Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Phil (name change) is your typical college young man, from a nice home, nice family, good upbringing. He, like most all college guys, likes to be with his friends, play his music, have a little party.

Christmas, 2009, almost changed his life permanently.

One of his friends, Drake (name changed) was having a Christmas party. There were a lot of friends from high school there who had come home from college to enjoy the Holidays with family and friends.

Among the usual crowd or "groopies" (as someone referred to this group of ladies) was Missy (name changed). Missy and several of her girlfriends like to party. They are young. Don't hold their liquor well and don't know when to say "No." - to anything.

"Missy and her friends are younger than we are, but they come to all the parties just to hang on to the older guys - guys that are my age or a little older." said Kathy (name changed)

Another guy, Matt, says, "they just come around to get laid. And, it's not like you gotta ask for it - they are like all over you."

Phil was about to leave the party when the girlfriend of the host came out to tell him that Missy really liked him and wanted him to stay.

Missy had been drinking 151 and chasing it with beer. Missy is a ,petite, thin build young lady.

Witnesses stated that Missy was all over Phil like "a dog in heat". She groped Phil in front of several. She planted a lip locking kiss on him that would send any normal young man into a tetesterone rise in the Levis.

Missy led Phil into an empty bedroom. According to Phil, she never said "no" she asked for more. Their little escapade was interupted when the owner of the bedroom started banging on the door.

Peggy wasn't just banging she was shouting! Peggy called Missy every vulgar name that was possibly written for having brought some man into her bedroom without asking to have sex with him! Peggy paid the rent on that room. It was her bed, her sheets, her clothes that Missy ended up wearing.

Missy went out the back door to the yard area - she was crying - Peggy was still screaming profanities.

Phil left.

Missy had no clue how she got home that night. The next morning she awoke with someone else's clothes on (Peggy's) and the cell phone she had didn't belong to her. Where were her clothes? her phone? "Oh my GOD, what have I done now?"she asked herself.

Missy phoned a friend, who's number was listed in the cell phone that she had by mistake. Denise answered on the other end. "What happened to my clothes?" Missy asked.

"You don't remember?" asked Denise

"No, where are my clothes?" a frantic and crying Missy asked.

"Girl, you messed up last night. You got caught with Phil in Peggy's room and she was about to beat the heck out of you." Denise answered.

Missy showered and went back to where the party was. She asked Drake to get her clothes and cell phone for her. He did.

Later that morning, Missy was driving her sister, Susie, to work. Missy began to cry and shared with Susie what happened or what she had been told about the night before.

"We've got to tell Mom" Susie said.

Mom was told. Mom immediately takes Missy to the hospital where a rape kit was done on her. Yes, she had had sex. Was it willing? "I don't remember, I think, yes, maybe. I was drunk." Missy admits. Law enforcement was called.

Phil receives a phone call from a Sheriff's detective. He is smart enough to tell his dad what is going on.

The dad phones an attorney friend who attends church with them. The attorney, Mike, ends up calling me.

I phoned, and recorded at least ten witnesses - all stated pretty much the same thing -
"she's a whore", "she's a drunk", "she's a trouble maker", "she came on to him", "we don't really like her at our parties but she shows up anyway" "she came on to him" "she was all over him" "she grabbed his nuts and was squeezing them"

When I inquired what type of guy Phil was - not one person had anything negative to say about Phil. "he's a stand up guy" "he won't lie to you" "he's a great musician".

Missy later came to the law office and signed an affidavit stating she did not want to press charges nor pursue legal action against Phil.

This case had the potential of ruining a young man's life. Many times those accused of sexual assault, even falsely accused, will try to talk to law enforcement and 'fix it" or "tell their side of the story". They never have the forethought to hire an attorney to protect them of their constitutional rights.

Girls like Missy are everywhere - looking for a good lay, a good time, a free ride. They drink to be equal or to appear grown. They are only asking for problems for themselves later down the road.

I admonished Phil rather severely about having sex outside a marriage. I know most of my admonishments may have fallen on deaf ears. But, I do believe that he and his friends may have learned some very valuable lessons - especially how easily it is for a minor girl to get them in trouble with the law to where they would be looking at 2-20 in prison.

I also believe that they learned to choose their friends more wisely.

As for Missy, I told her to keep my phone number - just in case she ever found herself drunk somewhere and needed a way to get home. Most kids don't want to call a parent when they've messed up - so just in case she ever needed help - I asked her to call me.

Phil and Missy are no different than most college kids feeling their wild oats from my day in college. However, the laws are so much more stringent, harsh, and can easily ruin a young person's life.

I hope that everyone concerning this learned something - perhaps - not to prank around with just anyone, perhaps to know who you are screwing and why, perhaps not to drink when you know you can't hold your liquor, perhaps to keep your mouth shut and get a lawyer. I would hope that the girls' learned to keep their legs crossed and not just sleep with anyone and everyone. As it is, Missy precarious reputation is forever engraved in the minds of those 20-30 people at that party.

I turned in my reports, my cassette tapes and other information to Mike - and at the close of the day - I felt good. I had helped save a young man from having his life ruined by a girl who had played the wrong song. She went to the dance, but the music ended long before she knew it.


I am not into baby killing cases. They break my heart. Anyone who hurts a baby should be castrated or have a slow death...

I received a call from Mike, "Can you come in I have a new case?" Jason and his family had hired Mike to handle an accusation and later indictment in the death of Marie, his girlfriend's 2 year old daughter.

I was left in a room to myself to review autopsy photos. To be alone to look at this small, blonde haired child being fileted as if she were a catfish freshly caught was enough to make my gut wrench. Looking at the photos of them cutting the skin around her skull, pulling her hair over her face so that the brain could be examined was equally as chilling. Looking at the blood clots around her brain where a bruise went subduro made me want to hit something Her torso, according to the photos, was cut in all directions. Poor baby. Hurt in life and cut up afterwards.

I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to know if Jason had hurt this baby. I took the case.

This was a long drawn out case. One that will forever be implanted in my mind.

For Jason's safety, due to threats made by the biological father, he was not bonded out. I truly believe that had Jason had his feet on the ground, that he would be a dead man walking.

We needed a time frame. We needed to compare the time frame with the autopsy findings. Conclusions of time was, in our opinion, our way to win this case.

Jason was adamant that he did not hurt Marie( name change). His parents brought photos of Jason and Marie loving and playing together. By all appearances, Jason loved Marie as if she were his own child. He would cry when he talked about her.

Rhonda, the mother, had two daughters. Both from previous marriages. She had lost custody through CPS of her oldest daughter, Maxine (name changed), but had regained custody. Maxine had lived with her maternal grandmother. Maxine and Marie had little, to no relationship with their biological fathers, which I believe, in part, was because of Rhonda.

Rhonda was and is a pretty lady. She would catch the eye of many men. She was a party girl. She always had a man in her life. She couldn't survive without a man in her life. She had no job stability. She was a prolific liar. Men said she could "drink me under the table." She took pills that weren't prescribed for her. She swore, cursed, and would "fight like a man."

Jason F was the biological father of Marie. He was a tall thin country man. He was a drinker. He has had several run-ins with the law - mainly dope problems. Illegal drugs, mainly marijuana, evading arrest are on his record. He didn't have much contact with Marie. He worked for his father, who owns an air conditioning business, under a psuedo name, so that he didn't have to pay child support on her.

Jason B suffers from seizures and back problems. He was given medication that he eventually got hooked on. He couldn't hold a job. He lied a lot. He drank. He smoked cigarrettes. He was in love with Rhonda. He loved her children. He wasn't a bad guy, just one who had gone astray of the teachings of his parents who are devout Christians.

Rhonda ran into Jason's mother the weekend before the Texas Sales Tax reprieve. In Texas there is one weekend prior to school opening that the State doesn't charge a sales tax on clothing and other items. It was arranged that Rhonda, Marie and Maxine would meet at Grandma F's house and along with the great grandmother, they would all go to the mall.

Rhonda never told Jason B where she was going that Saturday morning. Not that he would have minded... but it was her secret. They exchanged texts throughout the day.

At the mall, they had lunch at Casa Ole around 1:30pm. Jason F had shown up, I'm sure after a phone call from his mother that she had the girls at the mall. After eating beans, rice, and chips, Marie went with her daddy to the play area.

At some point, she fell and collided with another child who was there. No blood, no outward bruises were shown.

Shopping was done. Jason F carried Marie to his truck, which was parked on the west side of the mall and drove around to where his mother's car was parked on the East side of the mall transferring Marie in her car seat as she was already asleep.

All the ladies, Grandma, great grandma, Rhonda, Marie and Maxine drove back to Grandma's house, where Rhonda had left her car. Marie was once again transferred in her car seat to Rhonda's car. Rhonda stopped on her way home to get a package of cigarrettes, leaving both girls in the car alone. Time now is approximately 10:30pm.

She arrives back to the apartment that she and Jason shared approximately 10:45pm. Jason wasn't on the lease of the apartment. Rhonda's aunt or cousin was the manager and Rhonda was getting subsidized housing. The manager knew that Jason was living there and allowed it. Rhonda took Marie straight to the bedroom, never undressed her from the clothes she had on all day, never changed her diaper, without turning on a light - Rhonda just put her to bed.

Jason was sitting on the patio when they got home. He was drinking a beer. After putting on a movie for Maxine to watch in her room, Rhonda joined him. A neighbor, Justin (name changed) passed and invited them over to his apartment across the breezeway for a party.

Rhonda was ready to party. Jason was not. However, he coceded and went with her. Rhonda left the apartment door unlocked and gave her cell phone to Maxine "just in case Maxine needed them". After an hour or so Jason said he needed to go check on the girls. Rhonda was partying. Jason came back to Justin's apartment and told Rhonda, "we need to go home, you need your rest."

What no one at the party knew was, that on Friday, Rhonda had had an abortion. From medical records obtained, this was not her first abortion. She was pregnant, with what Jason thought was his baby. They weren't yet married. Jason nor she were working. The decision to abort was both of their decisions. Rhonda had no complications during nor after the abortion. She was instructed to "rest and take it easy for a few days". She was given pain pill prescription, which she immediately filled.

Rhonda told the folks at the party that she wanted to leave Jason. She wanted him out of her life. Jason didn't know this.

After Rhonda said she didn't want to go home - she "wasn't ready to leave the party" - Jason went back to their apartment. After another thirty to forty-five minutes, Justin walked over the Rhonda's apartment - he entered an opened unlocked door. He saw Jason in Marie's room. Jason was patting Marie on the back.

"Is everything Okay?" Justin asked.

"Yea she was just whining." Jason responded.

Justin was looking at getting a three bedroom apartment like what Rhonda had - so Jason showed him around, before they went back over to Justin's apartment.

When they got back to Justin's apartment, Jason told Rhonda it was time to go home, that Marie was whining and needed her mother. Jason swooped down to scoop Rhonda up in his arms, when she started screaming. She broke lose and ran to the bathroom, locking herself inside. Meanwhile, Raul (name changed) and Jason got into a fight and punches were thrown. Jason kicks in the bathroom door and makes Rhonda go home.

Cops were called. Jason later tells me, "I thought, screw this she isn't worth it. We'd had a fight about three weeks prior to this and I said if we ever fought like this again I would leave for good. She begged me not to leave her the first time. This time I was gone."

As Jason drove out the back gate, he passed the cops coming into the gate and apartment complex.

Raul stayed the night with Rhonda. Maxine gave a statement that said, "I got up and looked in my mama's bedroom and that boy was in bed with her and I didn't like it." Maxine said she went back to her room and got up later that morning to find her mom, "that boy" (Raul) having tea and coffee on the patio.

Crime scene photos show a coffee cup which was later revealed to be tea with milk in it. Maxine and Rhonda made pigs in the blanket, (biscuits wrapped around small sausages) , when Maxine went to wake "sleepy head Marie up".

Maxine came running to her mother and Raul on the porch, "Marie won't wake up and she is stiff!"

Rhonda ran from the patio, jerked the covers off of Marie who had already gone into regormortis. 9-1-1 was called. Neighbors hear the screams of Rhonda and Maxine and come runing. Emergency crews were there within ten minutes - responding "two year old unresponsive" The operator is guiding the neighbor from upstairs, Rosie (name changed), over the phone how to give CPR to a child, until help arrives. Upon the arrival of EMS, Marie is declared deceased.

The neighbor upstairs has her niece take Maxine away from the area - "a child doesn't need to see these things."

Jason's parents, his friend in Huffman, Rhonda's mother have all been called. Jason arrives home during all the commotion.

Rhonda is placed in one police car, Jason another.

Jason told investigators that he had gone to the San Jacinto river bridge and slept the rest of the night away there. He lied. He had gone to his drug supplier's house in Huffman. He was there when the call came in about Marie.

At the apartment, Jason's concho belt was placed into evidence, as was a bloody wash cloth and other items. A lot of crime scene photos were taken.

This was now classified as a homicide.

On my first review of the pictures of Marie during the autopsy - there appears to be a bruise which has two sides to it. The outer edges of the bruise appear to be more dominant than the others. I surmised from the very beginning this bruised was caused by a hair brush which would be solid on the edges and concave - considering there was no bruising in the center part.

Police were speculating that the bruise was cause by Jason's belt with conchos on it. The conchos were octave - meaning they protruded outward. If Marie had been hit on the head with the concho belt, the bruising would've been more dominant in the center of the area rather than on the outer area.

The funeral for Marie was "stressful" according to the funeral home folks. They were having to keep Lindy away from her mother, as CPS had already removed Maxine from Rhonda. There was tension with the biological father, Jason F and Rhonda. Jason was asked not to come to the funeral. His family attended. They were stared down. They loved Marie as if she were their own.

Jason was later arrested and charged with capital murder of a child under the age of six, which in Texas carries the death penalty.

Our investigation revealed the time of death occurred prior to Rhonda coming back to the apartment. We held tight with our summation that the death occurred out of Jason's presence.

Body temperature at the time Marie was found that morning, food still visible and distinguishable in her stomach during the autopsy, a bowel movement prior to being put to bed (which was never changed by Rhonda), the air temperature - all moved the time period of death prior to 11pm. Jason was no where around during that time. Cause of death - bleed out from the spleen. Marie had been hit, or had hurt herself when she fell and bled out.

Medical books state that bleed out from the spleen on a child this age and size would occur within 10-15 minutes.

Rhonda at some point, prior to Marie's murder, had started calling IRS and other agencies regarding Jason F. She was reporting that he wasn't paying his child support, that he was working and that his dad was either paying him under the table of through a pseudo name. Her phone records should many calls to the agencies. She was determined to "get her money".

We believe that Jason F knew of Rhonda's reporting. Both Jason F and Rhonda were fiesty and quick tempered.

Shortly after Marie's death, approximately 3 months at the most, Rhonda went to a Halloween party in costume, at a club in Onalaska where she placed - I think third place - in the costume contest. She already had another man that she was living with somewhere near Livingston.

Mike made every request for production of records possible. By happenstance Mike learned that the Assistant District Attorney, (who is now a judge) and others had ex parte meetings with Maxine which were not tape recorded nor revealed to him. Mike had the entire district attorney's office recused for manufacturing evidence.

A special prosecutor, Garcia was appointed. Garcia held a "mock trial" He had the witnesses present (many who refused to talk to the defense) to testify. Afterwards, after our plea out, we learn of this mock trial and that some jurors believed Jason was not guilty. The issue of the time of death played a huge part in the findings of fact.

The pathologist couldn't give a time of death. The same pathologist who's record involving the death of childrens has been in question many times. Several cases have been reversed and remanded for new trials or the defendant was exonerated because of her lack of or poor findings of facts.

The original punishment was death, it went down to life, offers for a plea went down to 45 years, then to 40, then to 35, then to 25 then to 20 years.

It was Jason's decision to take the deal or go to trial. Trial was to begin on Monday Jason, maintained his innocence, but for fear of not knowing what twelve jurors would do to him, he took the deal. Our defense team was ready for trial.

The night before Jason made the decision, he asked me what I thought of the deal. I told him I couldn't tell him what to do, but for the first time in his life, that he would have to make a hard decision - but whatever he did - for the first time in his adult life - "think smart". He asked me what I meant by "think smart" - and I explained, "way all your odds - pro, con and indifferent - and do not be influenced by anyone - this is your life - you will have to live it and you will have to do the time - no one else - and only you can make the choice."

Jason was given a bullet proof vest prior to being taken into the courtroom. SWAT was everywhere - on the roof - in the hall - - in the courtroom - everywhere there were SWAT - even stairwells and elevators were closed off.

Our client was given the twenty years in Texas' prison. The paternal grandmother gave an impact statement. She asked if she could send birthday cards for Marie to him on the date of Marie's birthday each year to remind him of what they had lost. She wanted to taunt him. She couldn't forgive him. Jason was hauled off immediately after sentencing and the impact statement was made.

I have not seen nor heard from Jason since the night prior to his plea out. I have thought of him many times - and will probably go to my death saying and believing that this man did not kill Marie. Who do I believe did it? I can't say - though I would surely like to. Do I have my thoughts as to who did it? You bet I do, without reservation or doubt. Can I prove it? No. I do hope that her/his guilty conscience and the face of Marie in her/his mind will haunt them until the day they die.

I do believe there are many men and women , who are incarcerated, have taken pleas just to keep from going before a jury, who may be sympathetic to a child and give him/her a long sentence. With the time that Jason had already spent in County jail and good behavior in TDCJ, hopefully he will be released for parole when his time is 10 years (or about 50% of his sentence).

When Jason is released, I hope he finds his way in life. I hope he finds peace. I hope he will someday have the family that he so strongly hoped for with Rhonda and the girls. And, somewhere along the way - I hope his family finds peace as well.

David on the Row

David..was on death row. He was one of my first clients to ever take me to "the row" at Polunsky. I had been to the Ellis Unit where Texas' death row used to be. The atmosphere at Ellis was atypical of any other older unit - damp, cold, musty smelling - where trustees mopped and shined and cleaned everything that a rag could touch - just to pass the time of day.

Polunsky was different. It was new. No tarnishes. It was more secure. There were more check points to get inside to see the client. People were reserved.

The waiting room where you visit the inmates was filled with children and loved ones pressing close to the glass that separated the inmate and the visitor. Spiritual advisors were there visiting inmates who had no one to visit them. Children played around parent(s) as if it were a play ground. One mother sobbed profusely when her time was up - and she had to leave. A daughter clung to the phone as she hung her head and sobbed when she had to leave. One group laughed aloud at a joke they were telling their brother over the phone.

Emotions ran high on the row. Sadness. What smiles there were - were planted - making things appear easy - happy. There is no happiness on the row.

David fell out of Tarrant County, Fort Worth, Texas. As most inmates on the row, he had pen pals who believed in his innocence They were supportive of him - financially, emotionally, in every way imaginable or possible.

I was asked to review his see if there was anything that could be done to help him avoid execution.

Interstate 45 from Houston to Dallas then I-20 over to Fort Worth can be a long highway. It gives time for retrospect, time to think about how you will work your case. I rarely play the radio when I am driving. I like the quiet. The time is mine to think and pray.

My drive to Fort Worth gave me the time to work my plan over in my head. I had to find two people. They were important to this case. They were keys to this case.

I found the first person, Lila (name changed) without a problem. Lila still lived in the housing projects that she lived when the murder took place. Her humble abode was clean though the furniture was tattered and worn. Lila, a petite lady in her mid-40s was calm, cool and collected during our interview. She was warm and welcoming upon and during my visit.

We sat with the door open - no screen on it. Everyone who passed could look right inside.

Lila's testimony had now changed from when she originally testified at David's trial. At trial, according to Lila, she was coerced "by the district attorney because I had a case that they would make go away". She had sold her soul to the district attorney. Lila was now willing to give an affidavit that David was not the murderer, but Sam was. I think, Lila was trying to make amends in some manner - trying to get her own heart right with the wrong she had committed. I plugged my trusty lap top and began typing her statement. Printed, notarized, I was out of there.

Though Lila had been very forthcoming and accomodating, I felt eyes on me. I was the wrong color in the wrong place. I was watched from the time I got there, until the time I left.

I searched for 3 days, diligently, for Sam. I went to every smoke filled bar, whole in the wall, whore house, cafe, and other dives that had been suggested to me looking for Sam. I was so disappointed not to find him. To this day, I believe I talked with Sam at one of the bars.

Sam was supposedly the same size and color as David. They had similar facial features. The person in the bar to whom I spoke, could have easily been David - or Sam.

I phoned David's court appointed attorney to let him know what I had gotten from Lila and about the search for Sam. "Oh that's fine just fax it to my office." he said.

"But, his execution is next week what are you going to do with the affidavit?" I asked.

"Well, I don't know right now, I already had a vacation to Australia planned with me and my buddies during that time so I won't be here when he is executed." Cantu replied.

My heart raced and my stomach went upside down. He wasn't going to be here for the execution? What about last minute appeals and filings? Who was going to do that? I would later learn - no one. No one.

The group from Italy were now calling me - several times a day - wanting an update on David's case. I was becoming more and more aware of the stress of the upcoming execution - on all of us. I studied case law; I tried to find something - I phoned other attorneys to ask for help. They couldn't help because they weren't his attorney - there would be an ethics problem. I felt I hit a brick wall every which way I turned.

One of the attorneys whom I work with helped me write an affidavit as a Friend of the Court, asking that David's execution be postponed. In the affidavit I explained that I had recently been hired. I included the affidavit from Lila and my description of Sam. I faxed the affidavit to the Governor's office. I acted like I knew what I was talking about and was confident that something would happen for the good.

Execution day had arrived.

David called from the holding cell next to the death chamber. "Have you heard anything from the Governor?" he asked.

My simple whispered answer was, "No."

The phone buzzed. Caller ID said the call was from "State of Texas" - I had to take the call. My stomach wrenched to the point that it hurt. My writ/affidavit had been denied. The execution would proceed.

David called again. I felt helpless in answering his questions. Ironically, he was the strong one. He thanked me profusely for my work, for my caring. He said a prayer for me. He said he would make sure I got a copy of his book of poems. He said he loved me for all that I did. His final words to me were, "Keep your chin up, because I will see you on the other side."

Time was up. The phone went dead. Twelve minutes later, the chaplain phoned me. David had peacefully gone to the death chamber and had passed on to the other side.

I cried and cried and cried. I cursed the State of Texas. I was a nervous wreck. I was FURIOUS with Cantu for leaving his client to go to the death chamber without any last minute acts of legal work.

I feretted phone calls from Italy and Spain - pen pals of David's - and had to deliver the sad news that his execution was carried out.

The next day -without a return number - I received a fax stating "Sam is celebrating because David paid for his sin"

I was stunned. It was too late. The great and powerful State of Texas - probably executed an innocent man. And, years later, I would learn, there have been others.

I had always thought the death penalty to have it's fallacies. Now I had experienced them first handed. I had experienced holding a man's life in my hands in a small manner - and I was powerless. I cried for days after David's execution.

I never did get the copy of his poems. But, I received something even more important.. David's final gift to me was the hope of forgiveness, grace under fire, and standing firm in your beliefs. For that I will be forever indebted to him

The great and powerful State of Texas HAS executed innocent people. Granted, there are those who are so rotten to the core that they may deserve to die - but who are we to determine the date of some one's death......

I don't want that decision on my shoulders when I meet my maker and neither should anyone else.

I Didn't Do It

"I didn't do it" or "I'm innocent" are the most infamous words inside of a prison.

I met Joe at the Wynne Unit, Huntsville, Texas. Joe was incarcerated for sexual assault of his two stepsons.

A few years earlier, one of the young lads had drawn a kangaroo, with a penis and something dripping from the penis at school. The teacher "just knew" the child had been sexually assaulted. The boys were not audiographed, video taped, but were offered "gifts". They were removed from the home. The boys had no idea that a drawing would separate them from a stepfather they loved as well as their mother. The boys were questioned, coerced. Their minds were manipulated to believing a lie is the truth - like when we teach our kids that Santa Claus and The Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are real.

Joe and Barbara both were convicted of sexual assault. There was no physical evidence. The kids were taken to pool parties and pizza parties by the district attorney's office. Their statements were rehearsed and rehearsed to a point of total orchestration during trial. The performances were Oscar winners. The district attorney won - he had two convictions - put another notch on his belt - type wins.

Joe knew he was innocent. He wrote letter after letter asking for help. Joe's court appointed attorney wrote him a letter which stated something to the fact, "I have other paying clients so if you get one of the law library guys (at the prison) to write you a writ and if it gets heard, then I will come back on the scene and help you out."

Twelve long years past after Joe received that letter. In the interim, the boys were growing up with their paternal grandparents and biological father. On a visit to their grandparents they found a letter under a rug - the return address was their mother's prison address. They had been told that Joe and their mother had abandoned them - never wanted to see them - and just vanished.

I cannot even imagine telling a child that his parent didn't want to see him. How sad is that?

John, (name changed) the oldest, started asking a lot of questions. He wrote to his mother, she wrote back. When John was told why she and Joe was incarcerated, he knew that they were wrongfully imprisoned and had to do something. Until that point, they had no idea that they were the ones who put their mother and Joe in prison.

John and David (name changed), both brothers, made a video taped recording of the truth of the matter and they gave sworn affidavits. They called the district attorney's office, who refused to listen to them. The mailed an affidavit to Joe. Upon receipt of the affidavit, Joe contacted his court appointed attorney again. Still no response from the attorney. Smokey, a prisoner himself, who hung out in the law library of the Wynne Unit, made an appeal for Joe. Joe sent his court appointed attorney a copy of the paperwork.

Joe contacted me. I have no idea how he got my name. After my initial visit with Joe, I later met with his son, George and wife, Sheila. George and Sheila had two sons who had never seen their grandfather. George had been a faithful son all these years that his dad had been in prison. He sent money for commissary. George wanted his father home, where Joe belonged.

I wanted the entire family and community who knew Joe to be involved. I wanted the Governor's office bombarded with letters from citizens who knew the truth. I wanted to put as much pressure on our, then, District Judge - reminding him that the citizens wanted justice and for him to right his wrong. I showed Sheila how to start a letter writing campaign. I assisted George and Joe in finding two attorneys willing to pick up the writ where Smokey couldn't go. They were also going to sue the State for wrongful incarceration. When the court appointed attorney found out that Joe had these two attorneys, Bill (name changed) jumped at getting in the spot light.

Twice Joe was brought back to Jefferson County for hearings in District Court. Bill asked me to step a side, that he "could handle things from here".

Joe was released after fourteen years of incarceration. He was threatened by his court appointed attorney that he would have to drop the law suit or be thrown back in jail for a marijuana charge. A threat that was mute in all honesty - but scared Joe so badly that he would have to go back to a prison hell hole. Joe was also told to fire me. Well, you can't be fired if you are working for free! However, Joe's, George's, Sheila's and the boys' happiness and freedom was more important to me than my ego. I withdrew, physically. But, I kept hope and faith that freedom wouldn't be long coming for Joe.

His court appointed attorney someday wants to write his own memoirs, which caused Joe to lose out on a book deal - he already had an agent and a signed contract. He lost out on a law suit because of his court appointed attorney scared him and wouldn't file one. Greed on his attorney's part. Joe lost out on any type of financial reward for all the years he was incarcerated, because of the court appointed attorney.

I hope when those memoirs are published that he doesn't taint the name of Joe or use Joe's name to make himself look big or powerful or wonderful. I lost total respect for Bill during Joe's proceedings. I saw an attorney who abused and neglected his client, something I disdain, then got before the cameras and patted himself on the back of what a wonderful job he had done.

Joe was released. His first gift, besides the suit bought by Sheila and George that he wore when released, was a baseball - his grandsons wanted him to play baseball with them - like perhaps Joe would've done all those years that were lost.

Approximately six months after Joe's released, he had a stroke, was put in a nursing home and soon passed away. Joe was an avid baseball player and loved the game, he liked to gamble, have fun with friends, barbeque, boil a little crawfish, family was important to him, but most of all....Joe wanted his name cleared.

Our system isn't perfect by any means. Many prosecutors lie, withhold exculplatory evidence and manufacture evidence just for the win. Joe was one of my clients during the infancy of my being a private investigator. Thru Joe, I learned so many tricks of prosecutors, lies of bad attorneys; I learned who to trust, what to watch for, constitutional errors, and more. Joe helped me be good at my job. He also reaffirmed to me why I became an investigator. I love Joe for making me better at what I do. Because I had "given hope to George" Sheila crocheted me a gorgeous scarf with my name on it. It was and is a gift that I cherish to this day. It's a reminder to work hard - for all the Joes in the world.

Rest in peace, Joe.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Verdicts Aren't Always Fair

I've been a Private Investigator for several years now, it's a role in the judiciary system that I take very seriously. My dad used to ask me, "Why would you defend some no good sorry guy that has broke the law."

Great question. Am I always for the underdog? Am I a "fixer"? Am I the kind that always wants to "help people"? To some extent I probably could answer yes to all of those questions. But, I think the most important reason why I am a PROUD private investigator is because if, for some short moment, I allow the worse of defendants' constitutional rights to be violated, then somewhere down the line, mine and yours will be also. That is the best answer I could ever give.

I've sat through hundreds of trials in my years. And, I've always cringed at what I felt are the injustices in verdicts. I saw a man, get 4 years for murder, and a woman get 20 for the same offense. I've seen the worse of juveniles walk with probation and the ones who truly needed salvaged and could be saved were thrown into prison where I know they would become punks.

I have a new case coming up - I can't yet discuss it yet- but I can tell you - I pray for justice - for her. I pray - she is given the best of the deals that our judiciary system and a jury can possibly give.

A few years back, we had a case - her name was Amanda. She was charged with shooting her husband., Mario (name changed) while he slept. She had been beaten, she had been urinated on, she had her stomach hit over and over while she was pregnant. On the outside, folks thought they were the perfect couple. But, behind closed doors - life was far from that.

I thought of the Clara Harris case - and how far different this one was. Clara Harris was a renown dentist who hired a private investigator to locate her husband and his paramour. They were located at a hotel in upscale Clear Lake. Clara arrived on the scene. She was convicted of running over David, her husband, in the parking lot. Clara got 20 years in Texas Deparment of Criminal Justice. I knew Amanda's case was going to be an uphill battle.

Mario accused Amanda of running around on him, he berated her, he told her the baby she was carrying wasn't his - though DNA proved it was.

After the shooting, his parents and people tried to paint him as a Saint. The district attorney originally was buying their story

Amanda had a fantastic lawyer, who, together we located the first ex-wife. Lori screamed in terror when just his name was mentioned. She had been hiding from him for all these years. She related to Amanda's attorney how one day when she and Mario were married, while he had gone to work - she changed the thermostat and forgot to change it back before he got home. The next day, Mario stripped her, tied her to the bed post, turned the air way way down to where she was freezing when he came in. She had urinated and defecated on the floor - he rubbed her face in it to "teach her not to mess up his house." Thirteen years later, she still would not touch a thermostat.

Amanda pled guilty and went to the Judge for punishment. The district attorney had put a "cap" on the amount of years he wanted her to have. Lori's story was repeated during court room testimony for the sake of Amanda, to show the court what type of person Mario really was.

In all my years, I've never heard happen what I'm about to tell you.... the attorneys had not yet finished putting on their case. The Judge asked for a recess. He went into his Chambers, closed the curtains, asked not to be disturbed, got on his knees and prayed - after 45 minutes he returned to the Courtroom - he looked worn out - he had wrestled with his verdict - he later told the attorneys - that when he first got to the courthouse his mind was set on giving Amanda 20 years - but after the emotional and compelling testimony that he had just heard - he knew a leopard couldn't change his spots - Amanda was given 5 years probation!

I couldn't believe it - in one way - but in another - I could! I'd called and written to every praying woman I knew asking them to pray all morning for Amanda and for the Judge.

God granted Amanda a new life. She has almost successfully completed her probation. The parents and family of the husband continue to harass her and give her grief. But, though she has to live each and every day that she took a life, she is grateful that she was given her's back.

Sentences aren't always equal nor fair - but sometimes... the Judges get things right in the end, in my humble opinion.

Serving Citations

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why someone thinks that they are going to get away from the long arm of a Lady PI - that is Private Investigator - I will find you - no matter where you are - or perhaps I should say, I will give it my earnest effort - and should you tick me off along the way - well - that just makes me dig my high top Texas boots designed just for me - a little bit deeper into the ground.

Recently I was given 9 subpoenas to serve. "They are scattered" within three counties - so the attorney thought...

Nothing was easy. I still have 3 out to serve. One of them - we've learned - has a nickname (aka) of "Smellie Shellie". My vivid imagination conjured up all sorts of putried smells and ideas as to why and how she came by that name. I was initially going to give her the benefit of the doubt that she just didn't take a bath... HAHAHAHAHA ...... silly me.

One of the "girls" that I had already served a subpoena on says, "Oh Smellie works over at the truck stop there on the corner by the highway - you won't miss her." I figure, great, I'll catch her at work and this will be fast and sweet.

We rolled into the truck stop parking lot, my partner got out at the restaurant, went in and was told they didn't know her. Karon went on over to the store part and inquired with management if Shellie worked there. From my view in the car, I could see the manager going off - hands a waving - arms a flying in the air. Karon came back and said, "he says he don't know her." I said, "My turn."

I identified myself as a Private Investigator and explained who I was looking for. "Oooooh HER!" he says. I say, "yes"

It seems that Smellie Shellie didn't "work" for the truck stop but AT the truck stop. She is a gardner- you know the kind that goes ho-ing 24/7. She cultivates so to speak. Seems, the small town of Winnie Texas has fallen on tough economic times for girls in Smellie's field or line of work, thus she has now moved her (according to several sources) enterprise to more greener pastures - because someday she does hope to be able to have enough money to retire on - thus she moved 30 miles away to Beaumont - where she now (according to sources) works the truck stops in Beaumont and Vidor and is "rolling in the dough".

I cannot even imagine having a nickname of Smellie - much less what that truly means nor the persons who may want to help cultivate her garden with her - I do hope when I hand her the papers that I have Lysol handy - and I'll let her keep the pen she uses to sign her name...