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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Trial Lawyers Who Have Never Tried a Case

This month’s Texas Bar Journal has a very good article about the lack of jury trial experience of the majority of lawyers. See Honesty is the Best Policy: it’s time to disclose lack of jury trial experience, by Tracy McCormack and Christopher Bodnar.
The statistics are summarized here:
-       Litigators with 5 years experience – only 30% had tried even one case to a jury
-       With 10 yrs experience – 30% had still never tried a case to a jury
-       The majority of litigators hadn’t tried a case to a jury until they had been practicing for 7 years
Why does this matter? “The strength of a litigator’s bargaining position is at least partially a function of his or her willingness to try the case if settlement negotiations break down.”
The article is more focused on civil litigation, but it applies in criminal law too. If a prosecutor knows that a lawyer will try a case, and has the experience to do a competent job, he will usually make a better plea offer. I have even seen cases where the State dismissed a case when it got down to trial time.
The authors argue that lawyers should disclose to potential clients their experience, or lack thereof, in trying cases. Clients shouldn’t be shy to ask if the information isn’t volunteered.
One way to vet a lawyer is to see if he or she is board certified. I am, in three different areas – Civil Trial Law, Personal Injury Trial Law, and Criminal Law. To get those certifications a lawyer must have significant jury trial experience, verified by the judges and opposing lawyers.
Think of it this way - if you needed surgery, would you want your doctor's first patient? 

More outraged letters to KDT editor over mistreatment of Edward Graf, convicted child killer

One M.E. Schwing wrote a letter to the editor titled "A breech too far," bemoaning the unfair treatment of poor Edward Graf. I have no idea what the author intended by the title, since the definition of breech is the lower, rear part of the trunk of the body; buttocks.

Anyway, the author writes that KDT is "bordering on possible defamation of character of Mr. Graf by the innuendo of the headline." Actually, Mr. Graf CONFESSED to the double murders of his wife's two step sons - little boys - by locking them in a burning storage shed. The motive was to collect the double indemnity insurance policies he took out on their lives a couple of weeks earlier.

Mr. or Ms. Schwing that the Kerrville community should "help Mr. Graf feel welcome to our area and hope for the best for him. At a minimum he is worthy of that. Mr. Graf is trying to go forward with his life despite the terrible events in his past."

Great idea!! Let's get the word out, and maybe if Charles Manson ever gets paroled he can move to Kerrville!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Kerrville Welcomes Paroled Murderer; Ft. Hood Pimp Sergeant; Arkansas Politician Throws Out the Devil

Kerrville: Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Drug Addicts and Murderers
Kerrville really is a strange place. I can't count how many defendants I've represented who came here from other towns and states for rehab in La Hacienda, Starlight, and a bunch of other residential rehab places I can't remember. There are over 100 halfway houses here, and some of the movers and shakers in this community make hefty profits renting to halfway house operators. I've had people tell me they came her because of the "good sobriety." Of course, a lot of them relapse, and there are plenty of dealers here ready to supply them with meth, heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs.

The Kerrville Daily Times caused a stir this week when it ran a front page above the fold article about one Edward Graf Jr., recently released from prison where he did 30 years after being convicted of murdering his two young stepsons to cash in on big insurance policies he took out not long before they burned to death in a storage shed. His first conviction was overturned, and during his retrial he pled guilty. With Texas wonderful parole system, he was released. He chose to make Kerrville his home. Rusty Hierholzer, our sheriff, gave this ringing endorsement of our fair burg: It's always strange, somehow they always seem to end up here." 

The case made headlines in London. From the Daily Mail:
Texas man to be released from prison just six days after he admitted murdering his 8 and 9-year-old adopted stepsons by locking them in a shed and setting it on fire in 1986
Ed Graf Jr, 62, pleaded guilty to killing Joby, 8, and Jason Graf, 9, in Hewitt
Prosecutors said he locked the youngsters in a shed and set it alight
Took a plea deal that carries a 60-year prison sentence
Was during a retrial ordered because original evidence was deemed faulty
Having been in prison for 28 years, he is already eligible for parole
Will be released to a halfway house in Austin and put under supervision
His ex-wife Claire Bradburn says it is a 'huge flaw in our justice system'

The KDT article ran Thursday. Today, Saturday, there are three letters to the editor from Graf's supporters, upset at the harsh treatment of Graf. Mr. Graf has served his prison time, "honorably," and deserves his privacy. Everyone deserves a second chance. Jane Lehman wrote that it was unfair to Mr. Graf, "the gentleman just out of prison," and took the people of Kerrville to task for being hypocrites and only pretending to be good Christians.

Like I said, Kerrville is a strange place. Strange to the point of being grotesque.

Inside Fort Hood’s Prostitution Ring
from Daily Beast: An Army sergeant pimped cash-strapped female soldiers under his command to higher-ups. How did this happen?

Here's one for the just because you wear a military uniform doesn't make you a hero department. Even if you're a church going Christian. "Sergeant 1st Class Gregory McQueen the hulking, noncommissioned officer must have seemed trustworthy: He was his battalion’s point man preventing sexual assaults as part of the U.S. Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention unit (SHARP) at Fort Hood, Texas, and he played the sax in a gospel band. He was even the vice president of a motorcycle club, Tru Ryderz."
The U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command "concluded that among a barrage of sexploits pinned to McQueen, he was pimping subordinate soldiers and offering them up as a la carte flesh for higher-ranking officers who attended his sex parties."

Arkansas Legislator Justin Harris Performed Exorcisms On Adopted Daughters Before Giving Them Away from Huffington Post
Arkansas state legislator Rep. Justin Harris gave his adopted daughters away because he and his wife thought they were possessed by demons, according to a report in the Arkansas Times.

The revelation is particularly shocking because one of the girls was eventually raped by the new foster parent, who was one of Harris' former staffers, the New York Daily News reports.

He and his wife are good Christians - they run the Growing God's Kingdom preschool.