Friday, July 3, 2020

Newman & Chapell, PLLC

For those of you who haven't heard already, I'm beyond excited to announce that former Harris County Special Crimes Prosecutor and Felony District Court Chief, Cheryl Chapell, has agreed to join me in forming a partnership as Newman & Chapell, PLLC.



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.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

If I ever need representation, it will be a hard choice between your group and a few of the other rock stars that have moved on. You are definitely in the top 3. With all that said, it still saddens me that my colleagues continue to bring cases to the DA office and the talent pool just keeps diminishing. Before long, I think getting our butts handed to us in trial will become the norm rather than the exception. Best of luck Cheryl...

Anonymous said...

Cheryl was by far one of the best prosecutors at the office, regardless of seniority! She always did the right thing and she is talented because justice is was drives her. You made a really good move Murray!

Unknown said...

Murray
Congratulations on your new endeavors in the practice of law. I’m sure you will be greatly successful. I’m an old retired lawyer who has known your Mother and Father for a long time as well as you. I wish you the best.
Pat Stacy

Murray Newman said...

Mr. Stacy! I can't believe you read my blog post! Thank you for writing in. I think about you and Lunette and Pierce all the time. Growing up around you guys was the best!

Unknown said...

Congratulations to you both!