It was a bittersweet moment this week as judges, prosecutors and members of the defense bar gathered to say goodbye and happy retirement to longtime defense attorney and friend Ricardo Rodriguez.
Ricardo has been a fixture of the Harris County Criminal Justice world for decades and was a courtroom gladiator on many notorious capital murder cases. Tall and lanky with his signature mustache, Ricardo was someone I had seen around the courthouse for years before I actually met him in person when I was a brand new Felony Two in Judge Ted Poe's court in 2002.
I didn't know my ass from a hole in the ground and I was initially extremely nervous to be in Judge Poe's court. I was uncharacteristically quiet at first -- something that Ricardo initially interpreted as me being either stuck up or painfully shy. He made it his personal project to get me to loosen up and we became very good friends. I learned about his service in the Army in Vietnam and about his family in Laredo. We both shared a love of crawfish and would get together from time to time to go eat some mudbugs.
I tried my first murder case against Ricardo while in Poe's court and learned he was a formidable opponent who defended a tough case with honor and painstaking attention to detail. I've never worked so hard in my life to get a Judgment and Sentence admitted into evidence. I've always been proud to say that I tried my first murder case in front of Judge Poe, but I'm equally proud to say I tried it against Ricardo.
My rotation in Judge Poe's court was shorter than I would have liked -- I was only in there for three or four months before getting moved to another court -- but it was easily some of the most memorable and enjoyable time I spent during my tenure at the Office. It is hard to believe that was over fifteen years ago.
I'm very happy that my dear friend is taking his well-deserved retirement, but I'm sad that he's moving off to Laredo to enjoy it. I will miss him. I've always said that the best thing about working within the Harris County Criminal Justice System is the opportunity to walk amongst giants.
Ricardo Rodriguez was definitely one of those.