I became the Chief of the 339th District Court in July of 2007. It was my first (and as it turns out, only) Felony District Court where I would serve in that position. I had several cases set for trial for me, and a host of others pending. Some were capital murder cases and some were regular murders.
In the middle of the pile of cases that I was inheriting was a Tampering with Evidence case, which, at first glance, seemed a little odd on it's face. A Tampering with Evidence case is a third degree felony, and normally involves a Defendant trying to dispose of narcotics that a cop saw him with. I thought it was strange that my predecessor in the court had assigned a Tampering case to himself as a chief.
When I actually picked up the case, however, I quickly learned why it was a "Chief Case". It involved a badly decomposed body found in the trunk of a car, parked in the garage of a townhome in Midtown Houston. The file was littered with notes regarding a pending autopsy report and phone calls to return to Sgt. Carrillo of HPD Homicide. The file on the case was very thick.
The Defendant's name was Steven Weinstein.
I set the file aside for a bit while I was preparing for a series of trials involving four defendants on an unrelated murder case, which occupied most of my summer of last year.
It was during the first of these trials when I was first introduced to Patricia Bates, the mother of Jerry Glaspie. Jerry Glaspie was the man whose body had been found in the trunk of the car.
I was on a break during trial and was briefly introduced to her. I apologized to her for not being up to speed on her son's case, but promised I would get to it as soon as I got free from my trial. She could not have been any nicer or more understanding. She smiled and thanked me, but stayed on in court to watch me trying a case that didn't involve her or her son.
She came back for each setting involving her son's death, and it seems like every time she was there, I was involved in another trial. Each time, I had to apologize to her for not being able to discuss her son's case more in depth.
Each time, she smiled, thanked me and said she understood.
As Summer moved on into Fall of 2007, I sat second chair on a death penalty capital case, and again, her son's case got pushed to the back burner.
And each time I talked to her and apologized, she smiled, thanked me and said she understood.
Ultimately, the autopsy report on her son came in, and I was able to upgrade Weinstein's charges to murder. In a phone call that was probably too rushed, I explained the upgrade to Mrs. Bates. She listened and had a few questions. I told her it would still be awhile before we could get the case to trial.
I explained to her that when it came time to go to trial on her son's case, that it would would have my undivided attention. She thanked me and said she understood.
In April, after the Republican primary run-off had ended, I knew that my time at the Office was limited. I told my Judge that I wanted to get three specific trials done before the end of the year.
Two of the trials, Dennis Andrus and Dennis Driver, were men who had killed their children.
The third was Steven Weinstein.
Mrs. Bates had shown all the patience in the world with me when I wasn't able to devote the attention to her son's case that it deserved.
And I was bound and determined to try that case if it was the last thing I did.
As it turns out, it looks like it actually was the last thing I did at the Office.
This week, after almost a year and a half, I was finally able to take the Steven Weinstein murder case to trial. This case had a little bit of everything and was challenging from both a legal and evidentiary stand-point.
For those of you who have been keeping up with me for the past month, you may have already heard me griping about me, my investigator, and my co-counsel, Priya McMorrow chasing a crack addict who just happened to be my star witness all over South Houston. We finally found him, only to have him re-disappear on us again in the middle of trial. (NOTE: A special thanks to my investigator, Barry Saucier, for finding him again!)
For me, the case was emotional both inside and outside of the courtroom. I got to have a final trial on behalf of the State of Texas, but more importantly, I got to be reminded one last time why I loved being a prosecutor.
It was always about trying to make things better for victims and their families.
In the end, Steven Weinstein got 30 years for the murder of Jerry Glaspie. Although I had asked for a higher sentence, I was very satisfied with the jury's decision. But more importantly, so were Mrs. Bates and the rest of Jerry's family. Their words to me and Priya and Barry were kind and appreciative and I felt proud of the job we had all done.
As sweet as always, Mrs. Bates smiled and thanked me for my work on the case.
But in the end, it should have been me thanking her.