Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Overcoming Tough Issues in Trial, Our Story

January 6, 2012

Our Story-One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The story has already been told in jury selection and opening statement. And really, the jurors already know what they will do or at least know what they want to do. Now, I just need to tell it again in cross examination and in direct with Carolynn. This was a case about a young girl who was drinking and driving in the middle of a war, a case about a girl who trusted a machine to tell the truth. Tim Evans told us at Rusty Duncan and few years ago about how practicing law has changed over the years. Apparently, lawyers didn’t have to deal with all the wars years ago. This war on drinking and driving is unfair to the people because in war innocent civilians are sometimes injured or killed. To win consistently, we need themes, theories, power statements, and our story. One size doesn’t fit all though.

Carolynn’s story didn’t just come to me on the morning of trial. You’ve heard them say, “C’mon, it is just a DWI case”. No, Carolynn’s story and her case, like a fingerprint, is different than any other DWI you’ve seen. While there can be similarities, Carolynn’s story includes her life experiences, up to the time she walked in my office. It includes what she has been through and what she is going through in her life. We’ve got to spend many hours outside the courtroom to get to know our clients and their stories and the issues that concern us about their case. The concerning issues are key in jury selection. I begin making my list when I meet clients for the first time.

If someone can tell you what happened, they can also show you. By using psychodrama techniques, Carolynn can show us scenes from her life and from the day of her arrest. Through this process, we get to know and care about our clients. We are able to find the “bad guy” that Dan Hurley has told us about. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a particular person; it can be society, the government, or anything. We learn how the propaganda war may have affected Carolynn. She felt guilty about drinking and driving and being arrested. We see what really happened after the video was turned off. We see that she is telling the truth about the Trooper not being in her presence for 15 minutes prior to the test. Also, her memory of the events in the jail, are relevant to her mental and physical faculties. We are able to see the inside of the jail. We see the colors, we hear the sounds, and we can smell it. “We” is everyone in the courtroom. If we don’t care about our clients, why would a jury? If we don’t know our client’s story, how can we tell it?

The worst thing we can do in a trial is to bore the jury. From time to time, I entertain the possibility of becoming a judge one day. I quickly change my mind after thinking about being trapped up there on the thrown every day. Usually we don’t realize it or care about being boring because we are too busy asking our next great question. I understand that none of us will ever be David Guinn funny, but that is alright because we have to be ourselves to be genuine. We can only dream about the possibility. I’ve learned over the years, and still have to constantly remind myself, not to fight with the witnesses. Again, I have to resist the urge to lose control of myself. I make my points and move on. Since I knew the issues in this case, I didn’t waste time arguing about the angle of the stimulus and the speed in which it passed and other irrelevant matters. I tell my story in cross knowing that the witness’s answer will often be disagreeable. Sit in the Trooper’s shoes and feel what it is like to be in his position. What is behind the standard testimony that comes out so freely on direct examination by the prosecutor? What is true about him that he doesn’t want to admit or say?

I didn’t want to fight with the technical supervisor or show him how smart I was either. When we fight with the state’s experts, we will lose with the jury even if we win a point or two in the process. I simply got what I needed that was relevant to win this case and got out.

Closing and Conclusion

If the case isn’t won by closing argument, it’s probably too late, but I believe it certainly can be lost there. It is again time to give the control to the jury. We give them the power and reason to help our clients. It isn’t really about Carolynn anyway, it is about the jury. How can their decision help Carolynn and them at the same time? Maybe they don’t want the “bad guy” to get them or their family. Maybe they don’t like betrayal. After a few days in trial, the jury found Carolynn Not Guilty of DWI despite strong breath test evidence. Several of the jurors wanted to hug her. Why? You could call it love, but they cared about her.

The jury changed when I gave up my control and shared a part of me. By being genuine and acknowledging them and their beliefs, we became a group for justice.

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Police will not renew support of Harris County DA Lykos

December 3, 2011

Police will not renew support of Harris County DA Lykos.

I want to share some Kelly Case with you. We need more lawyers like him. Government saying “Trust us” shouldn’t be good enough to brand us.

Justice Does Not Always Come For All

November 25, 2011

Justice does not always come for all.  Maybe justice just takes time.  A jury convicted Judge Suzanne Wooten of bribery last Friday and I believe wrongfully.  This was a trial involving politics and the constant struggle for power.  

“Mr.” John R. Roach, Sr. probably didn’t appreciate the fact that Suzanne ran against and beat incumbent, Charles Sandoval.  Everyone involved in Collin County politics knew that while, John Roach, Sr. was in charge, “if you fight, he will indict”  (from my friend Montgomery).  Mr. Roach enjoyed instilling fear in everyone.  I feel sorry for his wife and family because I don’t think you can turn off the need for power when you go home.   It tells you a lot about the man, when he insists on being called “Judge” by his friends at informal settings and by his employees after he left the bench to become the District Attorney.  Judge Suzanne Wooten was just one of his many targets.   Fortunately, his efforts to prevent Judge Greg Willis from becoming the Collin County District Attorney were unsuccessful.   Greg will bring back some respect and integrity to our County.  Greg doesn’t need to demand respect.  He gets it because we want to give it.  We got lucky this time folks.   The John Roach, Sr. and Charles Sandoval’s will be back.  Who will be left to fight?  Who will have Suzanne’s guts and courage?

Charles Sandoval should never have been a judge anywhere.  He was and is, in my opinion, a very bad lawyer and judge.  Yet, the people, through our partisan politics, voted him into office.  He was the kind of judge, like many others, who would more than likely make you pay if you did not support him.  Suzanne knew the probable consequences when she decided to run against him.  She was given money by people who had been the recipients of his authority and wanted him out.  Many lawyers would not support Suzanne publicly for fear of retaliation by Sandoval if she lost the election.  Suzanne had the courage to take on the bully and beat him soundly in his bid for reelection.  Since the controversial donor to her campaign had a case pending in her court, she had a visiting judge hear his case to avoid any conflict of interest.  Now, think about all the donations given to campaigns from law firms, PACs, etc.   Why do they do it?  Do they enjoy giving money away?  Where is their Indictment?   Suzanne wasn’t bribed by anyone.  She did what most of us didn’t have the courage to do. 

As my good friend, Matt, put it, “A judge is now a convicted felon.  Suzanne will be disbarred, her law license and a lifetime of work is taken away in the blink of an eye.  An assistant attorney general will receive a hero’s welcome upon his arrival back to Austin.  The public will undoubtedly rejoice in the downfall and destruction of a lawyer.  An awful day for our profession…”  Is that how we are supposed to treat others?  I believe the prosecution violated their duty.  Their primary duty is not to convict, but to see that justice is done.  How does the Golden Rule fit in with all of this?  Is it really justice to ruin Judge Suzanne Wooten’s life?   I don’t think so. 

The assistant attorney general, John Roach, Sr., Chris Milner, Greg Davis and anyone else who had a part in this prosecution ought to be ashamed, not proud.  Judge Suzanne Wooten is the hero. 

I thank Judge Suzanne Wooten for standing up to a bad judge and the self-proclaimed Daddy of Collin County, Mr. John Roach, Sr.  I thank her for showing us what it means to be courageous.  This fight for justice is never ending.  Sometimes, we feel defeated, but we sleep and get up to fight some more.   I hope Suzanne will get back up and keep fighting in her journey.   I pray for peace for Suzanne and her family.   

Note- while I’m here:

 There has to be a better way to select our judges.  Although we’ve been fortunate lately (for the most part) in Collin County, partisan politics causes people to support and vote blindly.  It isn’t about getting the best person for public office; it is about picking teams and trying to win.  It is merely a game and unfortunately, most voters are simply, uninformed or affected by the propaganda that is constantly pushed in our faces.  The people that are starved for power will do what it takes and play the silly games to get what they desire.  If our local group of lawyers were to anonymously choose lawyers, who would be great judges, the list would include lawyers who would never choose to run because they would have to bite their tongues and maybe even lie to satisfy the “right” thinking, gullible individuals.   The list would surely exclude some judges currently sitting in our courts. 

The more I think and write about this, the more I blame myself for not having Suzanne’s courage years ago.  We humans are weak, scared, and selfish at times.  Doing the right thing is not always easy and usually involves risk.   I wish I had all the answers.  This world is not, and will never be, perfect.

The Feeling of Futility

October 25, 2010

Getting some of that “Justice” in Collin County, Texas, under the John R. Roach Regime, and before that under Tom O’Connell can sometimes get a man down. Judge Wooten is saying, “Man?” I don’t want to be, or appear negative, just honest about what’s been happening here. Just know that I’m smiling as I type this out. I can blame it on a lot of things; initially politics comes to mind, but the reality is, that it is deeper than that. One would really have to work very hard on one’s self to find the answer. We can look at a piece of the puzzle though. Most police officers and prosecutors that we produce here in America have a skewed definition of Justice. I say America even though Collin County, Texas is what I really know. The duty “to see that justice is done” means nothing. Put you in the shoes of the types of police officers and prosecutors we produce now.

Look down at your clothing and in the mirror. What do you see? Shiny wingtips, black boots, starched white shirt with your power tie, a face that exudes your almighty judgment. You feel the judgmental attitudes, the pressures, the power (you wouldn’t otherwise get), the political pressure, the lack of love or caring for humans that leads to tunnel vision, etc. Oh…, you might go to church and sit down in a pew, but you aren’t really human. Yes, John Prine has seen it too.

And so, change needs to start at the top. The “Top” is the deeper part of life that each of us needs to find.

Let’s look at the typical prosecutor; as opposed to the good ones back in the day that would do what is right, regardless of the consequences. Anyway, you are not that guy. You are a young man or woman just out of law school. You’re big stuff now. It’s probably your first job and you’ve got school loans to pay. You work for “the man” (it could be “the woman”, but “the man” sounds better). The man (District Attorney) likes his job; he likes his status; and he likes his money. The man knows he has to be a political man to keep the government teat flowing. Everything you do comes from the top, (“the man”), or you get fired. All you know about “justice” is what the man and his other subservient ants have taught you. Sometimes your individual sense of justice bubbles up inside you, but you have to suppress it because the man is evaluating you and you need this job. Now, we get into “slavery”. You are a slave to the job and to the man. Not only do you have a school loan, but you are also now married with kids and on the road to being a career prosecutor. It feels too late to make a change now because the fear of getting off the teat is too great. But, there is one way out. Become a Judge! Freedom at last! No, you are still a slave to our political world. As an aside, who better to judge us? A career prosecutor who “knows the law” and has little, if any, real life experience? That is what, we the people, have allowed it to come to.

Now take a break and come on back for a look at our current Collin County District Attorney, “John R. Roach”. He really wants his first name to be “Judge”. This Man wants everyone to believe that he is the “Chief Law Enforcement Officer in Collin County”. His picture should be in Wikipedia under “Power Hungry Individual”. The definition, in my opinion, would include words like arrogant, narcissistic, and egotistical. He is the opposite of love. Although he is retiring in December 2010, he must really want to go out with a bang. The bang is backfiring on him though and the people are finally seeing him for what he has become. He enjoys using fear to intimidate. He wrongfully targeted and investigated good judges and others, who he does not want in public office. He has wrongfully indicted lawyers in his continued effort to instill fear. You might say, “It is not affecting me…why should I care?” The answer is as simple as a Google search for “Martin Niemollor”. I blame myself and the lawyers before me for not seeing him for what he was when he first came to Collin County, Texas. Politics and public office has no place for the arrogant. Maybe it takes people like Greg Willis, Susanne Wooten, and many others to endure his wrath, to get us to see. Fortunately, these people are strong and would not give into the threats and oppression brought by him and those in his control.

And so, the far right thinking people, who sit right next to you in church, vote. Unreasonable fears about safety, etc. cause them to get radical and multiply like wild feral hogs. Their motivation, although wrong, is as strong as the policeman or judge who will do just about anything to get the power and perceived respect he didn’t get as a child. These types of people know, not what they do. God love them. And the cycle goes on and on. We sit back feeling helpless to change. We see our one vote as meaningless. We keep rolling with the flow, ignoring what we sense deep down in our soul, until they, come for us. By then, it is too late really. We are in our 50’s and 60’s, beat down and tired. We can only wish we could have seen it coming when we were younger. We can only wish we would have had the backbone to stand up. What held us back? I’m guessing that fear is behind the reason.

When we really look at the problem, solving it seems futile. But we do not quit; we do not give up. We keep getting back up and we keep fighting. Where is the top for you?

Despite Roach’s objection, attempted indictment, and the required political games, Greg Willis persevered and will be our District Attorney in January, 2011. Until the next starved politician comes along, the people will be in good hands with Greg at the top of our District Attorney’s Office. I really see the potential for some positive change here. He knows what Justice is and will ensure that his office will see that it is done. I believe that Greg is doing this for reasons that are right and just.

And now it is time to change the name of, what is publicly referred to as, the John R. Roach Juvenile Detention Center. Until the name is changed, I will call it the Collin County Juvenile Detention Center. Keep smiling, and loving your neighbor, even when they make it so difficult.