Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Institutional Memory

I was having a conversation at the elevator bank today with my friend and fellow defense attorney, Todd Bennett, and our conversation turned to talking about Todd's father, Bob Bennett, who is a retired attorney. Back in the late 60s/early 70s, Todd's dad had been involved in one of Houston's most notorious murder cases that was detailed in Thomas Thompson's book Blood and Money. (NOTE: I'm not giving the details of the book, because I'm hoping you'll go actually read it yourself. It's a great book.)

But anyway, what Todd and I were talking about was the sad fact that a lot of lawyers around the CJC sometimes pass through that building and deal with prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges without ever realizing some of the amazing things these members of the Bar have done or been involved in. As time passes, the newer attorneys lose the institutional memory of some of the "Old Dogs" and the fascinating cases that they tried.

I think that's a shame.

So, in an effort to combat that, I'm recommending to you three books that you ought to read to learn more about the lawyers you interact with on a daily basis. I guarantee you that you will see some very familiar names and faces in them. Learn a little about the legal footsteps we're all following in and go talk to those folks about their cases.

God has yet to invent the lawyer that doesn't like telling War Stories, and they are always entertaining.

So, here's my list:

1. Blood and Money by Thomas Thomspon-this is a fantastic and well-written book about a murder in River Oaks. I don't want to give anything away on it, because it is extremely suspenseful.

2. The Cop Who Wouldn't Quit by Rick Nelson-also an outstanding book about former-HPD Homicide Sergeant and Harris County District Attorney's Office Investigator Johnny Bonds. I don't think this book is in print anymore, but you can still get a used copy off of If you can't find one, give me a call, and I'll loan you my copy. It's a great book and you'll learn why Johnny had such a great reputation as an investigator.

3. Daddy's Girl by Clifford Irving-this one was a big fan favorite at the D.A.'s Office because of a certain picture in the photo section of a prosecutor that we shall just refer to here as "Big Poppa". I first read Daddy's Girl when I was in college, because my friend and mentor, Gil Schultz, was one of the lead investigators on the case. His partner at the time was Sgt. Paul Motard, who is still with HPD Homicide. Those guys were my heroes. Hell, they still are. The case is also interesting because the lead prosecutor on the case was Rusty Hardin.

Okay, so there's my Top Three. If you've got some additional suggestions, let us know about them.


Michael said...

I can recommend "Blood and Money" as well. So far, it's the only one of these three books I have read. It refers to a "young up-and-coming criminal defense attorney, Richard DeGuerin". I guess we were all newbies once.

Anonymous said...

The current administration is not interested in institutional memory or knowledge. It has come to my attention, the younger attorneys are afraid to call an older attorney either in the office or out for insight or information about a case, law or attorney. Has someone told them they are not to call anyone except the "new" ADAs, Jim, Roger, John, Hanna, Steve, Clint.

Anonymous said...

LOVE #2...miss JB and his big booming laugh. Always brightened my day when I heard it or one of his stories.

Stephen Gustitis said...

Pretty cool Murray. I'll put these on my reading list.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Murder By Kroger --- This is a very interesting case about a Houston Lawyer

A Harris County Lawyer said...

I think it is actually called Luggage by Kroger. That's the only one I could find on amazon. Thanks for the tips.

skip said...

Losing Johnny Bonds was a great loss for the office.
I hope his retirement is as great as he is.
Good luck and God bless my old friend.

Anonymous said...

Murray, You are gonna hurt Uncle Mike's feelin's for not mentioning one of the books about the Dean Corll ("The Man with the Candy") or Ronald Clark O'Bryan ("The Halloween Killer").

-Eric M.-

Anonymous said...

It's bad luck to loan a book. You have to give it away, so make them go to Amazon.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Hey Eric,
I know Hinton prosecuted Ronald Clark O'Brien (AKA the Candyman), but I'm not familiar with a book devoted to it. The man ruined Halloween, so you would think there would be one, right?

There is a great book called "The Man with the Candy" about the Dean Corryl/Elmer Wayne Henley/David Brooks murders, but it didn't mention much about the courtroom aftermath. Jack Olsen wrote it. He also wrote "Cold Kill", which is another book about the subject matter in "Daddy's Girl". I know that Judge Shaver prosecuted Elmer Wayne Henley, but I didn't know if Hinton was involved in it.

Under the theory of "It's a Small World", the one and only death penalty capital that I ever tried (as second chair) had a juror that used to work with inmates in TDCJ and he actually worked with Elmer Wayne. He was a great juror and a very kind man. When I got my walking papers from the new administration, he was kind enough to call me with some words of encouragement. Those types of things you never forget.

Anonymous said...

Bob Coulson was tried and convicted of killing his mother, dad, 2 sisters,brother-in-law.sister was pregnant==A book ASHES TO ASHES was written about the trial which lasted 6 weeks and was a battle between Rosenthal and Barr vs Skelton and Pelton.

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed all of those books, especially the one about Bonds and his dedication. What an awesome cop!

Here's another great book, a novel, that you've never heard of. The Wake of a Lawyer by late Houston attorney Aubrey Holmes and published in

If you've been around at all, you'll see some of the personalities that still practice law in the characters of this book.

It should be a movie.

It's a bawdy 1950's Houston tale of a criminal defense attorney accused of murdering his wife. Philandering, drinking, drinking, drinking and lots of very cool mini lawyer stories. It was self-published, I believe, and my dad had a copy of it on his office book shelf forever. Aubrey was a friend of his.

Aubrey passed away a few years ago, but the well written story with the absolute surprise ending always gets me when I revisit it.

Trust me, I'm a lawyer. Read this book.

I'm glad to hear Bob is alive and hopefully enjoying his retirement. Helluva lawyer. He once appeared for a defendant on bond who didn't show. "That's it", he said, "I'll be withdrawing, Tex, because I have rules for my clients, especially when they want me to save them from themselves."

Pretty studly.


Anonymous said...

I have heard people raving about Allen Tanner's book. Does anyone know the title? Has anyone read it?

David said...

Allen Tanner's book is called Legal Vengeance.

Anonymous said...

Books? How's 'bout movies?
or maybe the real thing. You guys haven't been watching much Investigative TV, most all of these had books published as well:

Davis West/Kim Paris/Clyde Wilson Case

Texas Cheerleader Murder

HCSD Deputy Joseph Kent McGowen (murderer)

HCSD Sgt Michael Griffin- Murderer (executed)

On the other end of the spectrum:

The Smartest Guys in the Room,

I'm sure I left someone out....

Anonymous said...


The Man With the Candy, about the Dean Corl and Elmer Wayne Henley serial killing of teenage boys from the heights in the 1970s is a definite read for all interested in Houston crime history.


Arthur Seaton said...

I recommend Penthouse Letters, by Anonymous. It's a great read.

Anonymous said...


It is interesting that someone brought up the Dean Corll/Elmer Henley/David Brooks case. My wife lost a cousin and almost lost his little brother to these guys. Elmer Wayne was a family friend or so they thought and was at their home on many occasions. One day her cousin did not come home and was later id'd with all the other victims. He tried to get the younger brother but fortunately did not. It has haunted her family for all these years.

Think I will try to find the book on this case. Keep doing what you do cause you do it well.

From: The guy down the hall

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Thank you, as always, for your sage advice.

Guy Down the Hall,
The Man with the Candy by Jack Olsen is a very well-written and actually very frightening account about the Corryl/Henley/Brooks murders. It pretty much wraps up with the arrests at the end and doesn't delve much into the prosecution. It does paint a very vivid account of what Houston (especially the Heights) was like during that time period. I have a copy of it somewhere.

Gary Taylor said...

As the author of "Luggage By Kroger" previously mentioned, I wanted to elaborate a bit. Published in December, the book is a memoir of my near-deadly encounter in 1979-80 with notorious Harris County femme fatale Catherine Mehaffey Shelton and her two trials for my attempted murder. Bert Graham is a featured character as well as Jim Skelton, Will Gray, Don Stricklin and Jerry Carpenter. It has won three national true crime book awards this year. But it also includes a roundup of great cases from the 1970s when I covered the courts for The Houston Post. And I also recommend Nelson's "Cop Who Wouldn't Quit."

Gary Taylor

Anonymous said...

"Warrant to Kill" - Don Smyth & Ed Porter convict Joseph McGowen for murder after an on-duty shooting.

Anonymous said...

Jim Skelton defended David Owen Brooks, Katherine MeHaffey, and Bob Coulson. He is mentioned in at least 3 books. Not many lawyers can make that claim that 3 of their cases have been put into print. He is one of the top lawyers ever to practice in Harris County.Not a bad record for a cowboy from Channing Texas. His book on search and seizure is one of the best ever written.

Anonymous said...

Now you have to write a book titled, "The Dirty Cowboy". We know you are dying to blog.

Anonymous said...

Bert Graham tried lots of famous Houston cases. Catherine Shelton was one - the DA's now media guy - George Flynn - co-wrote this story about it.

Anonymous said...


I had no idea the Mehaffey story had been set down in a book. I thought she was only covered by the Houston Press every time she went crazy again. As a kid, I lived across the street when she started shooting in Montrose. She was nice... and ultimately frightening. I'll have to get a copy of the book.

davelaw said...

I would also add the Mimm's book Sleeping with the Devil-it has some interesting opinions as to why Mimm's never got indicted including the observation that the ADA assigned to the case at the time went to work for Mimm's lawyer afterwards