returning home, an encounter happen in the kitchen which resulted in 37 fatal stab wounds to girlfriend. Boyfriend appropriated a vehicle without consent and eventually was apprehended in a neighboring county with the knife.  Defendant had numerous wounds on his body.
Rank:  Well, 37 stab wounds makes it tough.




Sunday, January 24, 2016

YEAR IN REVIEW 2015-TRIALS AND OTHER ASSORTED FUN

CALM BEFORE THE STORM

It's hard to declare whether a trial result is a "victory" or not. Different factors such as the pretrial offer, overall exposure to prison, and facts of the case usually dictate whether the effort in preparation and performance in trial paid off.  What follows are quick summaries of the trials, the result, and where it ranks on the victory meter.  Many thanks to all those who helped.

2015 was not quite as active as 2014, but it started with two trials and then I had a break until December.  2016 may yet set the record.  We'll see.

TRIAL #1
Williamson County 26th District Court
Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Serious Bodily Injury, Family Violence
State v Everton Roxroy Bailey
Length:  4 days
Penalty Range:  5-99 Years
Result:  Conviction 37 Years

The Defendant was convicted of pouring boiling water on his wife.  The pretrial offer was 40 years, then 30.  I was the third lawyer on the case.
Rank:  Moderate Victory by the Prosecution

TRIAL #2
Travis County 147th District Court
Murder
State v. George Delacruz
Length: 8 days
Penalty Range: 5-99 Years
Result:  Conviction Life

The Defendant was convicted of killing his wife.  There was no body of the wife ever found.  After 8 days of testimony the jury convicted.  There are several issues on appeal and the finality of the case will take some time.
Rank:  Temporary Victory by the Prosecution

TRIAL #3
Travis County County Court #4
Assault Family Violence Stranglation
State v. Romien Pierce
Length: 3 days
Penalty Range:  2-10 Years
Result:  Plea for Deferred Adjudication just prior to closing argument

The Defendant was accused of strangling his then girlfriend.  After various inconsistencies in the stories, the Defendant testifying, and some jury irregularities, the Defendant decided to accept the state's offer of Deferred.  He had been in jail more than a year.
Rank:  Moderate Victory by Defense

2016 is already shaping up to be the year of the trial (topping 2014 if you can believe that!).  I have 5 jury trials set from the first of February until mid April.  I have been preparing for all of them and I will be ready.  But I will also be ready for that vacation scheduled for this summer.

Friday, October 23, 2015

LEGISLATIVE FOLLY

       It's tough as a criminal defense lawyer who defends the Constitution each and every day to understand how a legislature composed of legislators not versed in criminal law, can effectively come up with laws that affect the safety of every Texan.  Every Texan wishes to live in the security of their own home, free from the intrusion of not only criminals, but of the government as well.

       This legislative session was no different.  The legislature, devoid of people  of criminal law experience, passed yet additional set of laws that do not make us safe nor secure.

       Take for example, Penal Code Section 43.26: Possession or Promotion of Child Pornography.  Under the new revisions, primarily HB 2291, this change will actually lower the punishment range of repeat offenders who have been convicted of two prior offenses from 25-99 years (under the standard enhancements under Art. 12.42(d)), to 5-99 years under the controlling provisions of the new bill.  In other words, the inexperienced ones in the legislature have given us less potential punishment for those persons keeping and peddling child pornography.  What were they thinking.  From the Defense angle, it gives more flexibility.

      

Saturday, January 31, 2015

TRIAL DOGS 2014: ACCOLADES AND RECOGNITION

AFTER LONG DELIBERATIONS AND CONTENTIOUS DEBATE, THE COMMITTEE FINALLY VOTED THE TRAVIS COUNTY AWARDS:

BEST QUOTE OF 2014

"All we ever wanted was Vicki's body, but he [pointing at Defendant] won't tell us where she is! Closing argument by Jana Duty in Williamson County cold case murder, commenting on the Defendant's right to silence.

HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD
Elsie Craven
2 successful Hearings in obtaining political asylum

TRIAL DOGS OF 2014
[For those who went the distance.]
Brad Urrutia*-7 Felony Jury Trials
Jackie Wood-6 Felony Jury Trials
Victoria Winkler-5 First Chair Felony Jury Trials/5 Second Chair Felony Trials
Marc Chavez*-5 First Chair Felony Jury Trials/2 Second Chair Jury Trials

HONORABLE MENTION
Mindy Montford
Russ Hunt

LA ANTORCHA DE JUSTICIA AWARD
[Most Intimidating Defense Lawyer to Prosecutors]
Raymond Espersen

BEST DRESSED MEN
[Those who show style under fire.]
Lucio Del Toro
Novert Morales
Russ Sablatura
Ben Blackburn
Todd Dudley
Jeremy Sylestine
Joe Fredrick
Brad Urrutia

WORK HORSE(S) OF THE YEAR
[For those who enable their bosses to take those exotic vacations.]
Robert Smith (Law Offices of David Chambers)
Mike Burke* (Peek and Toland)
Jesus Salinas (Law Office of Jon Evans)

WORST DRESSED LAWYERS
[Having trouble distinguishing lawyers and clients?]
Anyone who wears baggy shirts, bluejeans, tennis shoes, clogs, or sandals in a court of law.

BEST BEARDS
Chris Baugh
Mike Burke*
Marc Chavez*

BEST SHOES
Jana Ortega
Yvonne Patton
McKinley Melancon
Monica Flores
Diana Buss
Adam Reposa

BEST INNOVATION TO PRACTICE LAW
The AMP website (includes nearly everything you need to be a paperless office).

MOST HYPOCRITICAL DEFENSE LAWYERS
Those defense lawyers that judge other defense lawyers qualifications to be on CAPDS when they themselves couldn't qualify to be on the list(s)(Hey those on the Review Committee, you know who you are).

BEST RESTROOM(S) IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE CENTER
Public Restrooms on the second floor.  They are roomy and have a chair to allow continued plea negotiations with prosecutors without interruption if necessary.

SPECIAL AWARDS
Charles Popper-The Del Valle Visitation Award for most frequent visitation of clients.
[Repeat Winner]
Steve Brand-El Abogado Etico Award for principled decisions in the face of adversity.

*Denotes Multiple Winner

The Committee is a highly secretive cabal and the process is classified.

NOTE:  The author's Year In Review is in the post below

Saturday, December 6, 2014

YEAR IN REVIEW 2014-TRIALS & OTHER ASSORTED FUN

THE YEAR OF THE TRIAL

This past eight months saw the most trials in such a short time I've had in my career.  I have had eight (7) Felony jury trials in exactly seven months.  Three (3) of those trials took place in Williamson County, four (4) in Travis County.  Of those seven trials, five faced the maximum sentence of 99 years or life. Three of those were habitual, with a minimum of 25 years.  Two Defendants faced a maximum of 10 years.

It's hard to declare whether a trial result is a "victory" or not. Different factors such as the pretrial offer, overall exposure to prison, and facts of the case usually dictate whether the effort in preparation and performance in trial paid off.  What follows are quick summaries of the trials, the result, and where it ranks on the victory meter.  Many thanks to all those who helped.

TRIAL #1
Williamson County 368th Districty Court
Capital Murder
State v Crispin Harmel
Length:  8 days
Penalty Range:  Automatic Life
Result:  MISTRIAL  

This was the only trial this year that I did not conduct the jury selection.  However, it was a pleasure to participate on the team with Ryan Deck (lead attorney) and Scott Magee.  Filed as a Capital murder, it involved the allegation that the Defendant followed a young woman from a Walmart to her car and left with her.  She was found the next morning in her car, deceased.  However, witnesses had seen her out of car and alive the next morning prior to her being found lifeless.  A mistrial was declared after it was found the prosecution did not supplement discovery with crucial information.
Rank:  Temporary Victory for the Defense

TRIAL #2
Williamson County 26th District Court
Murder
State v Rex Nisbett
Length:  9 days
Penalty Range:  5-99 Years/Life
Result:  CONVICTION 42 Years

This trial was a 22 year cold case murder.  There was no body in this case.  The case involved DNA, testimony by witnesses recalling from years ago, and was comprised entirely on circumstantial evidence.  There are certainly several issues for appeal. This will be a case that will continue to be watched and will certainly be of interest to all when the decision of the Appeals Court(s) rule.
Rank: Temporary Victory for the Prosecution

TRIAL #3
Travis County 147th District Court
Attempted Sexual Assault
State v Christopher Frazier
Penalty Range:  2-10 Years
Length:  2 days
Result: CONVICTION 4 Years

This case was based on the allegation that Mr. Frazier attempted to sexually advance on a person in a truck in broad daylight without that person's consent while the partner was buying ice cream.  The jury heard from three witnesses before deciding.  The assessed penalty was agreed by the parties.
Rank:  Moderate Victory for Prosecution

TRIAL #4
Travis County  299th District Court
Possession of a Controlled Substance (Habitual)
State v Jonas Smith
Penalty Range:  25-99 Years/Life
Length:  2 days
Result:  NOT GUILTY

Mr. Smith was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend with a knife.  After transporting her to the emergency room, Mr. Smith was arrested for the assault and in the ensuing search of his person (on videotape), PCP was found on his person.  After reviewing the videotape of his arrest and the finding of the drugs in his pocket, the jury acquitted him (I'm not kidding).
Rank:  Incredible Victory for Defense

TRIAL #5
Travis County   County Court #4 (Felony Jurisdiction)
Assault Family Violence Enhanced
State v Christopher Porth
Penalty Range:  2-10 Years
Length:  4 Days
Result:  MISTRIAL

The trial involved some allegations against Mr. Porth involving his girlfriend.  After 2 days of testimony, the jury deadlocked 6-6.  There was no chance of reconciliation amongst the jurors. The case was re-indicted on a First Degree. The case was resolved for back time on a lesser charge of a State Jail Felony.
Rank:  Moderate Victory for the Defense

TRIAL #6
Travis County  299th District Court
Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon
State v Jonas Smith
Penalty Range:  25-99 Years/Life
Length:  4 days
Result:  NOT GUILTY COUNT 1/GUILTY COUNT 2, MISTRIAL ON PUNISHMENT

Mr. Smith was tried on the assault of his girlfriend with a knife.  After considering the evidence including lengthy testimony on the injuries, the jury concluded he did this beyond a reasonable doubt.  However, they could not agree on punishment.  11 jurors agreed on 37 years, 1 would not compromise from 36 (No, I'm not kidding).  The case was resolved for 27 years.
Rank:  Moderate Victory for the Defense

TRIAL #7
Williamson County  277th District Court
Aggravated Kidnapping, Assault Family Violence Enhanced x 2 (Habitual)
State v Crispin Robledo
Penalty Range:  25-99 Years/Life
Length:  4 days
Result:  PLED GUILTY TO 1 COUNT OF ASSAULT FAMILY VIOLENCE ENHANCED 10 TDC

The Defendant agreed to a sentence of 10 years.  This trial featured some initial hurdles. But as the case progressed, it was clear the prosecution had a growing concern with witnesses and strategy.  In the end, the jury may well have hung, but the result was clearly good for the client.  There were too many unknowns for both sides.
Rank:  Victory for the Defense

Other notable cases involved a swat standoff, various drug cases, and police pursuits.  But 2015 will provide me plenty of trial experience as well. There will be two additional murder trials.

It was a heck of a year, but the fun ain't over yet.