FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Doug Murphy, HCCLA President
713-229-8333 office, email Doug Murphy
Houston, Texas—February 12, 2012—The following letter was submitted to the Harris County Judge and Commissioners:
by Patrick F. McCann
I confess I enjoy the holidays. It is the one time of year when people try to treat each other the way we should treat each other all year. One wishes the best for one’s fellow men and women, and hope can actually be felt. Selfishness is just a little less palpable in the air. So, here, in the spirit of the holidays, is a gentle wishlist for our colleagues across the aisle in the courthouse, and for their boss, the elected District Attorney. The office has faced, as all the county has, some unique challenges across this past year in the aftermath of one of the greatest storms in the history of Texas. Under the District Attorney’s guidance it has also overcome many of these challenges. So now that there is a new “quasi-normalcy” to the proceedings in our courthouses, here is my wishlist, for both the office, the DA herself, and the friends and colleagues who inhabit the same court space with our part of the bar.
I wish for the time for her senior staff to finally implement the policies I believe they believe in. By that I mean working out thoughtful, measured and new ways to deal with drug and mental health diversions from prosecution, ensuring that juveniles do not get arbitrarily sentenced to life in prison, and the truly thoughtful use of severe charges against people who are minor participants in crimes. I mean a reduction in numbers and severity of sentences, and a true embrace of community supervision. I wish for a recognition that while prisons exist, they do little to help people re-gain their lives or re-enter our society. I believe that Harvey has kept this office from truly getting to implement these programs, and I wish the DA and her staff the time and inspiration to do what they came here to do, i.e. reverse the decades of cowboy culture and ill-informed “tough on crime” stance that was felt largely by the poor, the mentally ill, and those who were not white. It is time for meaningful policies to be announced and implemented, and I wish them well in tackling these issues.
I wish that the Assistant District Attorneys who have stayed with the office during this period are rewarded with the kind of positive training and in-depth legal education that they deserve. When one is trying to stay afloat in dangerous waters, training does often go over the side of the boat. Training, the kind of national training available through non-profit organizations and the department of justice, is an investment in the young lawyers and assistants who are the future chief prosecutors in our state – it is an investment that returns ten fold as it helps good lawyers spot bad cases and dispose of them. I wish that training once again resumes its priority now that the basics of office space and organization have been met.
I wish that for all our young colleagues in the Harris County office that attention to their desire to have and raise families be finally given more than lip service. In a time of modern technology there is no reason flex time and remote work cannot be done and implemented in many parts of the District Attorney’s office. While dockets must be met, there is no real reason to run a modern office as if it were still the 1950s. Networks exist for collaboration across distance, and there is no reason not to permit, for instance, those with child or parent care issues not to work remotely for periods of time or to have flex hours that allow them to tend to family while serving the public. The loyalty shown by the staff of this office has been great; they are owed modern flexible work environments in return. It will increase retention and produce a more productive work force.
I wish them a better budget, both for technology improvements and for support staff. It serves no public interest to have an online portal for uploading evidence that does not work reliably nor is capable of holding all the evidence in a complex case. Nor does it serve anyone to have insufficient staff to upload and distribute this evidence onto such a portal even if it worked properly. It helps no one, from law enforcement to crime victims, to not have sufficient interoperability between systems, or old or antiquated technology that does not work together. I wish true improvements in their budgets for those things this year.
Last, I wish for all the staff at the DAO to have a chance to relax and reflect on their accomplishments this year. They have survived and managed in a time of chaos. We all have been perhaps a little kinder with the shared burden to each other. Let us not lose that spirit this coming year.
Happy holidays to all of our friends at the Harris County DAO.
Patrick F. McCann
Law Offices of Patrick F. McCann
700 Louisiana St. Ste 3950
Houston, Texas 77002
HCCLA’s Reasonable Doubt explores criminal justice issues focusing particularly in and around Harris County and Texas, with guests from the criminal justice community. We broadcast LIVE every Thursday from 8-9p CST.
Tune in LIVE every Thursday @ 8:00 pm
Comcast Channel 17
AT&T U-Verse Channel 99
TVMax Channel 95
Sudden Link Channel 99
Phonoscope Channel 75
Jimmy, JV and Justin also serve as Board of Directors, Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association.
About Reasonable Doubt:
Reasonable Doubt (RD) made its debut in 1998 with host and creator Dan Gerson. With only four to five channels available to the public, Gerson thought a show dedicated to the issues in the criminal justice community would help create a dialogue within the community. “We thought we would have an impact because we knew the judges and prosecutors would watch it and would put some pressure on the judges and prosecutors,” Gerson said. Gerson hosted the show for almost half a decade before passing the hosting duties to host Cynthia Henley. Past hosts of RD include Robert Fickman, Todd Dupont, Murray Newman, and Damon Parrish II.
The weekly show was first broadcast at the Houston Public Access station located at the Hawthorne Mansion on Thursdays. RD has continued to occupy that time slot for nearly 20 years.
In the Summer of 2014, RD got a reboot with a new look and hosts. The production team wanted the show to educate the public of the issues involving prisoner rights, prosecutorial misconduct, and other issues affecting the criminal justice community. RD is sponsored by the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA).
Join us each week as we discuss current issues impacting the criminal justice system in Houston, across Texas and the nation! We are LIVE every Thursday at 8:00 pm. Episodes are uploaded every week on YouTube at HCCLA_Reasonable Doubt.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Houston, TX :: November 15, 2018
Joint Letter to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Doug Murphy, HCCLA President
(713) 229-8333 or email
Houston, Texas – June 29, 2018 – In celebration of Independence Day, the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA) is holding its 9th Annual Reading of the Declaration of Independence on Tuesday, July 3 at 12:00 pm outside of the Criminal Justice Center, 1201 Franklin Street.
HCCLA President Doug Murphy said, “The Declaration of Independence signifies what truly makes America great. The Declaration is not full of empty promises, but these Declarations ultimately became guarantees of liberty, freedom, equality and justice for all.”
The Reading of the Declaration of Independence by criminal defense lawyers is an annual tradition started by past president Robert Fickman. He has also coordinated with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA) to hold more than 100 readings in front of courthouses across the state, including one in front of the Tornillo immigrant minor detention camp near El Paso, Texas.
“Our annual reading of the Declaration comes at a critical time in our nation’s history. Our reading is a reminder that as Americans we cherish liberty, and we reject tyranny in any form,” said Fickman.
The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of the United States, and contains within its text the fundamental truths and unalienable rights that typify and embody the American way of life: …that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Please join us in honoring our nation’s most sacred document in the spirit of independence:
The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association is the largest local criminal defense bar in the United States with more than 700 active members.
For more information about the history of the readings and photos, visit here:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Doug Murphy, HCCLA President
713-229-8333 office, email Doug Murphy
Houston, Texas – June 11, 2018 – Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack recently called for an investigation on the Harris County Public Defender Alex Bunin to determine if he wrongfully used his office in assisting the litigants who have successfully sued Harris County for their unlawful bail practices. A federal judge declared the practices unlawful for discriminating against the poor.
Harris County so far spent over $6 million dollars in their unsuccessful defense of these unlawful practices. The call for an investigation by Commissioner Radack is nothing more than a diversionary tactic and waste of further county resources that will reveal only one thing: Alex Bunin has an independent duty to protect and defend the indigent—an inherent duty of a public defender—even if that duty is at odds with Harris County. This obligation and duty may be offensive to Commissioner Radack, but spending $6 million dollars defending illegal bail practices should be offensive to Harris County residents.
In 2010, the Harris County Bar, the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, the Harris County Commissioners, and the Advisory Board of the Public Defenders all came together to support the first ever creation of the Harris County Public Defender’s office. The search for the first Harris County Public Defender was the result of a nationwide search for the finest combination of legal acumen, proven ability to build a defender’s office, and commitment to providing the best defense for the public possible. All parties unanimously agreed that Alex Bunin was the perfect choice because of his stellar reputation earned by spending a lifetime defending the indigent accused throughout the country.
Harris County has benefitted from the finest criminal defense legal talent ever assembled under one roof since Alex Bunin was hired. Under his leadership, the Harris County Public Defender’s Office has had an enormous impact on day to day criminal justice in Houston.
The mental health division has significantly lessened the average stay in custody of the mentally ill in our criminal justice system, saving the county money while making the system more humane. The juvenile division has provided a striking contrast of professionalism to the crony system that had been the norm in the juvenile courts. The trial division has fought some of the most difficult cases in our system, including habitual offenders and those accused of sex crimes, with skill, zeal and most importantly, full resources for investigation and mitigation of any punishment. This team approach has already helped influence and improve our appointed counsel system. The appellate division, under his guidance, has helped change the law in our state, and has worked to integrate itself into trials smoothly, another first for our country.
Alex Bunin built the Harris County Public Defender’s Office with integrity, hard work, and outstanding leadership. The talented lawyers whom he personally recruited came because of him, and they stay because of him. The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association supports continuing Alex Bunin as a true “Public Defender” of Harris County.
Memorial Day by David A. Schulman
To my friends and loved ones everywhere — I want to remind you that Monday is Memorial Day — the day we honor our war dead. It’s not Armed Forces Day (that… was on last Saturday, May 19th); it’s not Veteran’s Day (that’s November 11th), and it’s damned sure not national BBQ day.
The reality is that, the older you are, the more departed members of our military you probably knew. To me, it doesn’t matter how many you knew or what are your politics. We should all recognize that, because the people we honor on Memorial Day gave their lives, we are free to live, love, and continue to debate the politics of the day. Whatever else you do on Monday, pause to remember the reason for the holiday.
Of all the things I’ve ever written, among those about which I am most proud are two that discuss Memorial Day. They were written four and five years ago, and are combined and located on the TIBA website. The article is below:
Memorial Day: A Salute to Our Heroes
by Robert Pelton
If you think that you are having a bad day because your TV or phone or computer is not working, then get in your car and go to the nearest VA hospital and see real problems. People bitch and complain and gossip about bullshit all the time. In the hospital you will see men and women of the “Greatest Generation” suffering and coping with things most people can not comprehend. When my family members joined the army in WWII, they signed up for the duration of the war, not for two years or three years. They went over the pond as my uncle used to say and did not come back for over four years. When Lawyer Richard “Racehorse” Haynes was dodging bullets on Iwo Jima he was just trying to stay alive. My Abilene friend William Ervin Sims, who recently died at age 92, carried a BAR, a browning automatic rifle, weighing 16 pounds up the hills of Iwo Jima. Those two men and many others fought 35 days without rest and managed to survive.
Memorial Day has traditionally been a day of observance for the men and women who died in the sacrifice of the cause they were fighting for. This day is different from Veterans Day in that Veteran’s Day is set aside to honor all Veterans. Since many in the WWII and Korean War generation are growing older, I felt it incumbent on me to honor all Veterans by putting forth a short statement honoring those both living and dead who have served this great country.
One good friend and veteran Victor Blaine went away several years ago and I know he would approve of me writing this article now. John Saur is another Houston lawyer who froze for months when in Korea serving his country. When I asked him about the article he was happy and said any one who was worried about the date could come see him and he would have a surprise for them that he brought back in his duffel bag from Korea. John Saur was in the middle of the fighting and came back, finished college and law school and has been a lawyer almost 50 years.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday originally enacted to honor fallen Union soldiers after the Civil War. It was originally known as Decoration Day. Decorating the graves of their fallen soldiers was commonplace by Confederates even before the Civil War had ended, by southern ladies of Richmond and southern schoolchildren. The catastrophic number of dead soldiers from North and South alike meant that burial and memorialization was very important after the war. Townspeople, mostly the women, buried the dead and decorated graves during the war. The oldest national cemetery was created in 1862. After Abraham Lincoln’s death, many events to commemorate the war began. The first such event was in Charleston, South Carolina on May 1, 1865. Union soldiers who died there were buried in unmarked graves. Freed slaves knew of this and decided to honor these soldiers. They cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground. On that day, nearly 10,000 people gathered to honor the dead and 3,000 schoolchildren and others brought flowers to lie on the burial field. Historians said this was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston. Black Americans, freed from slavery brought flowers and sang songs about the war. Speeches on Memorial Day were a time for veterans, politicians, and ministers to commemorate the war. People of all religious beliefs joined together and the point was made that immigrant soldiers had become true Americans because they had shed so much blood in battle. By 1870, much of the anger was gone and speeches praised the brave soldiers of blue and gray. By 1950, the theme of Memorial Day was to uphold freedom in the world. Today, Memorial Day extends to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.
Tennessee was a divided state during the Civil War. Some of the families that served in the Union Army had family members joining the Confederates. My maternal great-grandfather Abraham George Washington Cox and great-great-grandfather Abraham Cox enlisted with the Confederate Army on the same day. Abraham George Washington Cox was 15 and his father Abraham was 51. They served in the Tennessee Calvary. After the war, Abraham George Washington Cox rode a mule from Tennessee to Cooke County, Texas, got married, and had 12 children and named them after Confederate heroes. My grandfather was named Robert E. Lee Cox. Abraham George Washington established the Mt. Zion School, Church, and Cemetery. Each year in May, our family meets there to attend “Graveyard Working” like the old customs that started Memorial Day. My paternal great-great-grandfather Joseph Washington Mathis fought with the 1st Alabama Infantry. He was captured at Island Tennessee on 4/8/1862, escaped capture at Port Hudson, Louisiana on 7/9/1863 and was captured again in Nashville, Tennessee on 12/16/1864. He was held prisoner until the end of war. His children came to Jones County, Texas in 1899.
My son, who coincidentally was born on July 4, called me from the recruiting station when he turned 17. He said the recruiter would not let him join without my permission and would not let him be a military police officer. I got the recruiter on the phone and he laughed and said you will have to get permission from the Pentagon. I was in Ted Poe’s court that morning and told him. He, himself a Veteran, made some phone calls and at 4pm that day a major at the recruiting station said, “Please don’t make any more phone calls, meet me here at 5pm and your son will be sworn in.” My son went to the US Army and was trained at Fort Anniston, Alabama as a military police officer. He served there and got out but was recalled after 9/11. He served again and left the Army as an E-5 with an Honorable Discharge.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- John McCrae
…We cherish too, the poppy red That grows on fields where valor led, It seems to signal to the skies That blood of heroes never dies… – Moina Michael
We all complain about high taxes, traffic, bad government, bad judges, bad prosecutors, bad presidents, and bad everything. The list is long on things we complain about. In America we have the right to complain. Try that in some foreign country and your life will be ended. We live in a free country where opportunity exists for all people. People from all over the world want to come to the United States of America. Members of TCDLA and HCCLA and their family members who have served, or are serving, will be listed at the end of this article. They all need to be recognized for their sacrifices, be it large or small. Some of us were in the military reserve and some were in the middle of battle and saw their comrades dying around them.
Some were brave men who did extraordinary things in battle to fight for our country. One member at a recent seminar in Plano said, “I was only in the Naval Reserve.” I reminded him of the phrase by John Milton, “Those also serve who stand and wait.” Even those who were, or are standing in wait, are serving. As we have seen from recent history, many of those who were standing and waiting were called to active duty and sent to foreign lands to serve and fight if needed. Many of those who were standing and waiting went overseas and never came back.
The problems facing Veterans have gained some attention and in many counties there is now a Veteran’s Court. They recognize that Veterans have special needs. Too many times, when representing a Veteran, I try to point out to the prosecutor that this person served our country and may have suffered some disability or some change that affected the Veteran’s behavior. Too often I have heard the prosecutor say, “Well, everybody has some kind of excuse.” No, I point out everybody did not go through what the Veteran did. This attitude prevails in every court room across the state. Most of these people never served in anything, not even Cub Scouts. Few judges in the Harris County courts were in the military. The exceptions are Judge Mike McSpadden, Judge Jim Wallace, Judge Marc Carter, and Judge Ruben Guerrero.
As lawyers representing Veterans, we need to get the military records and prepare a mitigation motion or motion to dismiss the case. We need to be vigilant in our fight for the Veteran client. If there is a Veteran’s Court, try to get the case transferred there. If there is no Veteran’s Court then try to get other Veterans to help you do your best for the client. Get all the people from the VFW or American Legion to come to court and see what happens. Even bring the members of the Veteran’s motorcycle clubs, the Patriot Guard, and Rolling Thunder. Go to military.com to get a list of Veteran groups. If the Veteran has alcohol or dug problem, bring the AA or NA group too. It has proven to be very effective.
Famous wartime quotes:
A good battle plan that you can act on today can be better than a perfect one tomorrow.
-General George Patton
Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong.
Never trust a private with a loaded weapon, or an officer with a map and compass.
-A Murphy’s Law of Combat
You don’t win a war by dying for your country. You win a war by making the other son-of-a-bitch die for his.
-General George Patton
Richard Grenier said, as George Orwell pointed out, “PEOPLE SLEEP PEACEABLY IN THEIR BEDS AT NIGHT ONLY BECAUSE ROUGH MEN STAND READY TO DO VIOLENCE ON THEIR BEHALF.”
The following members of TCDLA or HCCLA (or their family members or investigators) served in the military and we honor them all:
*Reiffert Riley Evans
Richard “Racehorse” Haynes
Robert Scardino, Sr.
G. Wesley Urquhart
Herman “Hymie” Trichter
Abraham George Washington Cox
Ernest L. Pelton
Wilmer M. Pelton
Joe L. Pelton
Robert C. Pelton
Robert O. Pelton
Joseph Washington Mathis
Robert W. Kelly
Rod Schuh, Jr.
Dr. Phillip Lewis
Dorsie Ray Green
James Matthew Ratekin
Matthew Brent Ratekin
John Hunter Smith
John David Leggington
Charles W. Tessmer
George Miner Jr.
Lorton E. Trent
Arthur Leslie Kagan
James Story Sr.
James Story II
John Patrick Callahan
David Patrick Callahan
John Hunter Smith
George E. Renneburg
John M. Economidy
Byron G, Economidy
John “Bud” Ritenour
Jeusu JD Garza
Benjamin Thomas Hudson Jr.
Dr. William Flynn
Herman “Hank” Lankford
Robert Harold Jackson
Arlan J Broussard
Ralph L. Gonzalez
Charles W. Lanehart
Theodore A. (Tip) Hargrove, III
Travis E. Kitchens
Zachary A. Garcia
Thomas Kelton Kennedy
David G. Ritchie, Jr.
Anne K. Ritchie
*Killed in Action
The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA) held its 48th Annual Banquet on May 10, 2018 at The Ballroom at Bayou Place in Houston, Texas.
The 2018-2019 HCCLA Board of Directors were sworn-in by Edward Mallett.
Special Thanks to: Steve Halpert (HCCLA Treasurer), Christina Appelt (HCCLA Executive Director), Michael Godfrey (video production), Bob Rosenberg (photography), Shannon Moore (event assistance), Craig Howard (Ballroom General Manager) and the wonderful staff at The Ballroom.
See more photos (courtesy of Bob Rosenberg) – link coming soon!
The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association wishes to congratulate this year’s outstanding award recipients in the following categories: Lifetime Achievement, Lawyer of the Year, Torch of Liberty, Unsung Hero, and Mentor of the Year. Each will be honored at the 48th HCCLA Annual Banquet during our awards presentations on May 10, 2018 at the Houston Ballroom at Bayou Place, 500 Texas Avenue, Houston, 77002. Please join us in celebrating their achievements. Make your reservations!
For more information: