Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mrs. Bates

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.

41 comments:

Jason said...

I just read the chronicle story. Good job. Mentally ill my ass!

Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA said...

Keep posting - very interesting and good reading.

Anonymous said...

Your passion comes through loud and clear. Can you not move to another county and be a prosecutor?

jigmeister said...

I'm glad your last official experience was a good one. The successful conclusion and the reactions of the family members are one of the things I miss most. Chasing down witness is one of the things I miss least!

joelr said...

What anonymous says: your passion as a prosecutor comes through. I'm very curious to see how that will change in your new line of work.

Anonymous said...

I may not have always agreed with your blog, but I understand your compassion just a wee bit more after reading this last entry.

I am glad that you got your wish.

May you and Mrs. Bates reach peace and all that is good in 2009.

Anonymous said...

Murray, if you do your job right (and I know you will) you will have satisfaction from defendants and their families when you hand them their freedom. I promise you this. But I disagree with those that say a prosecutor's job is any less rewarding or noble.

anonymous c said...

Man! I know that Anon 11:30 must be right, but it's really hard to read. :-(

Congrats again, Murray.

HPD 101 said...

ANON 1154,
The pendulum of honor and nobility is about to swing hard left.....the criminal defense bar will have an infusion of integrity at the expense of HCDA. Who knows; ethical parity might be possible after all!
I hope "Murray and associates" kick ass and pillage the old guard criminal defense attorneys' client base....poetic justice for injustice.

Anonymous said...

Who knows; ethical parity might be possible after all!

Show me one defense attorney who has committed a Brady violation. Or done something like cause an innocent man to go to jail for several years simply because his face looked scary, ignoring all of the exculpatory evidence in his case.

HPD 101, I'm actually glad you're as stupid as you are. It makes the rest of us look smarter. And the world needs ditch diggers too.

Anonymous said...

Murray, few will ever know the feeling of accomplishment for obtaining justice for the family of a murder victim.

I know several Mrs. Bates myself. All ladies of character.

I hope that I have made the lives of a few Mrs. Bates better. Or at least make them feel like they did get some justice.

Tex

anonymous c said...

Anon 6:47,

I don't know about all of the name-calling, but what I do know, for what it's worth, is this...some people spend their entire careers advocating for victims. Those, in case you're curious, are the people who are accosted, raped, molested or murdered (and stuffed in trunks to rot, to boot). There are also those who spend the entirety of their careers fighting for the "freedom" of the defendants. In laymen's terms, that means bucking the system (or an inefficient prosecutor or police officer) and assisting perpetrators in their bid to get away with crimes. People love to argue in the abstract about Freedom versus Safety, but, in my opinion, that's what it boils down to. You're either on the side of the victim or on the side of the criminal. Very simple. Of course, there are absolutely those times in which an innocent man is accused. That's when the defense lawyer (Murray, etc.) can play the real hero. Yay him or her! Honestly! But let's face it. You and I both know that the majority of accused people actually did it.

In my opinion, that gulf between the two sides is a wide one. And I'm not sure that insults and ridicule can bridge it.

HPD 101 said...

ANON 826,
Perfect assessment.

As for ANON 647,
Poor little fella. You greatly over estimate your relevance and intellect. Whether or not I am a "stupid ditch digger" in no way absolves you of your pompous misrepresentations and poor judgment. Law school "ain't all that". Average folks like me are more than capable of common sense determinations of right and wrong.....after all, we're the ones who usually sit on your juries.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, that gulf between the two sides is a wide one. And I'm not sure that insults and ridicule can bridge it.

Not to syou and HPD, I guess. To people who know what the Constitution is about, your misrepresentation of what it protects is just plain sad.

anonymous c said...

Not to syou and HPD, I guess. To people who know what the Constitution is about, your misrepresentation of what it protects is just plain sad.

Need a hankie?

Anonymous said...

Anon C,
I think Anon 12:09 could use Prozac a lot more than a hankie. He/she seems way too out of touch to be an effective lawyer....OMG! But then again, a hankie could be used as his/her white flag in court.

Anonymous said...

Need a hankie?

Not at all. Have a look at this, and I'm sure you will though. Funny how this pissing match started over the subject of Brady violations, and this popped up just today:

http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2008/12/cca-rejects-death-penalty-cases-over.html

I'd be interested to hear HPD 101's lamentations at how he thinks the ultra-liberal constitution haters on the Texas CCA got this one wrong.

anonymous c said...

You're right, Anon 2:25. Prozac is a much better fit.

Not at all. Have a look at this, and I'm sure you will though. Funny how this pissing match started over the subject of Brady violations, and this popped up just today:

http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2008/12/cca-rejects-death-penalty-cases-over.html

I'd be interested to hear HPD 101's lamentations at how he thinks the ultra-liberal constitution haters on the Texas CCA got this one wrong.


While wildly illuminating (rolling eyes), I already pointed out how heroic I believe defense lawyers are when they defend the innocent. Sadly, that's very rarely the case and you know it. Arguing the extremes is always easy, but always a cop out, as well.

I'm simply saying that, in my opinion, prosecutors stand up for victims and defense lawyers stand up for criminals. A victory for prosecutors is when the guilty get punished for their crimes and a victory for the defense lawyer is when the guilty go unpunished. I'm very sorry if having that presented to you in such a blunt manner is uncomfortable. Yet, it's undeniably the case. Need Prozac?

Anonymous said...

Sadly, that's very rarely the case and you know it.

How do you tell the difference?

HPD 101 said...

What specific "possible prosecutorial misconduct" are you referencing?
You seem so eager to accept that "possible" means actual and even intentional.
Intentional suppression of evidence by either side to thwart justice should be severely punished (that should make you piping mad and argue how stupid I am not to understand that Brady only applies to prosecutorial misconduct...justice be damned!) I know that Brady does not apply to defense attorneys suppressing evidence. How about if your client confesses the details of his crime to you....are you going to stand up and follow the Cannon of Ethics? That was a rhetorical question...we all know the answer to that one. But your view that only prosecutors be held accountable, regardless whether there was actual intent to deceive or suppress justice, is pathognomonic of your condition. Defense attorneys, you would no doubt argue, are Constitutionally bound to do WHATEVER it takes to exonerate their clients, regardless whether or not they are guilty. "Win at all costs" is what a defense attorney celebrates when it is their cause. But when a prosecutor prepares thoroughly and prevails in a tough case....well, you become an excuse maker and label that prosecutor's fight for "Justice at All Costs" as your "Win at All Costs" mantra and portray him as a Fascist. Yet you profess to be the morale compass!

Anonymous said...

Defense attorneys, you would no doubt argue, are Constitutionally bound to do WHATEVER it takes to exonerate their clients, regardless whether or not they are guilty.

And again, you'd be wrong. My job would be to make sure that state proves its case against my client. Period.

Answer the question I posed to the other poster--how would HPD 101 propose to know the innocent from the guilty? Anonymous c seems to have it all figured out, but is neatly dodging this very same question.

Anonymous said...

stand up and follow the Cannon of Ethics?

Also, please enlighten me as to which Cannon (Texas doesn't even have Cannons, by the way, we follow the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which are not listed by Cannon) would require me to turn my client in if he confessed to me?

Mind you, I'm just splitting this legal hair to show that you know little of the rules that you foist upon others.

Answer: None of them. However, if he confesses to me, and I put him on the stand where he professes innocence, I am suborning perjury and also committing a violation by not withdrawing and correcting it. However, even the "correcting it" part of this is a hazy area. If you narc on your client you're breaking your duty to him, but if you continue the misconduct you are violating the TDRPC. So, defense attorneys are presented with somewhat of a quandry, whereas a DA can just violate the rules and commit Brady violations all day long and not get prosecuted or reprimanded for it.

anonymous c said...

Anonymous c seems to have it all figured out, but is neatly dodging this very same question.

Hehe. What you call dodging, I call a job.

How to tell the difference, you ask? Sigh. Well, clear and convincing physical evidence, witnesses, DNA, etc. You know, the usual. But I suspect that you're really asking the question in order to gleefully throw in that evidence can be falsified, witnesses could be lying, etc. Well, you're right. That could indeed be happening. And, when that is the case, the defense lawyer (I say yet again) is heroic in his or her efforts to exonerate the accused. But, if you are truly quibbling with my initial assertion that the majority of the accused are guilty, then I'd have to call bull sh*t on that one. It just doesn't pass the smell test and you know it. We all know it.

Now, look. I do know that you have a job to do. Everyone is entitled to a defense and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's right and it's good. It's my opinion, though, that the air in a prosecutor's world is just a little bit cleaner and the sky a little brighter. That's all I'm saying.

Anonymous said...

But I suspect that you're really asking the question in order to gleefully throw in that evidence can be falsified, witnesses could be lying, etc.

All I'm saying is that to defend the innocent you have to defend the guilty. Because without a trial we have no way of knowing who did and who did not "do it."

And with the alarming number of convictions being overturned from the relatively minor sampling of cases that are being tested, it's more than clear that mistakes are made. No system is perfect for either side, but the Brady violations alone are alarming. Those are intentional. And without an effective open file policy it will never improve and a Defendant's lawyer has no way to discover exculpatory evidence until at time years after the fact. How can you have a fair trial if the state is withholding evidence? When the state has dozens of cops, investigators, experts and DA's working on a case, but often times the defense consists of only one defense lawyer who can't even confront the evidence because so far expert/forensic reports aren't considered "testimony" and the court-appointed attorney is getting paid jack? Or maybe even falling asleep at trial, with the court's blessing?

The scales of justice are weighted heavily in favor of the state. And on top of that there's no recourse if they withhold evidence?

It doesn't happen in every case, or even many cases. But Houston is responsible for about 20% of the death penalty cases in the COUNTRY. So if even a small number of our cases are being tested and found to have violated the law, something tells me a more in-depth study will result in even more DNA exonerations and uncovered Brady violations.

Anonymous said...

And by the way... "clear and convincing" isn't the standard, and oftentimes DNA evidence is withheld, not used, at trial. The DNA exoneration a few days ago makes that more than clear.

HPD 101 said...

ANON 527,
FYI: On August 27,1908, the American Bar association adopted the Canons of Professional Ethics, the first set of model standards of ethical conduct for lawyers nationwide. The development of rules for the self-regulation of the legal profession has been a critically important aspect of the ABA's work since then, progressing through the Model Code of Professional Responsibility in 1969 to the current Model Rules of Professional conduct, initially promulgated in 1983. Nearly every state in the country has substantially embraced the Model Rules in form and substance, and other nations regularly look to the ABA framework as they develop ethical standards for their own lawyers.
The US Constitution, although not drafted in Texas, serves as the basis of Texas law as the Canons of Ethics serve as the basis of Texas lawyers ethical foundation.

So the real issue is whether or not the Constitution requires prosecutors to act in an ethical fashion while exempting all other lawyers?

BTW: As for your trepidation regarding the issue of perjury, I would argue that Chuck Rosenthal renders that issue moot in Harris County. But the implication that one rotten apple always ruins the bushel is fatally flawed.

Col. T.S. Bear, III (ret) said...

HPD 101,
If you don't already have a law degree please get one and run for DA in 4 years......you'll get my vote and a lot more after the Rosenthal/Lykos/Leitner era of terror!

Anonymous said...

HPD: Texas lawyers are not bound by any model code, much less the ABA's.

I have no idea what you mean about perjury and Rosenthal and how he renders my concern moot.

HPD 101 said...

ANON 154,
The Canons of Ethics are not per se binding in and of themselves but rather serve as the building blocks for specific ethical behavior standards that are binding. Some of us appreciate the etiology of those guidelines while others could care less.

As for Rosenthal and the perjury issue.....apparently if a sitting DA commits aggravated perjury in a Harris County Federal Courthouse, his subsequent and unsubstantiated allegation that his prescriptions made him lie is good enough to beat the rap. Now that's worth citing.

Anonymous said...

HPD: By "others could care less" you mean prosecutors violating Brady as well as some defense attorneys, right? RIGHT?

Ahh. Yeah, that's a tragedy. Like Ford pardoning Nixon, I think everyone was content to let Rosenthal just go the hell away so we could start to fix the problems and heal. Until the State Bar starts to go after prosecutors committing Brady violations (they already go after known violations in all other fields of practice) then we will never be on the right track.

Anonymous said...

sounds like you had it out for this guy if just to quench your appetite to sooth your mrs. bates.
and your star witness was a crackhead? you sure this guy was guilty and should of gotten 30 years?? does'nt sound that way to me!

A Harris County Lawyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 3:01,
You are so right. You clearly know more about the facts of this case than I did (after working on it for a year and a half) and the jury did (after hearing evidence for seven straight days).
Perhaps you would be more convinced if you read the trial record and saw that Mr. Weinstein had told at least five friends that he planned to kidnap Mr. Glaspie and tie him up (his body was later found tied up). Or perhaps the fact that the victim told two other people that he was headed over to Weinstein's house before he immediately disappeared.
Not enough for you? What about the car the victim was last seen driving being found within walking distance from Weinstein's house?
Still a tough sell? How about the fact that the body of the complainant was found in the trunk of Weinstein's car, inside Weinstein's garage, inside Weinstein's house? And the fact that Weinstein had been telling neighbors and police for three weeks that the smell came from rotting food.
If you don't like the jailhouse snitch testimony, would it help if his testimony was regarding details that Weinstein had told him in jail that only Weinstein would know?
Maybe you haven't quite finished arm-chair investigator school yet, but I'm feeling pretty comfortable with the strength of the case.
Then again, what do I know?

Anonymous said...

wow, you seem so emotionally invovlved in this one!! you definately seem to have a hard on for this guy. what DEAL did you give the convict for spilling his guts about a 'jailhouse confession'?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 4:23 p.m.,
I couldn't help but notice that your IP address came from Miller Place, NY, which, if I recall correctly is where Mr. Weinstein's family lives. Strangely enough, they attended the trial. Now, call me crazy, but I'm thinking there might be a coincidence here.
The jailhouse witness did, indeed, get a deal, which the jury was made fully aware of.
I'm sorry you didn't like the outcome of the trial, but the jury has spoken.
You don't need to write back here again. I'm not going to get into an argument with you on the internet.
I thought you already spoke your mind with the letter you had the bailiff give me during trial, anyway.

Col. T.S. Bear, III (ret) said...

AHCL,
It's funny how those that never set foot in the arena are so quick to critique the actual combatants. I followed your last trial closely and you were nothing short of magnificent. Justice was your ally and you went out with honor.
Good luck on all fronts in your new life.
The Colonel

Anonymous said...

I couldn't help but notice that your IP address came from Miller Place, NY, which, if I recall correctly is where Mr. Weinstein's family lives.

Oh SNAP!

Boyness said...

I am a friend of Jerry's. Everyone knew Weinstein did this thank you very much for proving it!

Anonymous said...

jerry was bestfriend and Steven Weinstein can rot in jail and hell.

BAD BOI said...

WAS AT THE HEARING FOR STEVEN MARK WEINSTEIN TRYING TO GET A NEW TRIAL.WHAT I SAW WAS A PATHETIC NO GOOD P. O. S. MURDERER. I HOPE YOU SUFFER AND ROT IN HELL YOU M.F. I KNOW U SAW MYSELF AND JERRYS FAMILY THERE. YOUR NOT GOING TO GET A NEW TRIAL AND SOMEHOW IF YOU ARE LUCKY TO I HOPE THEY GIVE U MORE THAN 30 YEARS . I HOPE U SUFFER EVERY SECOND TILL THE DAY YOU DIE OR TAKE YOUR OWN. EITHER WAY IS FINE BY ME.

Bad Boi said...

well in december i learned steven mark weinstein was denied a new trial.so christmas and new years were actually great this year. steven i hope every second of the rest of your life is hell...when u do die f(cking rot in hell for enternity. to jerrys mom patricia and laura and mike and family i pray for yall everyday. i loved jerry and i miss him badly. and last thank you god for keeping this scum of the earth in jail.