Friday, April 28, 2017

Racehorse Haynes

Richard "Racehorse" Haynes passed away this morning.  In today's world, the term "Legend" is thrown around a little too often for my taste, but it was a term that couldn't be more appropriate in describing Mr. Haynes.    For anyone who has had even a passing interest in Texas Criminal Law over the past sixty years, his name was synonymous with, quite simply, being regarded as the Greatest Criminal Defense Attorney. Period.

Basketball had Michael Jordan.  Texas Law had Racehorse Haynes.

When I was in Junior High up in Bryan, a friend of mine's father died, and his wealthy family ended up in a huge legal battle over his estate.  When my friend's mother hired Racehorse Haynes, it was the talk of the town.  You would have thought that Abraham Lincoln was coming to argue a case.  If I recall correctly, the case settled relatively quickly after Mr. Haynes' signing onto the case.

It wasn't until much later that it occurred to me that Mr. Haynes wasn't really known for his experience in Probate and Will cases.  I suppose his reputation was all the case actually needed.

His trials across the state were legendary, and he was legendary for winning them.  If you haven't read Blood and Money or any of the literature on the Cullen Davis trial, you are truly missing out on understanding the legal system and traditions in Texas.

I can't say that I ever really got to know Mr. Haynes.  Although he continued practicing law in the CJC right up until a few years ago, we never had anything together.  I would see him in court and on the elevators from time to time, and it always felt like a celebrity sighting.  He was a relatively short man, who was pretty quiet.   If you didn't know who he was when you saw him, you would never guess that you were in the presence of a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima, or Texas' most famous trial lawyer.

I have often said that the greatest thing about working as a criminal lawyer in Harris County, Texas is that you get to walk amongst Giants.  Our prosecutors, our defense attorneys, our crimes, and our stories are simply the best.

Racehorse Haynes was the indisputable King of those Giants.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Episode Three: Revenge of the Fifth (Amendment) -- A One Act Sci-Fi Play

SCENE:  The Death Star orbits over Downtown Houston.  [Interior]  A galactic conference room for a Tuesday Show & Tell Meeting.  EMPRESS OGG sits at the head of the table, as the rest of her Imperial Officers sit to the sides.

EMPRESS OGG:  Tell me, Vice Admiral Berg, where do we stand on our budget?

VICE ADMIRAL BERG:  Well, Empress, after farming out the Goforth case, we took another big hit on the budget.  With that and the Irsan case in Planet 184, we've had to outsource two death capitals.  There's a possibility that the tab on the two cases could reach well over a million dollars.

EMPRESS OGG:  A million?!  Mother of Yoda!!

VICE ADMIRAL BERG:  Yes, the numbers are concerning.  We may need to downsize your Imperial Guard.

EMPRESS OGG:  By how many?

VICE ADMIRAL BERG:  Well, um, like all of them?

EMPRESS OGG:  Unacceptable.  There must be another option.

CORPORAL LEITNER:  We could stop recusing ourselves off of death capital cases.

EMPRESS OGG:  That would cause a disturbance in the Soros.

CORPORAL LEITNER:  You mean the Force?

EMPRESS OGG:  No, I mean Soros.  George Soros.  Guy gave me a TON of money!  What we need is a good, high profile case, that I, the Imperial Empress Attorney can personally try, so that the good people of Houston will know that sometimes we keep cases.

LIEUTENANT MITCHAM:  Well, we do actually have a case you might like.  I see that beloved Houston Rockets point guard, James Harden, was robbed at the Toyota Center.

EMPRESS OGG:  Hot damn!  I'm all over it.  Call Jar Jar in here for a press conference.  Do we have a suspect?

LIEUTENANT MITCHAM:  Um, looks like the suspect is J.J. Watt.

EMPRESS OGG:  Nope.  Get me my "Recusal" stamp.

CORPORAL LEITNER:  What are the grounds for recusal?

EMPRESS OGG:  My cousin's neighbor met J.J. once.  Got to avoid that appearance of impropriety, ya know.  No special treatment around this place.  No sirree, Bob.

VICE ADMIRAL BERG:  On to the next order of business . . .

EMPRESS OGG:  Yes, I'd like for you all to extend a warm Oggnacious welcome to our newest employee, community liason, David Temple.


DAVID TEMPLE:  Howdy, y'all.

EMPRESS OGG:  David comes highly recommended by Jabba Denholm and Boba Clappart.

LIEUTENANT MITCHAM:  Doesn't he still have murder charges pending?

EMPRESS OGG:  For just a little bit longer.

LIEUTENANT MITCHAM:  So, are we recusing the Office now?

EMPRESS OGG:  No.  Why do you ask?


VICE ADMIRAL BERG:  So, on another topic, apparently we've made Viceroy Kubosh angry over this whole Murder for Hire case where the newspaper revealed he was our Informant.

EMPRESS OGG:  How did the newspaper know?  Tom, I thought we agreed you weren't to speak to the Press again after the whole Buzbee Debacle.

VICE ADMIRAL BERG:  It wasn't me, this time.

EMPRESS OGG:  Then what happened?

LIEUTENANT MITCHAM:  Kubosh's name was in the Probable Cause warrant for the arrest.

EMPRESS OGG:  Why was his name put in the warrant?

JABBA DENHOLM:  No way around it.  Gotta put that confidential informant's name in the old warrant-roosky.  Says right there in Penal Code section something or other.

LIEUTENANT MITCHAM:  Actually, you never put a confidential informant's name in a warrant.  That's why they are called "confidential."


LIEUTENANT MITCHAM:  We draft narcotics warrants all the time where we protect confidential informant names.  It is standard practice.

JABBA DENHOLM:  Agree to disagree.  Hey, Jimbo, are you going to finish that breakfast taco?

CORPORAL LEITNER tries to protect the remains of his breakfast taco, only to have DAVID TEMPLE snatch it out of his hand and give it to JABBA.

TEMPLE:  Interception!!

JABBA DENHOLM:  Thanks, buddy.

TEMPLE:  I owe you huge, bro.

JABBA and TEMPLE high five.

EMPRESS OGG:  From now on, no more putting confidential informants' names in warrants so the press can read them.  I'm very disappointed in you, Denholm.  Corporal Leitner, write up a memo detailing Jabba's transgressions and put it in his file.

JABBA DENHOLM:  Oh come on!  How was I supposed to know this?

LIEUTENANT MITCHAM:  Are you sure that you're a lawyer?

JABBA DENHOLM:  Screw you, C3P0.

CAPTAIN KING:  Don't worry, Jabba.  I'll re-write the memo and tone it down so much that it won't even seem like a complaint was ever even filed.

JABBA DENHOLM:  Thanks, Vivian.

EMPRESS OGG:  Okay, good meeting everyone.  We are adjourned.  And remember, what do we say if anyone ever asks us about what we talk about here?

STAFF (IN UNISON):  We plead the Fifth!

EMPRESS OGG:  Excellent.  Dismissed.

CORPORAL LEITNER:  Sigh.  This is just like the Lykos Death Star.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Kim Ogg's Ever-Shifting Standards for Recusal

The Houston Chronicle had a "breaking story" today that the Harris County District Attorney's Office under Kim Ogg was recusing itself from the ultra-high publicity capital murder trial of Shannon Miles for the murder of Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth.  Although the story may have been "breaking" news to the intrepid reporters of the Chronicle, the recusal was old news around the CJC and had been mentioned a couple of times here on the blog (in the comments).

The reason for the recusal was because Chief of Staff, Vivian King, had previously represented one or more witnesses involved in the case, including Miles' mother.

That's a relatively removed relationship to the case for Ogg to pull the plug, especially in comparison to her steadfast refusal to recuse the Office from the David Temple case.  The logic to recuse the Office from a case because a staff member represented a potential witness on the case versus not recusing the Office when a staff member represented the actual freaking defendant defies logic.

However, Kim Ogg's ever-shifting standards do make sense, I suppose, if you look at them from her political based motivations.  She took half a million dollars from liberal financier George Soros, and he's not a fan of the death penalty.  However, Shannon Miles is accused of executing a uniformed Harris County Deputy at point blank range.  In any other jurisdiction, the elected D.A. would be chomping at the bit to announce "The State is ready." in front of a jury.  The public would and should expect that, and I guarantee you that the police expect it, as well.

From a political standpoint, Ogg finds herself between a rock and a hard place.

Therefore, it is small wonder that she played the legal equivalent of Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon while trying to find a way to weasel out of the case.  

The decision to recuse the Office from Goforth/Miles case probably is the right decision in the big scheme of things.  However, as I've noted before the appearance of impropriety in all criminal cases . . .

. . . Not just the ones that Kim Ogg finds are too politically hot to touch.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Clint Greenwood

Like most of you, I was completely dumbfounded to learn about the murder of Clint Greenwood this morning.

Although he and I were not friends, my heart and my sympathy goes out to his family, friends and co-workers.  His death was an act of extreme cowardice and I pray for swift justice for all of those who had anything to do with causing it.

In better days, I always thought Clint was hysterical and wildly entertaining.  He had a larger-than-life personality and was very loved by very many at the CJC.  He leaves an enduring legacy there and he will be remembered.

Episode Seven: The Voters Awaken - A One Act -Sci-Fi Play

SCENE:  The Death Star orbits over Downtown Houston. [INTERIOR] The Imperial Council Chambers. EMPRESS OGG sits at the head of a long table ...