Monday, May 14, 2018

James Dyer

I was very saddened to learn yesterday of the passing of my friend and longtime criminal defense attorney, James Dyer.  I knew that he had suffered through some health issues fairly recently, but he was still up and covering dockets as recently as last week.  He was a kind man, and I probably learned one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned from him during my time as a young prosecutor.

I wrote about it in this post.  It's a long post, and I think I was having (yet another) blog spat with my friend, Mark Bennett, as well as arguing with that Rage Judicata guy that used to be around the blog (wonder whatever happened to that guy).

Anyway, I was lamenting the lack of collegiality within the criminal law profession, and I cited a moment from early on in my prosecutorial career.
Of course on both sides of the Bar, there are always going to be examples of those who have somehow abandoned the idea of collegiality and replaced it with bravado, arrogance, and often, rudeness. Some prosecutors do it. Some defense attorneys do it. Hell, even some judges do it, I suppose. 
It has been my experience that those members of the legal profession often exhibit rude behavior in their younger and less-experienced years. When you've gone to trial and you've both won and lost many tough cases, you don't really have the need for bravado. You are comfortable in what you've accomplished and you don't really feel the need to go around puffing or treating your opposition like crap just to make yourself feel better. 
I would like to think that by the end of my career as a prosecutor that I was known for treating everyone with respect, but I know that in my younger years as a prosecutor I could be quite a tool. I remember the day I realized what a tool I was being. 
I was giving James Dyer (whom I still fondly refer to as "Chewbacca") a mean-spirited and rude speech. I don't remember what it was about or why I felt my rant was necessary, but I remember what he said to me. He looked at me, sadly, and said "I don't know what I did to make you so mad at me, but whatever it was, I'm sorry." 
I felt like a bully and jerk (which I was). There wasn't any need for it, and in his understated way, Mr. Dyer pointed that out to me. If there was ever any "turning point" in my career and who I wanted to be as a prosecutor or a criminal lawyer, in general, that's the moment I can point to.
After I wrote that post, word trickled back to Mr. Dyer that I had written it, and it apparently made him very happy.  Whenever I would see him around the courthouse, he'd put his arm around my neck and tell whoever was standing nearby: "This guy wrote something nice about me once!  I keep waiting for him to do it again!"

We were always friends after that.  He always seemed to be upbeat and happy when I saw him.  He talked about his family quite a bit.  He always had a joke that was usually the epitome of a "Dad Joke."  If the joke bombed, he just started a new one.  Mr. Dyer always wanted to leave you laughing.

He had a great sense of humor about himself, too.  Back in the days of when Todd Dupont and I were hosting Reasonable Doubt on behalf of HCCLA, Todd went through a lengthy period of time without shaving.  I asked Mr. Dyer if he would help me do a quick video clip, making fun of Todd for his unkempt beard.

Mr. Dyer happily complied.  (NOTE: The video is so old that I can't figure out how to download it and migrate it over to this post.  It's a little slow to load, but check it out.)

Mr. Dyer was a courthouse staple and I will miss seeing him there.  I'll miss his sense of humor and cheeriness.

And I will never forget the lesson he taught me when I was a young, hotheaded prosecutor.

For that lesson, I'm profoundly grateful.

Rest in Peace, my friend.


Rage Judicata said...

He's around.

Anonymous said...

Dyer was an honorable adversary. This is perhaps one of your best posts, Murr. I would recommend everyone read it. After all, we're not long on this earth and our legacy is determined more about how we treat one another than anything else.

Anonymous said...

He was one of my favorites at the courthouse. Always ready with a kind word. I saw him at Treebeards maybe a month ago. Didn't realize his health was that precarious. He will be missed.
Shirley Cornelius

Unknown said...

If Mr. Dyer had a bad side I couldn't find it. He was always a pleasure to see. We could use more of what he had.

Toby Devine said...

James was one of the best. Truly a kind man and gentelmen. God speed my friend

Anonymous said...

Yet another of our contemporaries leaves us,, as has been happening lately with depressing frequency. I vividly remember the first time I met James Dyer. It was in 1985 and I was Chief Prosecutor in the 248th District Court. James and his law partner Joe Libby were trying a cocaine possession case against my Number Three, Kathy Giannaula and I was sitting second with her. Their client was a crazy Cuban who was ultra hyper and sniffled continuously during the trial. Mike Anderson, who was my Number Two at the time was in the courtroom as well and for some reason began doing little things (like comments) to needle the defendant. The defendant finally looked straight at Mike and gave him a forefinger across the throat gesture, in front of the jury. James retained his cool and as I recall the case resulted in a hung jury. Mike nicknamed James and Joe 'The Luden Brothers" in reference to the bearded gentlemen on the box of cough drops (I think Mike got his cough drops confused and meant "Smith Brothers") Joe Libby had a 1957 Chrysler New Yorker and I used to often see him and James driving that land yacht down here in my Fort Bend County neighborhood. Ever since James has always had a smile and kind words for me. I never heard James say an unkind word about anyone. He definitely was what many here described, a kind man. You will be missed James.
Sid Crowley

Elizabeth said...

Murray, thank you for this post. Whether you knew him inside the courtroom or out, my father had a way of leaving an impression of kindness and humor you weren't likely to forget, and this post embodies that.

David LaVallee said...

Dear Elizabeth, I grew up with your Dad in Winthrop, Maine. As our lives separated after high school, I often thought of your Dad. Reading Counselor Murray's, and your, words above brought both tears and a smile to my face. I can honestly say that the young man I knew had not changed one iota in his adult life. Bringing a smile to everyone, promoting friendships and teaching honesty and fairness to all Jim met. Please accept my sincerest condolences to all for your loss. David LaVallee

David LaVallee said...

Dear Elizabeth, your father and I grew up together in Winthrop, Maine. Reading Mr. Murray's, and your, words above brought both tears and smiles to me. I would like to say that it is wonderful to me that the young man I knew so many years ago hadn't changed one iota during his adult years. Bringing a smile, activating new friendships and striving for honesty and fairness were just some of the traits I remember from our friendship. Please accept my sincerest condolences for your loss. David LaVallee

Andrew Williams said...

Sid, I was covering the criminal courts for the Post then. Mike was the master of needling the other side. A few years later, when I went to law school, I wound up sitting with Joe Bailey when he tried his first case after leaving the DA's office. Just before jury selection, Mike leaned over to Joe and said, "Your client looks just like a wood rat. You tell him if we find gnaw marks on that counsel table, we're filing on him for malicious mischief." You're not supposed to laugh as the jury panel comes in, but who could help it after that?

Paul Bentley said...

As a bailiff at Houston Municipal Court I didn't get to interact with Jim much, but recently we had started exchanging pleasantries in passing. He definitely seemed to be a nice light-hearted man. My condolences to his friends and family.

Emily K. Dyer said...

Thank you so much for this post, it only reiterates the man I knew as my Father...always consistent in kindness and ready to help someone in need. It was an amlost impossibility to not leave with a smile after interacting with him. I will miss him dearly and I know the many who had the pleasure of knowing him will as well.

Mary Ybarra-Sorola said...

Extending my sincere condolences to you, Elizabeth, on the passing of your father. I was sitting with Joe Libby at the funeral, but only knew Brodie & Emily. I knew your father & Joe Libby through their dear friend, Joe G. Alaniz (Shadow), since the 70's.May God give you and all with heavy, saddened hearts, the peace & comfort only He can provide.

Mary Ybarra-Sorola said...

Good-bye to a friend of over 40 years. May the peace and comfort of the Lord be upon you all.

John Collins said...

Andy I remember you! And yes, that was Mike! Lol