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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mikal Watts Investigation; Dog Scent Lineups

The San Antonio Express reports on the growing federal investigation of big time plaintiff lawyer Mikal Watts:
Democrat stalwart bragged of donations

"From President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, the candidate contribution list of San Antonio trial lawyer and Democratic stalwart Mikal C. Watts reads like a who's who of important politicians.

Watts has poured $7.4 million into Democratic campaigns, and hasn't been shy about boasting about it.

Once, in a nine-page settlement demand letter, Watts famously claimed that he would win an appeal in the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi, because “this court is comprised of six justices, all of whom are good Democrats.

“The Chief Justice, Hon. Rogelio Valdez, was recently elected with our firm's heavy support,” Watts wrote."
According to the article, the Secret Service is investigating Watts for case running, and even identity theft to get claims against BP for the oil spill. Also mentioned is a case against Ford Motor Co. in 2005 where Watts' local counsel ended up on the jury. Aside from the question of whether judges are supposed to decide cases on the law and not who gives them the most money, there are about ten State Bar Disciplinary Rules that appear to have been violated. It's unethical to brag about having a judge in your pocket. Same for case running. We'll see if the Bar has any cajones.

And Another Big Time Plaintiff Lawyer Takes the Plunge

Convicted Valley attorney reportedly commits suicide
A Rio Grande Valley attorney who was the first to be convicted in a wide-ranging racketeering probe of a former state district judge reportedly leapt from the causeway to South Padre Island Thursday, hours before he was scheduled to surrender to federal prison, officials said.

A witness said Ray Marchan, 56, took his own life, Cameron County Justice of the Peace Bennie Ochoa said.

Court tosses dog-scent lineup murder conviction
Tossing out the capital murder conviction of an East Texas woman, the state’s highest criminal court affirmed Wednesday that dog-scent lineups — once considered an exciting advance in crime solving — are too scientifically unreliable to form the basis of any conviction.
Like her father and brother, Winfrey was identified as a murder suspect by bloodhounds owned and trained by Keith Pikett, a now-retired Fort Bend County deputy sheriff who claimed his dogs were nearly infallible in linking suspects to crime scenes based on the personal scent they left behind.
No physical evidence or witnesses tied the Winfreys to their neighbor’s murder. In addition, forensic evidence collected from Burr’s home — DNA from blood stains, fingerprints, hair and a bloody footprint — excluded the Winfreys.

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