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4 :: Upcoming ClE Event Schedule
5 :: A Word from our New President
by Nicole DeBorde
6 :: A Word from our Former President
by JoAnne Musick
7 :: Winning Warriors
12 :: HCClA News Round Up
HCClA Supports BBBS & Welcomes New Members
13 :: Once Upon a Board Meeting:
HCClA's First Annual Awesome Art Show
by Sunshine Swallers
14 :: Second Chair Program:
Being a Smart Second Chair Protege
by Sarah V. Wood
15 :: Petitions for Non-Disclosure in the lone Star State
"Why Is This Still On My Record?"
by Dorian Cotlar
25 :: Strategy:
Passion & Warfare
by Joseph W Varela
28 :: HCCLA Celebrates
40th Annual Banquet
30 :: Motion of the Month
Challenging Jury Panels Assembled through Email Notification
by Mark Thiessen
33 :: Investigative Corner:
The Difficult Interview
by Jim Willis
COMING SOON - More information on these upcoming events to follow
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a word from our new president 
As I was thinking about what I could hope to do for you,
and with you, as President of the Harris County Criminal
Lawyers Association, I started to wonder what exactly is a
criminal defense lawyer?
Aside from being a little on the crazy side, what is a
criminal defense lawyer? Well, we are the boxer who gets
up off the mat on the nine count to try one more thing. I
say this because we really are different from other
attorneys. Most of us are lone wolves working in small
offices or as solo practitioners. We really, truly love what
we do.
We love what we do so much that we are willing to cram
ourselves into overcrowded elevators in the morning at the
Criminal Justice Center to arrive in a courtroom where we
know we will likely be the most unpopular cause in the
room. We love what we do enough that we will stick a file
under our arm, grab our license and bar card, trudge in the
Houston heat down to the jail where we will take off our
shoes to walk across the jail house floor through metal
detectors so that we can spend an hour on a concrete stool
in a room with spit on the window and gum under the desk
with someone who may be desperate and distressed. We
love what we do so much that we will drive out to the Joe
Corely Detention Center in Conroe for a 15-minute update
and then drive back in traffic.
We love what we do enough that we are willing to have our
motives (and sometimes our sanity) questioned by all sort,
from prosecutors to friends, to family and sometimes even
by our own clients. We love what we do enough to lie
awake at night and worry about a case and a person while
others cheer that same person's demise.
You, a criminal defense lawyer, are willing and ready to
step in and slow the rip tide of vengeance and blind anger.
You are the guardians of the Constitution. Civil lawyers are
not. Prosecutors are not. When you woke up in the middle
of the night last time, it was probably not for personal
stress, but for stress about a case. Someone else's
So, why do you care about an accused drug dealer, murder
or thief? How great is the stress when you believe the
accusations are false. What about when they are true?
Why do you care then? Is it O.K. to let the rules be bent
because it may sometimes be that the person who sits next
to you at counsel table is foul?
Sometimes we just like a good fight. Could that be part of
it? It's cathartic isn't it? Is it that sometimes hard to
articulate sense that something just is not fair?
So, should you sit around and wait for fairness? Wait for a
bond? Wait for justice? Wait for the right evidence to drop
into your lap? Wait to hear about some crime lab failure?
We could wait forever. And as we wait and whine and give
our excuses, the Constitution loses ground.
You can wait. Or, you can stand up for what you believe
in. You can stand up for the guy who no one else even
wants to stand next to. You can stand up for the
Constitution, have quite a bit of fun doing it, and you can
win sometimes too.
You are the person that stands between how your client's
life was before their case and how it will be after it is over.
You define justice for them and their families. A criminal
defense lawyer has the guts to protect even the most
reviled, because the rights of the most reviled are our only
rights. No bully should be able to pinch even a little of
those guaranteed rights back on your watch.
This is your Association because you are a criminal
defense lawyer. Criminal defense lawyers do not sit around
and wait for justice. You demand it day after day. And we
are here (500 people strong) to be heard and to demand it
with you. In recent years, we have begun to achieve a
degree of credibility in our cornrnunity that we have not
had in the past. For the first time we are included in
decision making that affects our clients and our
cornrnunity. With that credibility comes responsibility.
Our actions will either continue to build on that credibility
or destroy it. While our adversaries battle over politics,
statistics and forensic debacles, we have the opportunity to
be heard as the reasonable voice in the room.
Ours is not to whine, but to do. How will you stand up for
justice and the Constitution tomorrow? When the little
voice in the back of your head threatens to push you to
chicken out, you will push on instead. Will the masses
cheer you on for your efforts? No. Do you have the guts to
be a criminal defense lawyer anyway? You do, and
HCCLA can be here for you so that you don't: feel like an
unheard voice, chicken out, get tired or run out of ideas.
Tell us how, and my goal this year will be to see that
HCCLA can help. What will you do tomorrow to live up to
your title: Criminal Defense Lawyer?
a word from our former president 
  ~ JoAnne ?1I!Ujick
W 0 WI What a year. It is with some sadness
yet great anticipation that I conclude my term as
president of such a great organization. I am thankful
for the support of a wonderful board of directors as
well as an outstanding membership. Without each of
you, we would not continue to grow and achieve.
As I look back over the past year, I see a membership
that has grown, not only in number but also in
strength and ability. Our "winning warriors" continue
to amass victories large and small as they bring
justice to the Harris County courthouse. Putting the
government to its proof is no small task, yet our
members have done so. Challenging judicial rulings
can be tricky and difficult, yet our members have
done so. Standing up for the fundamental rights of
the accused can be looked down upon, yet our
members continue ... for if we don't, who will?
I see an organization that has brought forth a great
mentoring program, thanks largely to Sarah Wood.
We strive to pair experienced lawyers with younger,
newer lawyers who are eager and willing to learn to
become better lawyers. This pairing has resulted in
better communication, more thorough case workups,
and winning trial strategies. Working together, we
make our bar, the criminal defense bar, stronger every
day. Many thanks to Sarah and all the mentors who
have assisted along the way.
I see an organization that was able to gamer a seat at
the table for the study of a public defender's office.
Though many of our thoughts and ideas were
rejected, we were able to help set minimum standards
and goals for such an office should it become a
reality. We also won a seat at the table to discuss
appointed attorney vouchers and pay.
Again, while not fully accepting our ideas, the judges
were open and considerate as they listened, provided
feedback, and sought our opinions. Just to be a part of
the discussion is a monumental step forward, and I
thank all of our members who gave of their time to
participate in the discussions and provide feedback.
I see an organization that has educated and involved
the community and our children. With a speaker's
bureau headed by Sam Adamo, a public relations
bureau headed by Wendy Miller, and a newly formed
outreach through art program headed by Sunshine
Swallers, HCCLA has spoke at various functions,
aided charities and at-risk children, and provoked
thought. Wendy continues to challenge our board and
our members to become involved in mentoring
through The Big Read (where we donated hundreds
of copies of To Kill a Mockingbird to local schools)
and Tee Time/Tea Time (where members spent the
day as big brothers or big sisters to youth with
incarcerated parents). And, asking kids to think about
and depict innocence and exoneration through art,
Sunshine organized our first high school art contest.
The winning participants had their art displayed at the
Despite all our achievements, we are not finished yet!
I look forward to the upcoming year with Nicole
DeBorde as president. She will do a great job keeping
the forward momentum. There is so much more that
we can do as an organization and through our
membership. I encourage each of you to get involved
and bring your ideas and knowledge to the table. I too
commit to staying involved. Remember, it takes a
village to raise a bar!
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JAMES RYTTING convinced U.S.  District Judge 
Gray Miller to  reverse the 20-year-old capital  murder 
conviction and  death sentence for Rulford Aldridge 
because Aldridge, who  suffers from  paranoid 
schizophrenia, was  incompetent to  stand trial  and 
because the punishment phase was contaminated by 
Penry error.  In  an exhaustive 87-page opinion, Judge 
Miller found:  "Aldridge has shown that his is  an 
extraordinary case where constitutional error infected 
both his conviction and sentence." 
·..................................... . 
TYRONE MONCRIFFE won  a murder trial  in 
the  l85th District Court and gained the freedom 
of his  client, who had been injail awaiting trial. 
Unfortunately, the client's acquittal resulted in  his 
wife's jailing for contempt by Judge Susan Brown 
because the wife said, "Thank you, Jesus" when the 
verdict of acquittal was read. 
Four counts of murder and aggravated assault were 
dismissed in  the 351 st District Court due  to  the 
advocacy of DAVID RYAN. 
Pulling victory from  the jaws of defeat, J.e. 
CASTILLO won  a reversal on appeal for a client 
who had  been sentenced to  life for aggravated sexual 
assault.  And did we mention that he  also  convinced 
the appellate court to  deny the State's motion for 
The exclusionary rule  lives  in  the  337th District Court, 
who  got a  17-year-old client's confession suppressed 
and  left the prosecution's murder case  in  doubt. 
JEFF PURVIS took the Brazoria County District 
Attorney's Office down a peg when he  won  a quick 
Not Guilty on  a drug possession case.  Purvis credited 
SANDRA OBALLE with assisting with jury : 
The client - a Marine just back from  Iraq - was charged 
with murder and  aggravated assault in Brazos County 
in  connection with the stabbing of a Rice University 
basketball player outside a bar.  DAN COGDELL, 
MARSHALL BROWN teamed up  to  ensure a complete 
and total  acquittal at trial  on theories of self-defense and 
defense of a third person.  Noted Cogdell, "Not only did 
[the jury]  acquit our client on both cases, they want the 
'complaining witness'  in the aggravated assault case 
charged with aggravated assault of the guy our client was 
·.......................................  . 
Bend County prosecutors to  heel when they foolishly 
tried to  bolster the use of dog-scent lineup evidence 
by giving notice of its  intended use  in  a capital murder 
case.  McCann and Gonzalez fought that effort in  a 
two-and-a-half-day hearing  that resulted  in  Judge Clifford 
Vacek ruling that the evidence could not be used at  trial. 
·...................................... .  . 
MELISSA MARTIN persuaded the Court of Criminal 
Appeals to  rule that an information charging the client 
with indecent exposure was fundamentally defective 
and that the trial  court should have quashed the charging 
instrument.  The CCA remanded the case, which Martin 
pursued pro  bono, to  the  intermediate appellate court to 
determine if a harm analysis should apply. 
Deferred adjudication for  two  aggravated robberies  may 
seem like a pipe dream - especially when the client earlier 
had agreed to  a plea and a 20-year prison term - but it  was 
a reality for  a client of JED SILVERMAN, DAPHNE 
PATTISON and CLINT DAVIDSON.  This team won 
the disposition  after convincing the  client to  undergo 
a grueling battery of psychological tests, gathered 40 
character letters and proof of employment,  and advised the 
court that the  client would agree to  two years  of intensive 
Winning Warriors 
The jury panel was outside and it wasn't even his case,
but NORM SILVERMAN helped a lawyer in the
182nd District Court by reviewing the search warrant
affidavit, writing up a motion to suppress, bringing
case law in support and - this shouldn't be surprising -
securing suppression. This, in a case where the client
was looking at 25-to-life. And, then, a couple weeks later
in San Patricio County, Silverman got a 15-minute Not
Guilty verdict in a misdemeanor case involving criminal
possession of a controlled substance.
ALLEN TANNER secured an acquittal in an aggravated
sexual assault case where the complaining witness
alleged that she had been kidnapped, raped and beaten.
Tanner showed that the complainant knew his client,
had consensual sex with him, but was later beaten up by
someone else.
Probable cause? What probable cause? ANDREW 
WRIGHT asked those very important questions in Fort
Bend County and got one felony and one misdemeanor
case dismissed.
Want to win? Get a Thurgood Marshall Criminal Law
Clinic student on your case. BEVERLY MELONTREE 
won an acquittal in Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law
Guiding his client through testimony in which he said
that he had intended to return to the store, continue
shopping and, of course, pay for the merchandise, DAVID 
HUNTER won a Theft case in Harris County Criminal
Court-at-Law No. I .
The client was charged with DWI 2d and a total refusal
of all sobriety tests, and the State called his ex-wife (now
a city prosecutor - yikes!) to testify that she did not tell
him to refuse all tests, but still STEVE SHELLIST 
won a complete acquittal at trial. (Take that, Ms.
Despite the judge allowing, as "demonstrative evidence", a
video of some random person being administered various
field sobriety tests, JIM MEDLEY walked his client in a
DWI case tried in Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law
No. I. Then, in another DWI case, Medley convinced the
court to suppress the results of a .19 blood test, causing
the State to dismiss. Key to the suppression victory was
Medley's argument that the officers failed to properly
screen his client for the blood draw - and a video showing
nine officers punching and kicking the client until he was
submissive enough to give blood.
No.5. And Dunn did such a good job with direct,
cross and closing that the judge said he should
get an A for the semester.
And the defense "Dunn" won again, when
added Thurgood Marshall law student
BRENNAN DUNN to their team in
defending a DWI case in Harris County
Criminal Court-at-Law No. 15.
The jury acquitted after the defense
showed that the arresting officer
made the defendant perform field
sobriety tests without shoes on the
coldest and wettest day in December.
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When we last discussed this story, Cynthia Henley had
gotten a writ granted and a new punishment hearing
ordered in Jefferson County for a client sentenced to 30
years, aggravated. At that point, DORIAN COTLAR
picked up the case and got the aggravated sentence
reduced to 26 years. Then, Cotlar discovered that
original trial counsel neglected to fully investigate the
client's back time, of which 15 months was due. The
moral to this story? We have two: Never give up, and
every bit helps.
It was the middle of an aggravated robbery trial, with
the jury sitting in the box, but instead of calling the
next witness, the prosecution dismissed the case against
HATTIE SHANNON's client. This exciting moment
occurred after the prosecution's main witness - who
Shannon had discovered to be a documented gang
member and liar - fell apart on the witness stand.
What an honor, Your Honor! Marine Lt. Col. TERRI
ZIMMERMAN has been selected to serve as an
appellate judge on the United States Navy-Marine Corps
Court of Criminal Appeals, and will sit in Washington,
D.C., during periods of active duty. The court has
world-wide jurisdiction and reviews convictions from
courts-martial in the Navy and the Marine Corps.
·  ....................................... . 
So, LISA BENGE MICHALK wins the primary runoff
for the 221 st District Court in Montgomery County and,
because Judge Stovall already retired., the Governor's
office calls and asks her to take the bench early. But she
says, "I can't. I have this DWI case I have to defend at
trial." (We're not sure if she also told the Governor that
the client turned down a 90-day pre-trial diversion offer.)
Anyway, she and JUDY SHIELDS kick prosecution,
ahem, behind over a two-day period and the jury comes
back Not Guilty. Which we think is a fine way of telling
the Governor, "My work here is done."
·  .......................................  . 
Once death is waived as a punishment option in a Capital
Murder case, most lawyers stop there. Not DORIAN
COTLAR, who persuaded Harris County prosecutors
to dismiss the Capital Murder charge in exchange for
the client's plea to an unrelated Aggravated Assault and
acceptance of seven years in TDCJ.
The client was charged with being a habitual felon in
a gun possession case, but MONIQUE SPARKS won
suppression in the 177th District Court after showing
that the arresting officer could not lawfully perform
an inventory search of a vehicle that the arrestee had
decided to leave lawfully parked.
So, Robb Fickman asked ROBERT TUTHILL to reset a
case for him, and then Tuthill called to say that he didn't
get the case reset, which kinda got Fickman hot under the
collar - until Tuthill explained that he'd gotten the case
dismissed on a point of law.
·....................................... . 
First, he got the recanting complaining witness to explain
that she had been motivated by a custody dispute to
falsely accuse the client of a sexual assault. Then,
PA T McCANN persuaded the 351 st District Court to
recommend the granting of a writ of habeas corpus based
on actual innocence. Now, the case now goes to the
·....................................... . 
It was a three-kilo cocaine case and the client, who had
a load of priors, was facing prison time. So, PAUL
LOONEY and CLAY CONRAD went to Judge Susan
Brown on an open plea to a reduced, second-degree
offense - and got the client 10 years deferred adjudication,
six months confinement, six months house arrest and a
$5,000 fine.
·  ....................................... . 
The on-parole client picked up a new misdemeanor charge
in EI  Paso and then left the state without permission and
with 15 years left on parole. He was caught 13 years later
and had the smarts to hire JEFF DOWNING, who worked
up the case so well that the court decided not to revoke
parole and to dismiss the misdemeanor case.
JOE VARELA and PAYAL JETHVA beat a 30-year
plea offer with an acquittal at trial in the 338th District
Court for a client charged with aggravated assault with a
deadly weapon.
·.......................................  . 
Like the pebble that starts the avalanche, an acquittal can
affect the rolling course of events in several cases. As
Loyal Readers will recall, Robb Fickman and Tom Moran
tried a nine-day indecency case in the 230th District Court
and got a 51-minute not guilty. Within an hour after trial
the State dismissed Fickman's client's second indecency
case. And then, DAVID ADLER went to Juvenile Court
with Fickman's client's younger brother, who also was
charged with indecency by the same complainant, the
prosecution recalled Fickman's acquittal and dismissed
the charge. Carmen Roe calls this "the trifecta" because
an acquittal and two felony dismissals flowed from one
trial acquittal.
·  ....................................... . 
JEROME GODINICH gave a client convicted of the sale
of counterfeit drugs and sentenced to 78 months another
chance after convincing the 5th Circuit to vacate part of
the judgment and remand the case for re-sentencing before
Judge Sim Lake.
Next up after Jim Medley's acquittal in Harris County
Criminal Court-at-Law No. I was LAWRENCE CERF,
who had what he called a "no-test, pretty-good-video
DWI." And Cerf was prepared to try it - until the
prosecutor called to say the case was being dismissed.
"Medley must have softened the prosecutors up," Cerf
said, modestly, but we think the prosecutor just couldn't
face another legal beating in the same week.
Charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana, the
client insisted to KELLY CASE that he did not have
any marijuana on him when stopped by police. While
reviewing the evidence in preparation for trial, Case
discovered that the client was right. Case dismissed!
Never underestimate the value of unnerving the prosecutor.
When JED SILVERMAN won suppression of the field
sobriety tests in Bexar County, the flustered prosecutor
sought a recess and returned to court with four other
ADA's. They all moved to dismiss and Silverman's client
lived happily ever after.
A fill-in-the-blanks blood warrant could not survive JOHN
DENHOLM's thorough attack in a DWI case. Denholm's
briefing pointing out five major problems and violations
of the law, including a concIusory statement regarding the
officer's stop of the client. After Judge Margaret Harris
suppressed the .14 blood test results obtained via the
warrant, the prosecution agreed to dismiss the case.
·....... ... ............. .... ... .......... 
The client had previously pleaded guilty to injury to a
child for spanking his children with a belt and was put on
straight probation, but VIVIAN KING filed and won a
motion for new trial and then, at that new trial, obtained
an acquittal. Where did this marvelous effort occur, you
ask? In the 400th District Court in Fort Bend County.
·....................................... . 
There was this frequent traveler who goes to the airport,
forgets to take his gun out of his briefcase, and goes through
security. Uh oh. Fortunately, Mr. Frequent Traveler had
TAD NELSON and DOUG BROCH as his counsel
because they got the grand jury to issue a No Bill.
The jury thought the client might have been intoxicated,
but TYLER FLOOD showed them that the State hadn't
proved it, so they acquitted his client ofDWl2d in Harris
County Criminal Court-at-Law No.7.
·  ....................................... . 
Do two beers plus red eyes amount to probable cause for a
DWI? As MATT DeLUCA proved in an ALR appeal on
behalf of a motorcyclist arrested in Fort Bend County, the
answer to this burning question is no.
·....................................... . 
The value of Association membership is that you never
stand alone - as JEFF DOWNING learned in Harris
County Criminal Court-at-Law No.2, where he was
defending an Air Force officer charged with assault/family
violence. The prosecution wanted the client to plead
to a Class C offense with an affirmative fmding of
family violence, but backed off the affirmative finding
requirement after PAT McCANN stepped in to explain
why that would hurt the client's military career.
·  ....................................... . 
revoke probation thrown out in the 351 st District Court
when she used Facebook to show, conclusively, that the
client had been set up by his ex-girlfriend. Seems the
ex-girlfriend used Facebook Mobile to invite the client
over for a booty call and, when he refused via return text,
she texted that she planned to call his probation officer
and "lie on him some more." That record demolished the
prosecution's case.
·  ....................................... . 
JOE WELLS won an acquittal in Harris County Criminal
Court-at-Law No. II for a client charged with prostitution.
·................................. ...... . 
The police claimed that they searched the client incident
to an arrest for walking in the street instead of on the
sidewalk. The client swore there was no sidewalk and
LANA GORDON, cleverly calling up Google Earth
on her smart phone, found that, indeed, there was no
sidewalk. Case dismissed!
A healthy sense of outrage and the desire to help led
RUSSELL WEBB to provide pro bono assistance to an
indigent prisoner who wrote that he'd been held in the
Harris County Jail from October 2009 to March 2010 on
a parole violation. Webb determined that the prisoner
should have been released in December 2009 and began
raising heck with Parole authorities, who immediately
moved to have the prisoner released.
·....... .... ............ ....... ... ... ... . 
SANDRA OBALLE got an assault case dismissed
mid-trial when the prosecution made the error of trying
to admit a tape of a 911 call made after the assault by an
individual who didn't see anything.
It took  only seven  minutes, but LEIRA MORENO 
GRACIA got her fIrst  acquittal  and  GRANT SCHEINER 
got another win  in  an  alleged domestic violence case 
in  Hams County Criminal Court-at-Law No.7.  A key 
to  the  victory?  We  hear it  was  Scheiner's cross  of the 
complaining witness who  made the  mistake of  trying  to 
take  over the  courtroom. 
·....................................... . 
Seems a guy was caught with property, arrested for 
burglarizing a building, and  set for  trial in  Fort Bend 
County. Fortunately, he was defended by  DAVID 
KIATTA, who convinced the jury to  acquit on the 
burglary count and convict on the much lesser charge of 
criminal  trespass. 
·.......................................  . 
In  what Rick Oliver termed "his billionth Not Guilty," 
MARK THIESSEN secured an  acquittal  in  a DWl 2d 
case where the client couldn't stand, had slurred speech, 
and refused all  sobriety tests.  What led  to  this result? 
Seems Theissen pointed out some racial profIling  issues 
and a large sum of cash that mysteriously went missing 
after the client's arrest.  A few weeks later, Thiessen won 
again - in  a failure  to  stop and give information  case 
- where he  successfully argued that the client wasn't 
fleeing,  but looking for a safe place to  pull over. 
In a failure  to  stop and  give  information trial  in Harris 
County Criminal Court-at-Law No.  10, MARK DIAZ got 
the  case dismissed after  the prosecution's fIrst  witness 
What are the similarities between a golf course and  the 
courtroom?  We have no idea, but we do know that legal 
ace TROY McKINNEY hit his  fIrst  hole-in-one on a 
Tucson links. 
·  ....................................... . 
It took the jury only  15  minutes in  Harris County Criminal 
Court-at-Law No.8 to  fInd  NATHANIEL TARLOW's 
client Not Guilty on a domestic violence charge. 
·....................................... . 
Although the client had absconded on 
fIrst-degree-felony  probation and the prosecutor 
wanted a  IS-year prison sentence, RICK OLIVER 
obtained an agreement to  unsatisfactorily 
terminate her probation  upon  showing the 
prosecutor and the judge that  the client absconded 
because her child required  frequent 
hospitalization due to  sickle-cell anemia. 
Saving the  client years and years of imprisonment, JUAN 
GUERRA took a  big federal  drug case to  trial  in  Corpus 
Christi and came away a conviction only on a possession 
charge.  The conspiracy charges, which would have  netted 
the client at  least  10 years  in  the federal  pen, ended  in 
complete acquittals thanks to  Guerra's work. 
·  ....................................... . 
Calling  it  "a good two weeks," CHRISTOPHER 
CARLSON and JOHN FLOYD were involved in  a string 
of happy  outcomes.  First,  CHARLES JOHNSON, Floyd 
and Carlson pleaded a client charged with  possession of 
40 grams of meth-amphetamine to  a misdemeanor.  Then, 
Floyd and Carlson secured a no-bill  on  an  adult rape  case 
where the client was  alleged  to  have  raped his  lesbian 
roommate's girlfriend.  The string ended with  the dismissal 
ofa DWl.
·....................................... . 
In  a hearing before Judge Kevin Fine, JED SILVERMAN 
won a motion to  suppress fIve  pounds of marijuana and 
two  grams of cocaine after demonstrating that the police 
lacked credibility. 
·....................................... . 
Noting that he "carries natural charm and a gun," the 
Houston  Chronicle published a glowing profile of 
ace PI/attorney BRIAN BENKEN that detailed his 
many successes and the path that led him  into private 
·....................................... . 
The client was charged with the municipal  code violation 
of Entering Restrooms of the Opposite Sex (horrors!), but 
MONIQUE SPARKS got the  case dismissed  on  the  fIrst 
appearance  in  muni court. 
HCCLA Supports  Big  Brothers  Big  Sisters 
By Wendy Miller
The time commitment typically needed to be an adult mentor
makes many young lawyers or law students shy away from the
volunteering in the Big Brothers Big Sisters BBBS program, but
the Big for a Day events hosted annually by the Houston Young
Lawyers Association with the support of HCCLA allow these
professionals that exact opportunity: to serve as BBBS mentors.
Other than the time needed for a round of putt-putt golf or a cup
of tea, there is no other commitment required.
The second biannual T-Time events held in the spring of2010
were memorable for children in the BBBS of Greater Houston.
Fifty-two children, ranging in age from 3 to 16, from the BBBS
Amachi Texas Mentor Program received valuable one-on-one
attention from 36 adult volunteer mentors during the array of
activities and games at the two separate events. These two events
were made possible due to continued mentor support and funding
from the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association.
Tea Time, held in February, included activities such as table
games with Big-For-a-Day mentors, a three-course meal, and
take-home gifts for the children. At a second event, called Tee
Time and held in March, activities for the mentor-children teams
included a putt-putt golf tournament, driving go-karts, and lots
of games and prizes in the video arcade at Zuma Fun Center.
The Amachi Texas program specifically provides mentoring
for children with one or more incarcerated parents. There is the
concern that children of incarcerated parents will at some point
follow their parent and be incarcerated themselves, unless they
have positive adult intervention.
HYLA and HCCLA have proudly partnered with BBBS and
hosted events for BBBS Amachi children since 2007. Due
to the limited number of adult volunteers in BBBS, not every
child registered in the Amachi Texas Program in Houston has
been assigned a permanent big brother or big sister. There are
on average seventy children left unassigned every year due to
the low number of registered mentor volunteers. The "Big for a
Day" events help address this problem. Big-For-a-Day mentors
are local attorneys, law students, professionals, and judges.
There is an annual bowling tournament fundraiser for BBBS of
Greater Houston held each summer (typically in June or July).
HCCLA has been represented by a team in the tournament of
"legal" bowling teams for the past four years. HCCLA in 2009
even took home the prize for first place! Help us continue our
If you are interested in joining "Team HCCLA" either
as a bowler or sponsor for 2010, please send an email to
ce Upon a  Board Meeting 
or HCCLA's First AnnualAwesomeArt Show
by  Sunshine Swallers 
"'! '-

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2nd Place 
The Truth 
May Not 
Always Set 
You Free 
3rd Place 
Once upon a board meeting, many of us expressed anger about a 
particular display outside the CJC cafeteria,  In true HCCLA style, 
we  immediately went from  frustration  to action.  "Why not 
promote our own art show?" we thought.  And 
InnocencelExoneration was born. 
I contacted area high school art teachers to request submissions 
and presented them with the following premise:  How does it feel 
to be wrongly accused of a crime? What does "innocent until 
proven guilty" mean in our society  I asked the  students to 
consider some of the recent news stories regarding DNA 
exonerations and  to  think of a time when they were accused of 
doing something they did not do. 
We received brilliant submissions that were judged by local artist, 
Nan Stombaugh.  Tbe winners will be recognized in tbeir schools. 
HCCLA awarded $300 for  I st place, $200 for 2d place, and $100 
for 3rd place.  The winners are from Westbury High Scbool. 
Bertolt Brecht said, "Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a 
hammer with which to shape it."  If the work oftbese brigbt 
students is  any indication, we should be in pretty good bands. 
Congratulations to the winners for a job well done and to tbeir 
teachers for  showing them the way! 
TlE.mIlO  ® 
THe Second Chair Program:
AMeeting with the Mentors and New Participants
Photo b S1 
unshine SWallers
The Second Chair Program has geared up for 
another successful round of pairing experienced 
counsel with lawyers seeking more courtroom 
Program coordinator Sarah V.  Wood organized 
a "Meet the Mentors" luncheon in late April so 
that prospective first- and second-chair counsel 
could meet, brainstorm - and enjoy lunch on the 
As a result of the luncheon, the following 
members have opted to participate in the 
Second Chair Program: 
First Chairs
David Adler 
Juanita Barner 
Mark Bennett 
Dorian  Cotlar 
Rosa  Eliades 
David  Cunningham 
Robert Eutsler 
Robb  Fickman 
Jerome Godinich 
Cheryl  Irvin 
Vivian King 
Pat McCann 
Alvin Nunnery 
Wendell  Odom 
Michael Panesar 
Brett Podolsky 
Tom  Radosevich 
David  Ryan 
Stan  Schneider 
Jed Silverman 
Norm Silverman 
Mark Thiessen 
Joe Varela 
Second Chairs
Franklin Bynum 
Joan Cain 
Mark Correro 
Michael Driver 
Alexander Forrest 
Alexander Gurevich 
Chabli  Hall 
Jacob Henderson 
Shadi  Kafi 
Diane  Manson 
Kiernan  McAlpine 
Darla  McBride 
Don  McClure,  Jr. 
William McLellan 
Tackus  Nesbit 
Patrick Ngwolo 
Craig  Pena 
Drew Prisner 
Kemisha  Roston 
William Savoie 
Tracy Sterling 
Robert Tuthill 
Julio Vela 
Andrew Wright 
I 'H"\I I1I\            1111  \1\11  <>1  11' \' 
.  .  . 
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A Brief Overview of Petitions for Non-Disclosure in the Lone Star State
By Dorian C. Cotlar
I see, Sir. Let me look this up for you. Oh, ok, I see it
on the Harris County database here. What can I help
you with?
Um,),eM, I jot-a deforred back itt 1998 that-s
PoffMen..tiy UiIi 011. Ufj' rewrd. wltMs tAf witk that-? My
iawt,er back then. said it wouI.dIt.'t be 011. Ufj'rewrd.
wd4 w1t.en I pied 011. t:ItU CMe, My. AttorM)' me
that- it wouI.dIt.'t be 011. Ufj'rewrd. 7tuU iawt,er tied. to me!
I judjot- taU 11rm- Ufj' tiuu jtJ6 Mt.d 1tbW I uut't
jettU1fffIuy tme. I need to jeftme
Sir, it's not quite that simple. However, it does appear
that you qualify for something called a Petition for
Well, although you cannot get an expunction, I can help
provide you with the next best thing. Why don't you come
down to my office and we can review your situation.
Going into the nuances of the difference between an
expunction and a petition for non-disclosure (PND) will
go beyond the needs of most of your potential clients who
need services in this area. Suffice it to say that there is
probably no area of criminal law where the public has
more misconceptions and more misinformation. Our
small finn gets several calls a week from people who are
confused because they believed that their criminal history
would somehow disappear - either upon completion of
their community supervision, or after some arbitrary time
period (seven years seems to be the most popular
number). Because of the sheer number of people that are
affected, it would behoove anybody that practices even
some criminal law to have a basic knowledge in the law of
PND's and expunctions. This article will address PND's.
In the next issue of The Defender, expunctions will be
While not an expunction, a court granting a PND is "the
next best thing." Such an order prohibits the
dissemination of criminal records to private entities (with
some exceptions that will be discussed). In essence, it
"seals" that person's criminal history. Although law
enforcement, hospitals, schools and state licensing
agencies will be able to see the criminal history, private
employers will not. This can be a very valuable tool to the
otherwise law-abiding citizen who has very little criminal
history and is trying to better herself. Providing this
service to citizens is also rewarding (not financially) to
the criminal defense attorney. In a career where so much
of what we do is negative, helping a person clear up their
criminal history provides an intrinsic reward that is often
missed in our profession.
The genesis of this article was a CLE given at The
Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern
University. Further, much of the article and some of the
examples are written based on the types of questions that
our office regularly receives from other practitioners. As
with the CLE, this article is intended to cover PND's
arising from criminal cases in county and district courts
only. It is not intended to cover juvenile record sealing or
expunctions of Class C offenses which originated in
municipal or peace justice courts. Further, this article is
not intended to be a substitution for a thorough reading of
the Government Code and Code of Criminal Procedure
Sections that cover these areas. I
possible to not only have your client off of community
supervision early, but to also immediately have their
criminal record sealed with a PND. This will be discussed
in more detail below.
For misdemeanors not in any of the listed chapters above,
the petitioner is eligible immediately. Some of the most
common (and least-objected to by the State) are: Class A
and Class B Thefts and simple possession cases.
• continued
,.. ~   " .•
. ..f;t.I,
. -. ' ; ~
There are five statutory requirements that the Legislature
has enacted for one to be eligible for a PND. There is also
a sixth "requirement" - that is that the trial court must
hold a hearing and detennine that granting the PND is in
the "best interests ofjustice."2
Requirement  1. 
Petitioner was  placed  on  deferred  adjudication 
under  Code  of  Criminal  Procedure  Article  42.12.  § 5. 
While this requirement may seem self-evident, it is not
always. Some non-criminal attorneys and pro se
petitioners routinely file PND's on straight probations.
The most common type ofcase that falls into this category
will be the person with one DWI probation - usually from
many years ago - who is very upset to learn that the
conviction is there forever, despite having received a
probated sentence. The easy rule is: straight probation is
not eligible. A deferred adjudication is eligible, if not
barred for another reason (which will be discussed
Requirement 2. 
There  must  have  been  a discharge  and  dismissal  of the 
case  under Code  of Criminal  Procedure  Article  42.12.  § 5(c). 
When a person completes deferred adjudication, their
case is dismissed and they are discharged from
community supervision. In Harris County (and most
contiguous counties), we are lucky; the orders of
discharge and dismissal are done sua sponte. Therefore, a
Houston practitioner need not move the court for such
orders. Such orders are also done sua sponte even in
situations where the successful "probationer") has had her
community supervision early tenninated. If one makes a
compelling enough case in a misdemeanor deferred, it is
There are jurisdictions in Texas where the orders of
dismissal and discharge are not automatically issued. In
those jurisdictions, a PND cannot be filed until such
orders are issued by the trial court. Practitioners in those
jurisdictions should make it a practice to either set a
reminder for themselves or instruct the client to contact
them upon completion of the deferred. Once the dismissal
and discharge orders are issued, the waiting period begins
for those cases that require one. These waiting periods (or
lack thereof) will be discussed in the next section.
Practice tip: The waiting period does not begin until the
date that the orders are entered. Even in cases where the
petitioner is eligible immediately, filing the PND before
the dismissal and discharge orders are entered renders the
petition premature.
Requirement  3. 
The  Petitioner must file  her application  after the 
applicable  waiting  period, 
There are three categories of waiting periods for PND's.5
For felonies, it is five years after the period of community
supervision has expired.
For misdemeanors from the
following chapters of the Texas Penal Code, there is a
two-year waiting period: Chapter 20 (Kidnapping and
Unlawful Restraint); Chapter 21 (Sexual Offenses)1;
Chapter 22 (Assaultive Offenses); Chapter 25 (Offenses
against the Family); and Chapter 42 (Disorderly Conduct
and Related Offenses). There are more than 30
misdemeanors that fall into this two-year waiting period
When your office gets a call on one of these cases, it is
imperative to check immediately to see if:
1. the offense is in one of these chapters; and
2. the two-year waiting period has elapsed.
The way that Section 411.081 is written makes this
requirement sound much more complicated than it really
is. Our office gets many calls from attorneys who get
hung up on the language of the statute. All the practitioner
needs to remember is that if the person picks up and
pleads to another case while on deferred or picks up and
pleads to another case before filing the PND, they are not
eligible (unless it is just a traffic offense punishable by
fine only). It does not matter whether the person pled to a
straight conviction or a deferred adjudication on the
newer case.
..  t  a t 
Here is an example (assume Harris County, Texas):
~   . ..
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John Quincy Public pleads to Class B Possession of
)  • .,.  f  " 

Marihuana on February I, 2006. He receives a
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nine-month deferred adjudication. His case is dismissed
J1.  t  ., 
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and the discharge order is timely filed on November I,
l , . 't
: ~ - . 2006 (or a few days later). Assuming that Mr. Public did
r" :.. 
not pick up and plead to another case while on deferred,
he was eligible as soon as the orders were issued in
November 2006. His lawyer could have filed the PND
back in November 2006 and, barring the judge having a
bad morning; it would have probably been granted back
then. If Mr. Public has stayed out of trouble since getting
off of deferred back in 2006, he is currently eligible.
Now assume that Mr. Public picked up a Class A
Possession of a Controlled Substance case in 2007.
Despite his previous deferred, his attorney is able to work
out another deferred adjudication plea. When the period
of deferred adjudication ends, Mr. Public will be eligible
for a PND on the PCS case, but not on the POM case. Mr.
Public should have filed the PND as soon as he was
The general rule of thumb is that the most recent deferred
can be sealed, any deferreds prior to the most recent one
cannot. As will be discussed, people with multiple
deferreds (and even multiple PND's) might run into
trouble with the "interests of justice" portion of the
statute. For this reason, astute practitioners will encourage
their existing clients - and potential clients - to file the
PND's as soon as possible after completing community
supervision. In the example above, had Mr. Public
petitioned the court to seal his POM record in November
of2006, there would be no statutory bar to petitioning the
court to also seal his 2007 PCS case upon successful
completion of the deferred.
For jurisdictions outside of Harris County that do not
issue dismissal and discharge orders sua sponte, there are
several gray areas that have not been resolved. This can
arise when a criminal defendant picks up another case
after completing the first deferred, but never sought the
dismissal and discharge orders. That defendant could
theoretically be eligible if he seeks the orders after his
newer case is resolved. Such examples are beyond the
scope of this article, but the author can be contacted with
further questions if you find yourself in such a
jurisdiction. Suffice it to say that a prosecutor will have
very strong "legislative intent" and "interests of
judgment" arguments against the granting of a PND in
such cases.
Need a Loophole? 
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... 1': . ;

MY RECORD?oontinued
Requirement  5. 
The  petitioner was  not put  on  deferred  and  has  never 
previously been  placed  on  community  supervision 
or  convicted  of certain  serious  offenses." 
A person placed on deferred adjudication for certain
offenses cannot have those records sealed. Further, a
person who has previously been convicted of or placed on
community supervision for the same offenses cannot have
any PND granted, even if the offense is not excluded by
statute. 12
If a criminal defendant is placed on deferred adjudication
for any of the above-listed offenses, he is not eligible to
have that record sealed, even after the applicable
misdemeanor and felony waiting periods. But the
Legislature went one step further: If the petitioner has
ever been convicted or placed on community supervision
for any of these offenses, he may not petition the Court to
have his record sealed.
Looking back at Mr. Public, assume that in 1995 he was
placed on deferred adjudication for Abandoning or
Endangering a Child' s , which he successfully completed.

Even ifhe successfully completes his POM deferred from
2006, he will be ineligible for a PND because of the prior


Endangering case.'6
. .
•  I
I, • 
Enumerated Serious Offenses
• Aggravated Kidnapping
• Any offense requiring registration as a Sex Offender;
• Murder and Capital Murder
• Injury to a Child, Elderly or Disabled Individual;
• Abandoning or Endangering a Child;
• Violation of Certain Court Orders;
• Stalking; and
• Any offense involving family violence.'4
~ f  ~ ~ •• • I  •
.. , .:i , .
The Court Must Hold a Hearing
A court must hold a hearing to determine two things. First,
the court must determine whether or not the petitioner is

~ .  eligible to file the petition. econd, the court must
determine whether the issuance of the order is in the best
I' .4 interests of justice.17 Section 411.081 does not define
-_ I 
when issuance of the order is in the "best interests of
., lot
justice." This is a determination made by the judge of the
trial court. For this reason, it is imperative to tell your
client (we put it in our engagement letter for these cases)
that granting of the PND is discretionary.
The statute also does not define "hearing." In Harris
County, these "hearings" can be as simple as approaching
the judge with the Assistant District Attorney and getting
the judge's signature, to putting on testimony and
submitting exhibits. After the hearing, if the court
determines that the petitioner is qualified and that the
issuance of the order is in the best interests ofjustice, the
court shall "issue an order prohibiting criminal justice
agencies from disclosing to the public criminal history
information related to the offense giving rise to the
deferred adjudication."18
There are thirty-seven criminal courts in Harris County,
with thirty-seven different personalities. Even if the client
technically qualifies for a PND, do not assume that the
PND will automatically be granted. Our office prepares
!" .
for these hearings like we do for any other major hearing.
~   i
.... Prepare your client to possibly answer questions posed to
him by the judge. Be prepared to explain to the judge why
it is important (i.e., in the best interests ofjustice) for your
client to have his record sealed. If our clients have
completed courses, gotten certificates, are enrolled in
school, are working on a specific career path, etc., we
have copies of all of that documentation handy for the
judge should she start asking us more specifics about our
client. This becomes even more important if you are
trying to get a misdemeanor case sealed immediately
upon completion of the deferred, as some judges feel
more comfortable after some time has passed before
granting the petition.
It can also be a challenge to convince district court judges
to grant PND's when a felony case was reduced to a
misdemeanor, especially when there is no waiting period.
However, with very few exceptions, we have found the
district court judges to be open-minded and fair when
deciding whether or not to grant the petition. The bottom
line is to prepare, prepare, prepare. Additionally, the
county court judges, in our experience, are open-minded
and fair when deciding these cases. Petitions for
Non-Disclosure are a positive thing. Projecting a positive
attitude toward the judge will help your cause. Have your
client prepared and have your ducks in a row and - most
likely - you will get the right result.
Who Can Still See The Record?
Once a judge decides to grant a PND, she will sign an
order prohibiting the dissemination of criminal records to
the public. However, law enforcement is not prohibited
from releasing such information to other law enforcement
and other state agencies, schools and hospitals.
A criminal justice agency may disclose information that is
the subject of an order of nondisclosure to the following
non-criminal justice agencies or entities ONLY: State
Board for Educator Certification; a school district, charter
school, private school, regional education service center,
commercial transportation company, or education shared
service arrangement; the Texas State Board of Medical
Examiners; the Texas School for the Blind and Visually
Impaired; the Board of Law Examiners; the State Bar of
Texas; a district court regarding a petition for name
change under Subchapter B, Chapter 45, Family Code; the
Texas School for the Deaf; the Department of Family and
Protective Services; the Texas Youth Commission; the
Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services; the
Department of State Health Services, a local mental
health service, a local mental retardation authority, or a
community center providing services to persons with
mental illness or retardation; the Texas Private Security
Board; a municipal or volunteer fire department; the
Board ofNurse Examiners; a safe house providing shelter
to children in harmful situations; a public or nonprofit

MY  RECORDPoontinued 
hospital  or hospital  district;  the  Texas Juvenile  Probation 
Commission;  the  Securities  Commissioner,  the  Banking 
Commissioner,  the  Savings  and  Loan  Commissioner,  or 
the Credit Union Commissioner; the Texas State Board of 
Public Accountancy;  the  Texas  Department  of Licensing 
and  Regulation;  the  Health  and  Human  Services 
Commission; and the Department ofAging and Disability 
Because of the  large  number of agencies that can still  see 
the  arrest  and  record  of the  deferred  adjudication,  it  is 
important  to  provide  your  client  with  a  disclaimer,  in 
writing,  of which  agencies  will  still  have  access  to  her 
criminal  record.  It  is  also  important  to  include  in  such 
disclaimer  wording  that  even  "sealed"  records  may  be 
inadvertently disclosed to  private entities. (See discussion 
in  next section.) In our office, this  is  a separate document 
that is  attached to  the engagement letter and signed by the 
client and a representative from  our office. 
"The  petition  was  granted,  but  somebody  saw  it  when  I 
applied  there." 
In  the years following enactment of the law in 2003, there 
were  many  problems  with  private  entities  stilI  being  able 
to  see  the  criminal  records  of people  who  had  had  their 
PND's  granted.  The  reason  for  this  is  that  these  private 
entities used  third  party "background  investigation  type" 
companies to  perform criminal  background checks  rather 
than  going  directly  to  the  "central  depot"  of alI  Texas 
criminal  background  information,  the  Texas  Department 
of Public  Safety  Crime  Records  Service  website.  The 
criminal  background  check companies  purchase criminal 
history  databases  from  the  Texas  Department  of Public 
Safety  and  may  continue  to  use  "stale" data  bases  which 
have  not  been  updated  to  reflect  the  records  that  have 
been sealed.  So even if a direct search of the TDPS Public 
Search  Database  revealed  "No  Matching Records"  and  a 
Harris County search proved to  be "clear", a private entity 
could still see the criminal record if the background check 
company  was  using  information  from  a  TDPS  database 
that had not been updated. 
For  several  years,  petitioners  were  without  redress  for 
such  violations of an  order.  However, the  Legislature has 
recently  come  down  hard  on  such  violations  by 
companies  providing  background  criminal  checks  to 
private  entities.  Texas  Govenunent  Code  §  552.1425 
provides  a  civil  penalty  of up  to  $1000  per violation  to  a 
company that violates  the  law. Further,  if a  company that 
purchases criminal background information from TDPS is 
found  to  have  violated  the  law  twice,  they  are  essentially 
out of that  business  for  a  year.  The Texas  Department of 
Public  Safety  may  not  release  any  criminal  record 
information  to  such  company  for  one year from  the  date 
of the  most recent violation.
The  most  recent  addition  to  the  statute  that  weighs  in 
favor  of  petitioners  is  that  an  entity  that  purchases 
criminal  record  information  from  TDPS  can  only 
disseminate  that information if it was obtained within the 
last  ninety  days.21  The  statute  also  provides  that  the 
violator  is  liable  to  the  petitioner for  any  damages,  court 
costs and attorney's fees  associated with  the  violation.
Procedure for Filing &  Having a PND Heard
Your first step  is  to draft a Petition and  Order. The statute 
does  not give  the  wording of either,  but several examples 
are  readily  available.  The  Harris  County  District 
Attorney's  Office  website  has  a  very  good  example  of 
each.  Your  order wilI  vary  depending  on  which  agencies 
were  involved in  the  arrest of your client. 
Practice Tip: As  soon  as  you  are  hired  on  a  PND,  go  to 
the  District  Clerk's  Office  to  obtain  a  copy  of  the 
Judgment  and  Sentence.  Having  that  in-hand  wilI  make 
preparing the petition much easier. 
Your  client  wiIl  need  to  pony  up  a  filing  fee  of $250  for 
County Court and $255  for District Court for a PND.24  In 
our  office,  we  charge  a  flat  fee  for  PND's  and  take  the 
filing  fee  out  of that  after  disclosing  that  amount  to  the 
client.  The  procedures  for  a  PND differ  slightly  between 
County and District Court. 
  ~ :




· . 
• • 
II  • 
- ,
• "1 
For  county criminal court-at-law, have  your  petition 
ready and go straight to  the District Clerk's Office.  Bring 
four  copies  of the  Petition  with  you.  Once  you  pay  your 
filing  fee,  the  clerk  will  give  you  a  court  date 
approximately  two  weeks  from  the  day  that  you  file  the 
Petition.  In  Harris  County,  you  do  not need  to  personally 
serve the District Attomey's Office; the District Clerk will 
take care of that for you. 

For district court, first  go  to  the  court  in  which  the  case 
was originally  handled.  Get the  coordinator to  give you a 
court date. Make sure to set the case at least two weeks out 
to  give  all  of the  entities  time  to  prepare.  Once you  have 
the  date,  go  to  the  District Clerk's Office.  Make sure  that 
you  have  given  the  coordinator long  enough  to  enter the 
date  into  HMS.  Pay  the  filing  fee  and  file  your  petition. 
The  Clerk  will  give  you  the  hearing  date  that  already 
appears  in  JIMS.
:  !



On the day of your hearing, be early.  Make sure that your 
client  is  dressed  appropriately  as  there  is  a  good  chance 
that  they  will  go  in  front  of  the  judge.  Talk  to  the 
prosecutors to  make sure that they have received, through 
their  office,  a  copy  of  the  petition.  Hopefully,  if 
everything  goes  like  it  is  supposed  to,  their  copy  of the 
petition is  there and written on the top is "No Objections." 
If that  is  the case, simply  let  the ADA know that you  and 
your client are there. Talk to  the coordinator and see when 
the  judge  might  want  to  hear  your  case.  As  mentioned, 
although the statute requires that the judge have a hearing, 
in  many  Harris  County  Courts,  the  "hearing"  is  an
·,  . 
informal  discussion  at  the  bench  with  the  attorney  and 
After the Order is  Signed 
Make  sure  that you  get a certified  copy  of the  order once 
it is signed.  This is  very, very important, as you may need
a copy if something goes wrong during the next steps of
the process. If you  have  done  your  job  right,  after  the 
order  is  signed,  it  will  be  very  difficult  for  you  to  get  a 
copy  of the  signed  order.  Keep  a  copy  for  your  records 
and give a copy to  your client. 
As  a  courtesy  to  our  clients,  we  check  both  TDPS  and 
Harris  County  sixty  days  after  the  order  is  signed. 
Provided  that  everything  has  gone  correctly,  we  send 
copies  of each  "clear"  criminal  history  to  our  client.  If 
there  is  a  problem  and  a  criminal  record  is  showing,  you 
will need to follow  up.  If the criminal history continues to 
show  on  the  County database,  you  will  need  to  go  to  the 
District  Clerk's  Office.  If  it  shows  up  on  the  DPS 
database,  you  will  need  to  contact  the  Crime  Records 
Service Legal Department.
Finally, and  most importantly, your clients can legally lie. 
If asked  on  an  employment  application  if they  have  ever 
been  placed  on  deferred  adjudication,  they  may  answer 
"no." If you  have  done everything correctly - and  if they 
are  not  applying  someplace  that  is  excluded  from  the 
statute - their potential employer will  never know. 
Although  it  is  not  an  easy  statute  to  get  through,  Section 
411.081  provides  people  who  have  successfully 
completed  a  deferred  adjudication  to,  in  some  instances, 
have  their  criminal  records  "sealed"  by  the  trial  court. 
Even if the ADAs  in  your particular court have not gotten 
a  copy  of the  petition  (not  unusual),  in  most  cases,  the 
case can  still  be heard  that day.  Frequently,  an  ADA will 
simply  contact her investigattor,  insure  that  your client  is 
eligible  through  an  on  the  spot  criminal  background 
check, and  will  approach the judge with you. 
Although  not  a  lucrative  area of the  law,  PND's  give  the 
criminal practitioner an opportunity to  provide a valuable 
service to  a very deserving segment of the popUlation.  By 
doing  your  homework  and  being  prepared,  a  properly 
drafted,  filed  and argued PND can  oftentimes enable your 
client to achieve something that their criminal history had 
previously made impossible. 
Dorian C.  Cotlar is  a former Harris County Assistant
District Attorney who is  now in private practice and,
when not in court. tries to spend as much time as possible
with his little girl. He thanks Lydia Johnson and the
Thurgood Marshall School of Law Criminal Clinic for
helping bring about this article by inviting him to present
on this topic at a CLE.
MY RECORD?continued
Appendix 1
Misdemeanorswitha two-yearWaitingPeriod
• Chapter20: UnlawfulRestraint
• Chapter21: PublicLewdness;IndecentExposure
• Chapter 22: Assault; Deadly Conduct; Terroristic
• Chapter 25: Bigamy; Enticing a Child; Criminal
Nonsupport; Harboring Runaway Child; Violation ofa
Protective Order or Magistrate's Order; Violation of
Protective Order Preventing Offense Caused by Bias or
• Chapter 42: Disorderly Conduct; !Qot; Obstructing
Highway or Other Passageway; Disrupting Meeting or
Procession; False Alarm or Report; Silent or Abusive
Calls to 911 Services; Interference with Emergency
Animals; Attack on Assistance Animal; Dog Fighting;
Destruction of Flag; Discharge of Firearm in Certain
2 TEX. GOV'TCODE§411.081(d).
3 Thatterm is in quotesbecause,ofcourse,astraight
probationis noteligibleforaPND. However,"deferred
adjudicant"or"deferredadjudicationer"does notread
4TEX. GOV'TCODE§411.081 (d)(l)-(3).
5 This is assumingthattheordersofdismissaland
discharge havebeenenteredsuaspontebythecourt
whenthe petitioner'speriodofcommunitysupervision
has ended, like in HarrisCounty. Forthejurisdictions
discussed abovethatdo notentersuch orders
automatically, thewaitingperiodsbeginonthedatethat
theorders were issued.
6 TEX. GOV'TCODE§411.081 (d)(I)-(3).
7 Thereis no PNDavailablefor any offenserequiring
registrationas aSex Offender,evenifthecharge is a
8 SeeAppendix I foracomplete list.
9TEX. GOV'TCODE§411.081 (e).
IITEX.GOV'TCODE§411.081 (e)(I)-(4).
13 The readerwill note that"regular"Kidnappingcanbe sealed,
14 Asdefined bySection71.004oftheTexasFamilyCode.This
haspotentiallyhuge implicationsfor the criminaldefendant ..
, ..
charged withAssault- FamilyViolencewho hasno prior , 
criminal history. TheAffirmativeFindingofDomestic
• t 
Violence rendershimineligibleforaPNDeven in 
-I •
I t
16SeeTEX. GOV'TCODE§411.081 (e). -1
I ..
17SeeTEX.GOV'TCODE§411.081 (d).
19 SeeTEX. GOV'TCODE§411.081 (i)(l)-(23).
2° TEX.GOV'TCODE§411 .0835.
21 TEX. GOV'TCODE§411.0851 (b)(l).
22 TEX. GOV'TCODE§411.0851 (c).
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& W
by Joseph W. Varela
, , The history of war through the ages
indicates that hate for the enemy is not a
necessity for combat effectiveness, and it
can be a liability when it leads to
unnecessary but dangerous actions in
battle. Good troops have plenty of motive
without holding their enemy in contempt.
In fact, respect for the enemy avoids the
cardinal sin of dismissive overconfidence.' ,

&W\ I ~ F j \ I ~  
Some defense lawyers refer to prosecutors in
derogatory terms. They label government lawyers as
"the forces of darkness" and similar vituperations.
They caricature them as Darth Vaders, Lord
Voldemorts, and Hitlers. Although much of this is
tongue-in-cheek, over the years I have heard a good
deal of invective leveled seriously at prosecutors, as a
group, by ostensibly mature professionals.
The present discussion does not attempt to account for
this; nor does it inquire into the fairness or propriaety
thereof. Rather, the question considered is: Does
acrimony make a defense lawyer more effective? Or to
put it slightly differently, is embitterment against the
prosecutor a hallmark of the dedicated defense lawyer?
In World War II the principal enemies of the United
States were Nazi Gennany and Imperial Japan. Both
nations fielded disciplined, resolute soldiers who
fought exceptionally well as individuals and as
organized units. Contrary to some opinion, the
intensity of battle offered by Germany and Japan was
not distinguishable.
Regrettably, atrocities were
committed by and against all parties.
Yet studies published immediately after the war
indicated that American soldiers held different
attitudes and beliefs concerning the two enemies. In 
the U.S. Army-sponsored study of new wartime
recruits, 51 percent agreed that they "would really like
to kill a Japanese soldier," whereas only 7 percent
agreed when the subject was a German.
Historian John A. Lynn identifies some of the reasons.
The Germans and Japanese may have fought equally
fi ercely, but the Japanese almost always fought to the
death. Also, it was well known that the Japanese
treated captured American soldiers differently as a
matter ofpolicy,s although atrocities against civilian
populations by both nations rivaled one another's.6
Race was a factor, too.
There was a torrent of scurrilous American
propaganda against Germany, Italy and Japan but
much of that directed against the Japanese was
invidiously raciaI.7 Japanese were caricatured with
exaggerated ethnic features, both real and imagined.
They were frequently depicted as monkeys, snakes,
and rats.8
Given all this, Lynn confronts the question of whether
American soldiers fought harder in the Pacific theater.
He concludes that there is no evidence whatsoever that
variations in attitudes toward the respective enemies
resulted in differential combat effectiveness:
Were the Marines and soldiers who landed on Saipan
in June 1944 any more dedicated or effective than the
soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy on the
other side of the world at the same time? The answer
to this question is no ...
Lynn goes on to point out that in the American Civil
War, the opponents fought without intense hatred
towards one another, but that did nothing to lessen the
sustained intensity of combat that resulted in the
slaughters of Antietam, Gettysburg, and
Does the defense lawyer perform better when he
villainizes the prosecutor?
The underlying thesis of these essays is that conflict,
including litigation, implies universal laws of conduct
which have been best explicated by great theoreticians
on war. 10  So we turn to such a theoretician for
Speaking of the qualities that the commander must
possess, Clausewitz tells us that inflammable
emotions, feelings that are easily roused, are in general
of little value in practical life, and therefore of little
value in war.

We repeatagain: strengthofcharacterdoes notconsist
solelyinhavingpowerful feelings,butin maintainingone's
balanceinspiteofthem. Evenwiththeviolenceofemotion,
judgmentandprinciplemuststillfunction like aship's
inthesturm und drang ofcombat. 12
Thereis more, fromoneofthegreatfield commandersof
"Thefirstqualificationofageneral-in-chiefis topossessa
coolhead, sothatthingsmayappearto himin theirtrue
proportionsandas theyreallyare."13
commanderis theonewhoharborshatredandcontemptfor
the enemy.
Theempiricalevidenceseemstobearoutthetheory. Ifthe
studiesof Americancombatperformancein WorldWarII
areanyguide, theanswermustbethatno advantageaccrues
to thedefenselawyerembitteredagainsthis opponents.
vilifyprosecutors.Aspersions maycreateunnecessary
conflict,maylowertheprofession in the eyesofthepublic,
maytendto distorttherolesofthepartiesin thesystem,14
apricepaidfor increasedeffectivenessinrepresentationof
Buttoanswerthe presentquestion, neitherthetheorynor
thepracticeofwarfaregivesus anyreasontothinkthat
anygood.Betterthatthedefenselawyerface his opponent
dispassionatelyandbattlehim in coldblood.
1  Withapologiesto electricguitaristSteveVai(Passionand
Warfare,Relativity/Epic 1990).
2  Battle:  A History ofCombat and Culture from Ancient Greece 
to Modern  America (2003),chapter7.
3TheJapaneseresistanceonthe islandsis heldto be thefiercest
combatU.S. groundforceshadtofaceinWorldWarII. But
InfantryRegimentsufferedan astonishing 87%casualties
duringthe 18 daysofbattle.Theiropponentswerenot
fanatical SSorHitlerYouthtroops,butregularsoldiersofthe
275thNazi InfantryDivision.See RobertS. Rush,Hell In 
Hurtgen Forest:  The  Ordeal and Triumph  ofan American 
Infantry Regiment (2001). 
4 Stouffer,Samuel,etaI, The  American Soldier:  Combat and 
its Aftermath (1949).
S Icannotlocatethe source,butIrecallreadingthatthedeath
rateamongAmericanPOWsin Germancaptivitywasabout
1percent. InJapanesecaptivityitwas40percent.
6 TheImperialJapanesehadtheirownhistoricaltheoryof
racialsuperiorityandcommittedexcessessimilarto thoseof
7 Theclassicworkis JohnW. Dower, War  Without Mercy: 
Race and Power in  the Pacific  War (1986).
8 Bycontrast,thecoverofaNaziPartypropagandapamphlet
depictsaJapanesesoldieras anoblesamurai warrior.
AlbrechtFurstvonUrach,Das Geheimnis japanischer Kraft 
[TheSecretofJapanese Strength](1943).
9 Lynn,op.  cit. 
10  SeeJ. Varela,"TheoriesofConflictandtheArt ofCriminal 
Defense,"The Defender (Winter2005). 
11 Carl vonClausewitz,On  War (1832),trans.MichaelHoward
12Easiersaidthandone. Forexample,theairwarisoften
describedfrom armchairsas"machineagainstmachine,"asif
it,"It washate, theyweretryingto kill you,buthatemixed
withrespect." (J.G. Varela,personalinterview,2010).
13Military Maxims (1827).
14 I'veanotionthatifsomeoneimportanttoadefenselawyer 
ArchangelMichael-forthenonce. Apocalypse 12:7- 9. 
ISToday'sprosecutoris tomorrow'sdefenselawyer,judge,or 
YOU've b
o t e
IUry duty!
By Mark R. Thiessen
Challenging Jury Panels Assembled through Email Notification:
The Defendant requests this Court, under the authority
of the 6
and 14'b Amendments to the United States
Constitution, Article 1, Sections 3 ("all free men have
equal rights"), 10 ("public trial by impartial jury"), 13
("shall have remedy by due course of law"), 15 ("right of
trial by jury shall remain inviolate. The Legislature shall
pass laws .. . to maintain its purity ...."), 19 ("no citizen
of this State shall be deprived of ... liberty ... except by
due course of law.") of the Texas Constitution, and the
Texas Code of Criminal Procedure §§ 34.02,34.05,35.06
and 35.07, to quash the instant jury panel because there
was an intentional exclusion of a distinctive group of
Montgomery County residents which has resulted in there
being an unfair cross section of the community in the jury
panel. In support hereof, the Defendant would show:
This jury panel is solely composed of persons who
responded to an email for jury service. The legal profession
community in Montgomery County has named this type
of panel as an "E" jury panel. The Defendant, under
Section 35.07 of the Texas Criminal Code of Procedure, is
challenging the legality of this jury because it is not fairly
representative of the cross section of this community.
To narrow the matter at issue, it must be understood that
the electronic jury selection process, under Article 34.05
of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, is not what
is at issue in this motion. Rather, what is at issue, is the
County's instructions to "E" jurors that they report directly
to a specific courtroom; which has the effect of excluding
all non-"E" jurors (who the county tells to report to the
Jury Assembly Room), thereby tainting the process of
getting a fair cross section of the community. Because
a sufficient number of "E" jurors always report to the
court, no non-''E'' jurors are ever caHed to report there.
The constitutional and statutory defects here are that the
"E" jurors do not fairly represent African Americans and
Hispanics, both of which are distinctive representative
groups within Montgomery County.
To establish a prima facie constitutional violation of
the "fair cross section of the community represented"
requirement, a defendant must show:
"(1) that the group alleged to be excluded is a 'distinctive'
group in the community;
To establish a prima facie constitutional violation of
the "fair cross section of the community represented"
requirement, a defendant must show:
"(1) that the group alleged to be excluded is a 'distinctive'
group in the community;
(2) that the representation of this group in venires from
which juries are selected is not fair and reasonable in
relation to the number ofsuch persons in the community;
(3) that this underrepresentation is due to systematic
exclusion of the group in the jury selection process."
See Pondexter v. State, 942 S.W.2d 577, 580 (Tex. Crim.
App. 1996). Noncompliance with the mode and manner of
summoning venire members set out in Texas Government
Code is error whenever a defendant establishes harm. See
Lewis v. State, 815 S.W.2d 560 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991);
TEX. GOV'T CODE ANN. §§ 62.001, supra (Vernon
2007) .
...---==-unty, Tex --------- •• .....-.
Montgomery CO
...,7,,,,1 ,....
I O   ~

Defendant objects to an "E" jury deciding this case.
According to the US Census Bureau, African-Americans
and Hispanics respectively account for 5 percent and
18 percent of Montgomery County's population. See
Exhibit 1 (Montgomery County QuickFacts from the
US Census Bureau); see also Feagins v. State; 142
S.W.3d 532 (Tex. App.-Austin 2004) (appellate court
recognizes 9.2 percent of the popUlation of Travis County
is African-American and thus a distinctive group). A jury
panel without this distinctive group is not a constitutional
and statutory fair cross section of the community.
In 2009, it was shown that, nationwide, 76 percent
of whites use the internet while the rate for
African-Americans and Hispanics were 70 percent and
64 percent respectively. See Pew Internet & American
Life Project and the Graduate School of Library and
Information Science and the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign report, Report: Internet, broadband,
and cell phone statistics (December 2009). The "E" jury
here is unfair and unreasonable in relation to the number
of such persons in the Montgomery County community
when this jury panel only contains _ African-American
and _ Hispanic people in a __ person venire and
all are "E" jurors. (For example: a 24-person panel
should contain roughly one African American and four
Hispanics; a 36-person panel would include two African
American and six Hispanics; a 48-person panel would
have two African Americans and nine Hispanics; a
60-person panel would include three African Americans
and 11 Hispanics).
A venire with all "E" jurors is unfair and unreasonable
when the population numbers in Montgomery County
reflect that approximately 50 percent of potential
jurors respond via email because the other half of the
population reports to the Jury Assembly Room and
is never included in an "E" jury, further creating an
unfair cross section of the community. See Exhibit 2
(following page), Montgomery County Clerk Certified
Statistics of 2009 Jury Data. Excluding the half of
the population that do not report via email, coupled
with 5 percent of African-American and 18 percent
Hispanic percentages in Montgomery County, creates
an exponential increase of the discriminatory effect of
an "E" jury, especially in the Hispanic demographic.
The policy of allowing jurors to respond electronically
to the jury summons and allowing the "E" juries to
compromise the entire venire panel systematicaJly
creates an unconstitutional under-representation of
African-Americans and Hispanics.
- -
M Jl
"  .>0 
69  17.  160  ..2.  '9  .11 
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11<1 .29 
11/10 *'10  -0- 261 
Continued:  Motion of the Month: 
Challenging Jury Panels Assembled through En1ail Notification 
Feagins v. State; 142  S.W.3d  532  (Tex.  App.-Austin 
2004) (keeping the  ratio of internet to  in-person responses 
the  same  in  venires  as  it  is  in  the  overall  response 
population... works to  ensure  that a  systematic  exclusion 
does  not take place). 
Most  recently,  the  Supreme  Court  noted  "the  Sixth 
Amendment is concerned with social or economic factors 
when the particular system of selecting jurors makes such 
factors relevant to who is placed on the qualifying list and 
who  is  ultimately  called  to  or excused  from  service on  a 
venire panel."  Smith v. Berghuis, 543  F.3d 326  (6th Cir. 
2008), rev'd 130 S.Ct. 48, n.6  (U.S.  September 30, 2009) 
(No.  08-1402).  Accordingly,  when  African-Americans 
and  Hispanics  are  further  disqualified  for  a  jury  based 
on  whether  they  have  internet  access,  then  the  Sixth 
Amendment  is  absolutely  affected  by  the  social  and 
economic  factors  that  accompany  internet  access,  i.e. 
financial  ability  to  own  a  computer,  computer  literacy, 
internet access, etc. 
161  9)  202
Consequently, the "E" jury does not represent a fair cross 
section,  is  an  unfair  representation  of  the  community 
which  constitutes  error,  and  denies  the  Defendant  an 
opportunity to  have  his  case decided by a  lawful jury. 
Defendant  respectfully  requests  this  Honorable  Court 
to  quash  the  instant jury  panel  and  requests  a  panel  be 
brought  in  that  does  represent  a  fair  cross  section  of 
the  Montgomery  County  community:  "E"  and  non-"E" 
Respectfully submitted, 
Attorneys for Defendant 
On this day came on to  be heard the Defendant's Motion 
Challenging  Jury  Array  and  To  Quash  Jury  Panel,  and 
after hearing argument of the parties: 
GRANTS  the  Motion  and  quashes  this  panel.  The 
Montgomery  County  Clerk  is  ORDERED to  establish  a 
new jury which  is  comprised of "E" and  non "E" jurors 
that fairly  represents Montgomery County. 
SIGNED this __day of ___,2010. 
;;-1", ,,1 
•  ·0 ·  .0-
I ,.. 


Mark R. Thiessen is an attorney
with Trichter & Murphy.
For copies ofthe exhibits to
this motion, contact Mark at
101 ..

by Jim Willis
I want to welcome back the Investigative Comer to another
excltmg year. This year I have planned four specific
articles dealing with specific aspects of criminal defense.
In the first article I want to address obtaining interviews
and how to deal with the friendly witness, the neutral
witness, and the hostile witness.
I want to begin with interviewing witnesses. It is an art that
requires training, practice and preparation. The "art" is
persuading a witness that you want to hear everything he or
she knows or thinks about the matter you are investigating.
We rarely have time to think about what it is we do and
what it is that makes us successful or less frequently not
so successful. Our strengths lie in being able to relate
to people and be quick thinkers. We can build on those
strengths by reflecting on our previous interviews and
continually adapting our techniques.
For every interview nothing substitutes for the most
important part of any interview and that is "preparation."
Another important point to consider is adopting a goal or
goals for each interview to aid in focusing our efforts with
witnesses. The goal might be as minimal as getting a look
at a hostile witness or confinning a single fact. On the
other hand, the goal should never prevent us from getting
more than we expect. Our task is to be fact finders ; our
reward is being surprised by the facts.
The Friendly Witness
The friendly witnesses are those with a favorable
disposition toward our clients and are often the easiest to
interview. They are generally willing to meet and give us
the necessary time to conduct a thorough interview. An
important consideration to remember when interviewing
friendly witnesses, as the interviewer we let our guard
down and do not adequately prepare for the interview or
we have misread the witness, and for whatever reason,
he or she is not actually a friendly witness. The key here
is to make sure that at the outset we need to accept that
every witness is potentially hostile or at best neutral and
prepare ourselves accordingly.
When dealing with friendly witnesses an interviewer's
technique can appear as a funnel-type approach. After
general introductions we elicit a narrative from the witness
that allows him or her to tell us in their own words what
they know. It is not always necessary to ask open-ended
questions or interject questions during a friendly witness'
narrative. In essence, you start broad in your questioning
and let them funnel down to the exact points of detail that
you are trying to achieve.
Typically after the friendly witness has completed their
story we will follow up with questions to help understand
statements or material in an effort to seek additional
details. It is best to repeat the information that has been
stated to the interviewer back to the witness to help make
sure that the information was provided correctly.
Often times when interviewing friendly witnesses,
additional witnesses and/or evidence are obtained. In
addition, friendly witnesses are a great way to help with
introductions to neutral or even hostile witnesses.
The Hostile Witness
Hostile witnesses are not as difficult to interview as
we anticipate. If we remember that people who feel
emotional about an event generally want or need to talk.
We can use that desire or need to get the person talking.
Getting the person to open the door is the most difficult
task. Once they have agreed to talk, half the battle is won.
Possible goals with hostile witnesses include reducing
the emotions, learning all the bad facts, developing
impeachment material and soliciting their views about
potential outcomes for plea and sentence negotiations.
The interview technique for hostile witnesses is generally
the reverse of that used with friendly witnesses. Typically
begin with close-ended questions which help to get the
person to simply respond to our questions then we slowly
work on opening up the witness through expressing
empathy and affirming what they have told us and
providing information that they want to know. If we are
successful with those efforts, the interviewer can move
from close-ended questions to more open-ended questions
which will elicit a lot more information.
With the hostile witness we must have our questions
ready to ask. We want to avoid getting bogged down in
a discussion about whether the interview will happen to
what the interview is about. Preparation for this interview
is very important as many times during a hostile witness
interview the first question by a hostile witness is,
"Why should I talk to you?"
To help diffuse the strong question, the interviewer should
respond by saying, "I need to clear up a specific fact" or "I
need to learn more about a specific fact." The fact might or
might not be of interest to us but it should definitely be of
interest to the witness. So, in essence, we are attempting to
engage the hostile interest in a conversation.
The primary goal with a hostile witness, particularly a
victim, is to reduce the hostility so that by the time the
witness testifies in front of a jury the anger and rage is
reduced. Often we must allow the witness to rage at us
and we must affirm their emotions. By absorbing the
anger ourselves it may help to deflect some of the anger
away from our client. It is difficult to empathize with the
witness while maintaining our emotional distance but it
is an extremely effective technique.
Another important goal is to elicit all of the bad
information so the attorney and the client will not be
surprised at trial or sentencing. If the wi tness believes we
truly want to hear everything, he or she is more likely to
be forthcoming. We do not dispute what the witness tells
us. We accept and affirm it by repeating the information
back to the witness. It is imperative that we obtain enough
detail from the witness so that the important details of the
version of events either supports the physical evidence or
the testimony of others or it does not.
When the witness gives us information that conflicts with
other evidence, we want to repeat what the witness just
said but do not continue to reaffirm what the witness just
said. Continue the interview without showing any undue
excitement or change in your demeanor; accept it as a
simple fact and continue with your interview.
Although hostile witnesses can be tricky to interview, they
are often the most rewarding. Our first responsibility as a
professional investigator is to do no harm. If we remain
friendly and professional, even in the face of verbal abuse,
we are more likely to be rewarded.
The Neutral Witness
Neutral witnesses are those who are not favorably disposed
to either side. They are often reluctant to be involved but
are not emotionally disposed to be hostile. The initial goal
with a neutral witness is to establish a rapport and win
them over so they are at least willing to talk with us. As an
interviewer, you need to understand what will motivate the
witness to get involved.
In many respects neutral witnesses are harder to interview
than hostile witnesses because they lack an emotional
attachment to the case or the client. Their willingness
to become involved depends on building an emotional
attachment to the investigator. Thus, we must use our
persuasive talent to make them feel important and liked;
we need to charm them into talking with us .
One successful technique is to assure neutral witnesses that
a minimal involvement now will reduce the likelihood of
a more lengthy involvement later. This should be done in
a friendly manner not in a strong-armed or intimidating
tone. The message should be, "We want to resolve this
without further litigation if at all possible but that requires
us knowing what you know or what you have to say about
this event" rather than, "You can talk to me now or you can
be subpoenaed to testify in court."
Neutral witnesses can sometimes be persuaded by a plea
to their sense ofjustice but more often they are persuaded
by thinking that they have a minimal but powerful role to
play. In response to an assertion that "I really didn't see
much" we might answer, "But the little you did see may
be crucial to the outcome of the case."
The questioning technique you adopt with a neutral witness
will depend on whether or not you are able to move him or
her to a friendlier position. If you're successful you should
engage in open-ended questions if you're not, you need to
ask close-ended questions. Try to keep the witness talking
as long as possible to ensure you have obtained all the
information he or she is capable of providing.
The art of interviewing is developing, in an amazingly
short time, a relationship with a witness in order to
achieve the goals that you and the attorney have set for the
interview. You wi II know you have succeeded if at the
end of the interview, the answer to your question, "May I
call you again if I have more questions?" is a resounding
yes and you are able to obtain both their email address and
their cell phone number.
Wrapping It Up
In conclusion, attorneys need to work with private
investigators when conducting interviews. The main
reason an attorney should use an investigator for their
interviews are to avoid the possibility of the attorney
becoming a witness. Several cases that 1 am aware of
attorneys attempted to do their own interviews and as we
all know, cases get reset numerous times before actually
going to trial, witnesses move, and witnesses' attitudes
change. It is very disheartening to see your case one
month be strong with good witnesses and four months
down the road when it is time for trial these witnesses
have recanted on what they have said and now your case
is in shambles.
In talking with a couple of attorneys who practice parole
law it is coming a more common trend for the inmate
population to immediately file grievances on their
attorney with the anticipation ofa writ being upheld. As
an attorney, you should investigate your cases thoroughly
even if you feel your options are few.
I want to thank the Board Members of HCCLA for the
opportunity to continue the Investigative Corner for
another year and I look forward to the next three articles.
Jim Willis is a private investigator with Benken &
Associates. He may be reached at 713-223-4051 and
SUMMER  2010 
PO  Box  924523 
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Houston  TX  77292·4523 
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