I first met Cheryl several years ago when she was a new Felony Three and she was completely thwarting my attempts to persuade her chief to dismiss one of my cases. Luckily, she ultimately moved into a different court and I was finally able to get the case dismissed.
A year or so later Cheryl had been promoted to Felony Two and she and I ended up trying what would be her first Murder case against each other. As you can imagine, Murder cases can often be very complicated cases to both prosecute and defend, and the stakes are very high. It can be an extremely stressful experience if you are new to it.
But it never appeared to be stressful to Cheryl. She was great to work with during the weeks leading up to trial. She went above and beyond to make sure she had done everything she needed to in order to be ready. She was professional and helpful in making sure that I had all the discovery available on the case. She was ethical and above-board throughout.
When it came time to try the case, she didn't seem like a new Felony Two trying her first murder. She was confident and in charge of her case. She tried it strategically. The jury loved her. She tried the case like an experienced Chief, far more skilled than any other prosecutor at her level.
And she was great to try a case against. In stressful trials like Murders, it is very easy for the prosecutor and defense attorney to quickly get under each other's skin and end up ready to kill each other. That wasn't the case with Cheryl, though. She remained confident and pleasant throughout. At the end of her closing argument, I was certain that my client was going to be convicted.
It was a tough set of facts though, and I had a lot to work with. The case ended in a hung jury.
When the case was over, I was a big fan of Cheryl's. As it turned out, pretty much every defense attorney I know that tried a case against her ended up being a big fan -- even when she whipped their butts in trial. She quickly became a prosecutor within the District Attorney's Office whose reputation preceded her as one of the Office's most talented and formidable trial lawyers.
A year and a half ago, I had another case against Cheryl (and her co-counsel, Josh Raygor) that was a little less debatable than the Murder we had tried against each other before. She was polite, friendly, courteous . . . and she beat my ass up one side of the courtroom and down the other. The only saving grace that I was able to take away from the case was that the jury deliberated over a day before returning a guilty verdict.
Last summer, I began thinking of expanding my law practice, which was a big move for me after having been a solo practitioner since leaving the D.A.'s Office at the end of 2008. There were a lot of things to consider. I thought about hiring a younger associate but ultimately decided against that. I wanted to work with somebody that I didn't have to teach. I wanted a partner -- somebody that I knew could do the job and I would never have to worry about. I knew that I wanted a hardworking, kick-ass trial lawyer who could, at least, loosely tolerate working with a slightly obnoxious partner.
There was only one name that came to mind.
So, I met with Cheryl last summer and tried to recruit her to be my law partner. I made her the best pitch I could possibly muster.
Unfortunately, she wasn't ready to leave the Office at that time. She didn't turn down the offer, but she wanted to give it another year or so before even thinking of leaving a job that she loved and was good at. We put the discussion of partnership on hold until mid-2021.
But then, Kim Ogg happened.
As I wrote in March, our elected District Attorney spent the early days of the COVID pandemic initiating a witch hunt into determining which prosecutors had received a text message deemed to be embarrassing by Ogg. Cheryl was one of seven prosecutors who had received the unsolicited text message and had not forwarded it to anyone. Despite this, she and the other prosecutors were interrogated, temporarily stripped of their county computers, and were asked to turn over their personal cell phones as proof of their loyalty.
Cheryl refused to turn over her personal phone, as did the others. As a result, she received a disciplinary letter in her personnel file. Michael Hardy wrote this article in Texas Monthly about the entire embarrassing ordeal.
Cheryl had had enough. Last week, she dropped her letter of resignation to Ogg and sent a corresponding All Prosecutors e-mail that you might have heard about. Harris County lost one of its very best prosecutors and I gained a law partner a year earlier than I thought I would.
I suppose I owe Kim Ogg a thank you note.
I could not possibly be happier to have Cheryl Chapell as my new law partner. I'm especially glad that this pretty much guarantees that she won't be beating me up in trial anymore. As Newman & Chapell, we both look forward to the future of representing our clients in Harris County and across the State of Texas.