Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Right Reverend Still Retires

Sometimes it is difficult to write a Prosecutorial "Obituary" for my friends and former co-workers as they leave the D.A.'s Office.

And sometimes, it is very easy.

Friday marks the last day at the Harris County District Attorney's Office for my best friend, the Reverend John Craig Still of the Universal Life Church of Modesto, California, who will be departing the Office after 9 years of service. So, without further ado, here's his obit:

John Craig Still aka Flip Johnson will be departing his life as a Harris County Prosecutor on Friday, September 10, 2010. He will be moving on to a new life as a Criminal Defense Attorney effective Monday, September 13th.

Craig first joined the Office as a full-fledged prosecutor in the Spring/Summer of 2001, and I first met him when all of the D.A.'s Office had been relocated to 1319 Texas Avenue because the CJC had been decimated by Tropical Storm Allison. When I first met Craig, he didn't have a lot to say. Come to think of it, he still isn't particularly chatty.

It seems just like yesterday that Craig was trying one of his first cases in front of Judge Sherman Ross. When asked if the State was ready, he looked his chief right in the eye and asked: "Do you happen to have any Imodium?" I tried to label him with the nickname of "Imodium" after that, but fortunately for Craig, the name never stuck.

Once he recovered from his stomach issues, Craig grew into an extremely talented trial attorney. During his felony stint, he was able to master the difference between a duvet and a bidet while on the fly in trial, just in time to secure a conviction from a very confused jury.
Also during his stint in felony, he would achieve celebrity status as the Quilting Avenger, after aggressively prosecuting a man who had decided to wreak havoc on the quilting community by destroying a highly valued quilt at the Quilt Show at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Rumor has it, Craig can still get you a back stage pass to any quilting convention in the nation.

Craig sometimes angered the defendants he was prosecuting. In one particular case, he tried a defendant who practiced some sort of voodoo religion, and had to proceed with trial despite the fact that the defendant left a dead rooster's head in the courtroom.

He still has a picture of the rooster's head in his office.

But in all seriousness, as Craig's talent grew in the Office, he was called upon to handle more and more serious cases. He went to Child Abuse, and although the subject matter of the cases he handled bothered him tremendously, he excelled at the job and secured some excellent results against some people charged with doing very bad things.

His skills in trial also extended to other cases. I can recall being in court one day when a visibly rattled Vic Wisner came in. He was actually trying to keep from crying. When I asked him what was wrong with him (since I was unaware of the fact that Vic even had tears), he told me he had just seen Craig give one of the most amazing closing arguments on an Intoxication Manslaughter that he had ever seen.

Craig truly found his calling, however, when he was moved to the Special Crimes Division where he prosecuted white collar crime and major fraud cases. Although he didn't get to trial nearly as often, he found that working on complex "paper cases" were the exact thing he should be doing. He thoroughly enjoyed working under the leadership of John Brewer, and he would spend almost the next two years in the Division. Craig's methodical readings of bank records and mortgage papers coupled with his knowledge of the law meant that most cases he prepared were air-tight by trial time.

And that's why most defendants took a plea deal rather than face off against that kind of preparation.

Although he was excellent in the major fraud division, the Lykos Administration chose to move him to the 338th District Court as a Felony Chief when they took over, and he has served there for about a year or so now, I believe. As always, his reputation as a reasonable and well-prepared prosecutor has followed him.

So, on Monday, Craig will bring his considerable talents as a prosecutor to the Defense side. As I said about our friend Kristin Guiney, prosecutors are going to need to get themselves prepared if they see Craig Still sitting across counsel table from them. He's smart and he's good in trial.

Craig's, um, "wake" to celebrate his leaving from the Office will be held Friday, September 10th at the World-Famous Char Bar. We'll be starting up around 4:00 p.m. So come by to say "hello" and "goodbye" to Craig.

Craig leaves behind him at the Office his long-time companion, Ed McClees, and a son, Scott Pope.


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Man the life boats boys and girls the Lykos Express is going down faster than shit through a goose.

Anonymous said...

The citizens of Harris County do not realize the damage that is and has been done to the justice system by losing so many of the talented and experienced prosecutors.

Anonymous said...

The citizens of Harris County do not realize the damage that is and has been done to the justice system by losing a lot of the talented and experienced prosecutors.

Anonymous said...

We will miss you J. Craig Still! Best of luck to you.

EE

BLACK INK said...

Anon 2:43,

How will the citizens of Harris County ever come to realize the damage?

With great difficulty.
The media is reluctant to expose the corruption at the Harris County District Attorney's Office now that they have one of their own in charge.
Secondly, not enough folks to make a difference will be informed independently of local media without an organized well funded effort.

I am confident that a highly qualified and politically incorrect prosecutor will stand strong to the 2012 challenge of redemption.
The issue is whether or not the front line prosecutors will have his/her back or stand down as they did before......

Anonymous said...

Wow, the good new continues. Congratulations Craig. The citizens of Harris County have lost an outstanding prosecutor and the citizens of Harris County have gained what I predict will be an outstanding defense attorney. I remember having a long conversation with Craig and I was struck by his knowledge and insight of the case he was preparing for trial. Always pleasant, he seems to connect with his juries. All valuable assets. I am wishing you the best of luck but doubt you will need any.

Edward D. Porter

Anonymous said...

More announcements to follow. Mr. Still was a lifer and prosecution most certainly was his calling. Friday will be a very sad day for the office. He is a law and order man.

Anonymous said...

More announcements to follow. Mr. Still was a lifer and prosecution most certainly was his calling. Friday will be a very sad day for the office. He is a law and order man.

Anonymous said...

The media is reluctant to expose the corruption at the Harris County District Attorney's Office...

Corruption. You keep using that word. I do not think you know what it means.

Lykos needs to go for more than one reason, but corruption? That's not one of them. She's a terrible administrator with no clue how to run a large office and who chases her tail to get her name in the paper. That is not disputed by me. But show me this corruption you keep talking about. Show me some kickbacks, or back scratching with law enforcement.

Oh, wait. That's what we had with Holmes and Rosenthal, and their refusal to investigate the sheriff;s office, and refusal to admit tainted evidence from the crime labs...

The issue is whether or not the front line prosecutors will have his/her back or stand down as they did before......

You think a hand full of lawyers in the CJC will turn the election? We lawyers like to think we have an impact, but we're just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the electorate. What prosecutors do has nothing to do with it.


I see you're still posting anonymously. Out with it already. Do what Murray did and have the courage to put your name where your anonymous mouth is. Until then, you're just a blow hard with no guts.

Rage

BLACK INK said...

RAGE,

WEBSTER'S DEFINITION OF CORRUPTION:

1. a. impairment of integrity, virtue or moral principle
e.g. where does one begin?

b. decay, decomposition
e.g. have you seen Pat Lykos or the DA's office lately?

c. inducement to wrong by improper OR unlawful means
e.g. DIVERT, inter alia

d. a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct
e.g. I'm speechless

2. archaic
e.g. Res ipsa loquitur

RAGE'S DEFINITION OF CORRUPTION:

1. kickbacks
e.g. Leitner as 1st Ass. for being an election spoiler

2. scratching law enforcement's back
e.g. How can DA Pat Lykos explain her teaming up with the Houston Police Officers' defense teams in support of a protective order that hides the tape of an alleged HPD police brutality incident from the public?
1. Does the criminal defense bar really intimidate the Keystone Cops running the Harris County District Attorney's Office to that extent?
2. Perhaps Lykos does not appreciate the cultural differences between Houston and Los Angeles?
3. Could it be that Lykos' inexperienced crew is too afraid to try a high profile slam dunk case after the public videotape viewing?
4. The publicity of a public viewing would undoubtedly preempt a plea bargain.
Well whatever the case might be: "The Rule of Law", "Transparency", purging "The Culture of Corruption", etc. etc. is as meaningless to DA Pat Lykos' administration as it is to any other cartel.

**********************************

A unified District Attorney's office behind a qualified candidate is a viable means to quash the Harris County GOP/ Demoratic Party, "party over the people philosophy".

Regardless as to whether or not success is likely; some folks are compelled to engage the risk of standing up simply because it is the right thing to do.

Ironically, the United States Constitution that provides for your protection was drafted by men whose courage at the time you would have equally condemned.

Black Ink

Anonymous said...

some folks are compelled to engage the risk of standing up

I look forward to the time that you have the courage to stand up.

But we both know it'll never happen.

Rage

Anonymous said...

Simply put, Craig Still is one of the smartest people I know. He was truly becoming a "mini Ted Wilson." People in the office knew that Craig was never wrong on a legal issue. He was not afraid to say "I don't know," but he usually did. His knowledge of the law is met only by his keen judgment. This is a real loss to the office,and, more importantly, to the citizens. Good luck my friend.

Peter Justin said...

Well said, sorry to see him leave. Always a pleasure to deal with.