Monday, July 20, 2009

Craig Washington

The trial for Craig Washington is scheduled to begin today in the 208th District Court.

My knowledge of the facts of that case are limited to only what I've read in the newspaper, so I don't really have much to add to that particular conversation (other than to say it does sound somewhat similar to the Joe Horn case).

But I did want to say something about Craig.

When I first started working in Harris County, I knew who Craig Washington was. He had defended a man back in the 1970s/1980s named Eroy Brown who was accused of Capital Murder in the deaths of a prison warden and a prison guard. It just so happened that one of the victims in the case was the (step) grandfather of my best friend. My understanding when I was growing up was that there had been a couple of hung juries on the case before Eroy Brown had been found not guilty.

Obviously, that wasn't something that had sat well with my best friend's family, but he and I were way too young to understand what had happened.

So, the first time I ever spoke with Craig Washington, I actually flagged him down and asked him about the Eroy Brown case. Craig stopped everything he was doing, sat down with me in court and told me the story for over an hour. The point he emphasized over and over and over again in telling me the story was, "Please tell your friend that his grandfather didn't do anything wrong. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Coming away from that first meeting with Craig, I couldn't help but like him.

I had seen the respect he commanded in the courtroom from all of the other members of the Defense Bar. Craig is a tall and very noticeable man with a deep, booming voice. When he entered into a courtroom, I would see people line up just to talk to him.

Maybe it was because of his distinguished history as a Defense Attorney. Maybe it was his history as a legislator at both the State and National levels.

I'm not sure which, but after that initial meeting with Craig, I knew I just flat out liked him.

A couple of years down the road, Craig and I tried a mildly high-profile murder case against each other where Craig took the unusual (and never-before seen by me) step of putting himself on the witness stand to testify. Craig and his co-counsel, Lance Hamm (also an excellent attorney) fought a very tough and sometimes heated fight. I can remember getting angry at one point with Craig over something in the trial, and he just looked me straight in the eye and said "Okay, I'm sorry."

It was impossible for me to stay irritated with Craig for more than five minutes, and I walked away from the trial getting to know that I had tried a murder case against one of Texas' best. When the trial finished, Craig went and hugged the victim's mother. He talked to her for a long time about her loss. She appreciated it more than words could explain.

But that's the kind of man that Craig Washington is.

After the Alex Morris trial, Craig called me and invited me to lunch. It started a tradition that we don't follow like we used to, but we got to know each other well. He told me about his days in the Legislature. We'd talk about politics and trials.

But mostly Craig liked to talk about family, and he always asked me about my son.

"These are the days he will always remember, Murray," Craig tells me all the time. "Cherish them. They are so important." Every time I see him in the hallway, he stops and asks me what my boy has been up to. And every time, he tells me those words.

As a father, those words mean the world to me.

On Father's Day of this year, I spent the weekend up at the lake. The first message I got on my phone that Sunday morning was from Craig Washington.

"Happy Father's Day, my friend."

I immediately showed it to my father who was there, and I realized that Craig Washington was someone that I'm very proud to know.

And I'm even more proud to call my friend.

So, today, as Craig goes on trial, it makes me very sad and upset. The Craig Washington that I know should never be in a courtroom except as the distinguished attorney that he is.

My thoughts and prayers are with Craig this week.

No matter what the outcome, though, he will always be someone that I'm very proud to call my friend.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a former Harris County prosecutor as well. And my experience with Craig Washington matches your experience. I now work in another DA's office and saw Craig a few years after leaving Harris County. I still found him to be quite charismatic and an enjoyable friend. I share your concern for his troubles and have wondered how he managed to get into court charged with a felony. Something must have gone wrong for him. And I wouldn't say that about many defense attorneys.

Arthur Seaton said...

He's always, always a gentleman, and when he tells you something, you can take it to the bank. I wished him luck on this matter the other day, and I meant every word of it.

Anonymous said...

Same here, nothing but great experiences. Prince of a fellow. But of course the possibility exists that he got overcharged, or shouldn't have been charged at all.

Brandon Moeller said...

Great post. Love the back story.

Anonymous said...

Huh. Would y'all wish him the same luck if he was a Canadian?

They no-billed Joe Horn when an intentionally apathetic ADA basically insinuated he shouldn't be prosecuted. must suck to be a successful criminal defense attorney in this town accused of a crime. You know the ADAs are going to be out to get you.

skip said...

Race Baiter 9:50,
Go fuck yourself. Craig Washington is a great guy and race is not the issue.
As for it sucking to be a great criminal defense attorney in this town accused of a crime....that's something you'll never have to worry about, as greatness has alluded you.

Anonymous said...

I am a current Assistant District Attorney, and I think Craig Washington is a fabulous man with a code of ethice second to none. I was proud to shake his hand this morning. While I do not know what happened out at the scene of the incident, I wish him all the best-- while also hoping that justice is done in the case-- whatever that may be.

Catalina Booth said...

Another former Harris County ADA and I echo the sentiments of everyone but 9:50 am.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the d a who posted the blog. We heard RB was fuming and the 6th floor buzzing about a news report coming from Wayne D. A news station in Austin is also investigating. There were other people acting up from other counties. WTF

Anonymous said...

Murray, we recommended the people involved call you for advice.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:50,
Why would a person from Canada receive any different treatment than someone else?

Jason said...

He made a deal and took a deal. Two years probation more than likely ending in deferred adjudication.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/breaking/6537482.html

Anonymous said...

"Anon 9:50,
Why would a person from Canada receive any different treatment than someone else?"

You're not from around these parts, are you?

The point was whether or not these ADA's wishing him well would do so if he was black. In the past, black people were referred to as "Canadians," so that ADA's wouldn't have to print "nigger," despite the fact that that's what they meant, and believed.

Anonymous said...

Two years pretrial diversion (intervention) under CCP 42.12, sec. 5, presumbaly based upon prosecutorial discretion. Sounds like the ham sandwich indictment by a grand jury analogy patently applies to this prosecution. If that was the value of this 2nd degree felony with a deadly weapon, the State of Texas should have filled out a nolle form instead - shame on it. That aside, I always found Craig to be a highly competent advocate for his client and a credible person with whom to deal. Although knowing none of the facts of this prosecution, I think it is safe to conclude it was a piece of crap. I suspect that the State of Texas (the elected D.A., not the prosecutor (Ms.Parsons) assigned to the actual prosecution) did not courage or integrity, however, to authorize a dismissal. Her disposition thus was the way for a piece of crap to go silently away in the night.

Anonymous said...

Murray, we recommended the people involved call you for advice.

Nah, they need an employment lawyer of anyone, except that LAE documented their shenanigans in a right to work (i.e., right to be fired at any time) state.

Sucks to be them.

Another former Harris County ADA and I echo the sentiments of everyone but 9:50 am.

Well, when you know the difference between a senator and a congressman, maybe I'll be more concerned about your opinion. In fact, your disagreement tells me I'm on the right track.

With love, 9:50, Rage

Anonymous said...

Don't blame the grand jury, they didn't shoot at teenagers as they were driving off. The GJ has limited information, and they are not there to establish guilt, only reasonable cause. Bullet holes in a car = reasonable cause. Why did he confront the kids? Why not just call the police? At the end of the day I think it's a fair decision but you guys shouldn't be bashing grand juries!

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:50/6:03 -

"The point was whether or not these ADA's wishing him well would do so if he was black." Are you being serious? Uh, Craig Washington is black, you brain dead idiot.

Anonymous said...

I will bash grand juries because they are the ultimate product of what the State of Texas generally chooses to present to them or chooses not to present. Unfortunatley, sometimes that presentation has been a bit disingenuous. The stardard of the indictment is not "reasonable cause" but effectively "probable cause." FNU/LNU is thus precisely correct, however, in that the grand jury ostensively had "limited information." Perhaps if they had been presented with all of the requisite information neither Mr. Washington would have been exposed to this unnecssary prosecution nor the taxpayers would have paid for the exercise as well. Moreover, perhaps, Mr. Washington's version of the episode is accurate - does one think that if were not so, the State of Texas would have been so "generous."(sic).

Anonymous said...

"Reasonable cause"?

Jason said...

Instead of bashing the grand jury system or Canadians does anyone remember the original story with the facts? Maybe that would paint a clearer picture. That's a big problem, too many damn opinions and too little facts.

Eddie Cortes, Esq. said...

It is personally and professionally offensive that a lawyer of Craig Washington's caliber could be facing indictment, much less a trial of this nature over something that a jury in this county no-billed a white man for no less than a few months ago. It angers me as a lawyer. It angers me as a minority. And it makes me wonder, if they'll do this to him, what would they do to me?

Anonymous said...

So, did he get deferred adjudication or deferred prosecution? The former is appropriate. The latter is a joke.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not the defendant is a nice man and well connected is relevant to his guilt or innocence?

The race card is alive and well in Harris County?

Criminal intent is of no consequence?

The two kids who paid an unauthorized 3rd party to park on Mr. Washington's property should have known said 3rd party did not have authority to give such permission? Further these same kids should have known they were trespassing after paying said 3rd party to park on the property? It is okay to shoot with intent to kill these 2 kids for this type of behavior especially when you have the compassion, knowledge and experience of Craig Washington?

In Joe Horn's case he shot and killed 2 men that were fleeing a house with loot they had stolen after having broken into that home.

At the end of the day criminal intent should count more than political connections and political correctness.
Apparently I'm in the minority on this.

Anonymous said...

Murray,

Seaton's blog has been removed, any Idea why? Given the timing, I imagine I has something to do with life after esq.

Clarence Darrow III said...

Uhm, just so you know, "reasonable cause" does not exist in the Texas Penal Code, nor in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. I asked Bennett just to make sure. He agreed with me. Probable cause is the standard of proof in grand juries. Beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard that the State has to meet to prove guilt to a trier of fact (judge or jury). Obviously, the District Attorney's office felt that the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard could not be met in this case. I know Craig, and he's an honorable and decent man. Those who don't know him, yet suddenly acquire a set of monstorous balls and impugn his character using the name "anonymous" as cover should go screw yourselves.

As for the differences between Joe Horn and Craig Washington, the lack of an indictment in the Horn case probably has something to do with the two "victims" (illegal, committing a felony, suspects in other similar cases") versus the two "victims" in the Washington case (young, not committing felonies at the time they were shot at). Those factors probably played more of a factor than the race of the defendants.

jigmeister said...

From what I understand, the outcome of Craig’s case was probably predictable; at least as to the general result being face saving by both Craig and the State, with no actual punishment.

Craig refused to talk to the police and declined an invitation to testify before the grand jury (I understand). That being the case, the grand jury acted on what information they had, the statements of the complainants and whatever evidence the police collected. Craig obviously balanced the chance that any statements he gave may have been used to inculpate rather than exculpate him in the eyes of the grand jury and ultimately in front of a jury. Sometimes it’s rather easy to see how a grand jury will react if one testifies, say in the Horn case. But sometimes, say when the motive or actions of the complainants’ is not clear, it may not be advisable to testify or provide statements.

So, coupled with the well deserved reputation Craig enjoys as a good, honest, and peaceful man, this result is understandable, though arguably not completely just.

Anonymous said...

10:14, you're a rocket scientist or brain surgeon, aren't you?

Anonymous said...

Seaton's blog was removed out of boredom, lack of interest, and a general feeling of ill will towards the blogosphere at the moment. Certain commenters and bloggers have deemed the net a place for spite and nothing more, and Seaton decided he didn't want to play anymore, even though his blog rarely had anything to do with criminal justice. It's simply not fun, and what else should it be?

Love,
Seaton's Proxy

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:42:
How about criminal intent by the parties shot at?
The boys shot at by Mr. Washington actually paid a 3rd party to park on his property. They were mislead by that individual to think they were legally allowed to be on Mr. Washington's property. As they fled in their car, bullets shattered their windshield at the hands of Mr. Washington.
Quite a different scenario with the 2 fellas shot by Joe Horne. They were fleeing with stolen property from a home they burglarized when shot and killed.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Olsen (a/k/a Brian Rogers), to be kind the cub reporter at the Houston Comical, recently reported in part: "the case was reviewed by several senior prosecutors and administrators who deemed the offer of pretrial diversion appropriate." Where was the D.A.'s off quoted publicist, her lackey, Donna Hawkins on this high profile news story espounding on what her boss thought? In the same repository (bomb shelter) as the elected District Attorney - seeking shelter from one more snafu by this once proud, and now perverted office to which she is rapadily driving into a swamp of ridicule (wait till the real journalists are through). Former District Attorneys - Walton, Vance, Holmes would have been up front and told the messenger from the Comical (and then a once good newspaper, the Houston Post, - much more erudite and less policical than the crap of the Comical) that the state's case sucked. It is clear, however, what sucks now - the utter absence of prosecutor discretion except to please the Comical. This case was a travesty - black or white is not relevant - a functional brain at the helm is.

Rage Judicata said...

Certain commenters and bloggers have deemed the net a place for spite and nothing more, and Seaton decided he didn't want to play anymore,

He was one of the most vitriolic jackasses here.

And, please please please please tell me he was too tender hearted to take comments from other posters on the internet. What a pansy ass moron he has to be in order to call people names and then run hime cryng because he was bummed out by a couple of posters.

Y'all still have money on a fight? All I'd have to do is talk mean to him, it looks like.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:21
Apparently you didn't get the memo, or rather, several of the preceeding posts to this one about (1) Donna Goode retiring some weeks ago from Harris County, and (2) Donna Goode becoming the First Assistant of the Galveston Co D.A.'s office.

I guess she wasn't holed up in a bunker after all.

Anonymous said...

9:21 You missed one former Harris County DA, Frank Briscoe. After Walton and before Vance.

Catalina Booth said...

Donna Goode is a different person from Donna Hawkins. Goode retired but then became First Assistant in Galveston and Hawkins is still at the HCDA.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to my dear Craig Washington.

Anonymous said...

For all of you out there that back and support Craig Washington, I promise you the two teens he shot at have just as many supporters. These two teens are just as honorable, respectfu, wonderful and kind people. They were not from the downtown area and certainly not accustom to being shot at. You all say he had the right to shoot at them simply because they parked in his lot...they park their before with no problems, so they thought it was ok to park there again. His gate was not closed, there were no legible signs saying no parking, as a matter of fact there was a sign on the side of the building, that said Parking in the rear. When the teens were confronted by Mr. Washington, he said "if you are going to pay anyone you are going to pay me" the teens then opted to leave and told Mr. Washington they would go find another area to park, they got in their cars to leave and Mr. Washington came downstairs, with a loaded gun,approched the teens driver side window, while they were in the car preparing to exit his parking lot, and pointed a gun at the drivers head screaming and cussing at them to roll their window down. They fled in fear of their lives and were shot at. I don't know about any of you but if a gun is pointed at my head I am not going to stick around to see if they are going to shoot or not and I don't know anyone that would. You may think he is a wonderful man, but when teens are leaving the property as they said they would, that does not give Mr. Washington the right to shoot at them. I only hope your kids are not shot at one day for simply parking in the wrong spot/lot, three of the four bullets hit the teens car - and had it not been for the hand of GOD coming between the bullets and the teens - this would be a much different case today. So what would you all be saying about this wonderful man then. I would like to think that some of you blogging about this man are somewhat intelligent but I worry about your intellect when you base you opinions on one side of a story, just because you think Washington is a nice guy. You hear about killers neighbors everyday saying what a nice guy they were, what a great neighbor. Your blogs just show the ignorance of people who are willing to judge not knowing the whole story. If you all knew the teens before you knew Washington I promise you would be standing up for them,saying how respectful, and honorable these young men are and what is that crazy man doing shooting at them. You would be judging Washington for the person he is.... a man that shot at two teens, and had no reason to do so, how honorable and kind is that? Sham on all of you.