Tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., members of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers' Association will gather in front the Criminal Justice Center and take turns reading portions of the Declaration of Independence in observance of Independence Day.
It was an occasion started by HCCLA two years ago, and one that is quickly spreading across criminal courthouses around the country. For the first time tomorrow, I will be one of the readers, and I couldn't be more honored to participate.
I suppose to the average cynic (which I think that many of us who practice criminal law are pre-disposed to be) the event may seem a little hokey and idyllic in front of a building that hears the cases of some of the worst miscreants that Harris County has to offer. After all, the signers of the Declaration probably had no concept of the heavily tattooed and pierced misbegotten members of the community that walk in and out of the front door of the building charged with atrocities that would make Ghengis Khan blush.
But it isn't hokey. It isn't hokey at all.
It is never hokey to take a moment to remember that the principles our Nation was founded upon mean as much to us today as they did almost a quarter of a century ago. Despite how much the facts of the cases may change, the principles remain the same.
One of the readers tomorrow will be Richard "Racehorse" Haynes. He will be reading second -- right after HCCLA President Chris Tritico.
Mr. Haynes commands a lot of respect in the Criminal Defense community. He is a living legend.
Long before Dick DeGuerin, Rusty Hardin, F. Lee Bailey, or Alan Dershowitz translated being a criminal lawyer into being a celebrity, you had Mr. Haynes.
He is, without a doubt, the Godfather of Harris County and Texas Criminal Defense Attorneys, if not Defense Attorneys across the country.
His work on some of Texas' most notorious cases -- from the Blood & Money defense of Dr. John Hill to the astounding acquittal of Cullen Davis -- have earned him a solid place in the history of criminal law.
But that isn't why I'm so honored to be reading alongside Racehorse Haynes tomorrow.
In 1945, Racehorse Haynes was part of the United States Marine Force who fought at Iwo Jima.
He was 17 years old at the time.
No matter how cynical you are, how could you not possibly be moved by hearing the words of the Declaration of Independence coming from someone who fought at Iwo Jima?
The implications of him reading those words on the front steps of our criminal courthouse could not be more simple nor more complex.
I've been reading about Racehorse Haynes since I was in Junior High. I've watched him work since I first became a prosecutor. I've marveled at his skills as a litigator. In many instances, I've wondered how in the hell he got the results he got.
But at the end of the day, I've always held him in the highest esteem.
Not for what he did in a courtroom . . .
. . . but for what he did on a Pacific Island during World War II in 1945.
Even if you find the idea of watching a group of defense attorneys read the Declaration of Independence not to be worth your time, hearing those words from a World War II veteran is something that you should be proud to tell your family about on every Independence Day for years to come.