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.