lukegilman.com : The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

Inmate offers Judge who sentenced him 5k to kill Prosecutor

My goodness…

Bryan Connelly, convicted of forgery charges, is accused of making an unusual choice in seeking a hit man to kill the prosecutor: the judge who sentenced him.

… and as if that weren’t dumb enough –

Connelly wrote a second letter to his defense attorney, Houston lawyer Jonathan Cox, offering him $5,000 to kill Garner, special prison prosecutor Alice Gregg said. “I want Judge David Garner dead and I want you to kill him for me,” the letter to Cox read, according to Gregg. “If you decide not to kill Mr. Garner for me, I will kill him myself after I kill you.”

Connelly had been scheduled for parole in May.

Houston Chronicle: Galveston judge says he was recruited to turn hit man

Filipino Prison-Yard Thriller, Prisoners Unlikely Youtube Celebrities

Let’s choose to overlook for a moment some of the more disturbing implications we might draw from this video and instead revel in the strange beauty of its existence. The Houston Chronicle has a story on the latest Youtube phenomenon, video reenactments of 80′s pop songs by Filipino prisoners.

Their version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller had been watched nearly 4.4 million times on YouTube as of Thursday, uploaded by Byron Garcia, the Cebu provincial security consultant who came up with the idea of adding structure to poorly attended exercise sessions.

Crisanto Nierre, who plays Michael Jackson’s role in Thriller, finds his new fame bittersweet. Relatives as far away as Sweden, Denmark and Dubai have excitedly watched him on YouTube. But he can’t escape the fact that he’s in prison, gently touching family photos hanging from the bed above him in sheets of protective plastic. A fan of Jackson’s music since he was in a dance troupe in high school — ironically, his favorites include Bad and Smooth Criminal — 36-year-old Nierre carefully lays out the orange-and-black outfit made for his performances, smoothing every wrinkle. “I hope that all the people who see us will be happy in knowing that we, despite being prisoners, we were able to do this,” said Nierre, in prison five years awaiting trial on drug charges.

?!?!?!?! “…in prison five years awaiting trial on drug charges”?!?!?!?!? Not unusual in the Philippine prison system unfortunately. Raymond Narag was a law student when he was arrested on murder charges and waited seven years to be found not guilty. Even their own Supreme Court has estimated that 77 per cent of all cases that come before the courts are the result of judicial error. As for why they dance, Nierre says:

“Before the dancing, our problems were really heavy to bear. Dancing takes our minds away from our problems. Our bodies became more healthy. As for the judges, they may be impressed with us, seeing that we are being rehabilitated and this could help our case. We are being rehabilitated in a good way.”

Houston Chronicle: YouTube watchers enthralled with Filipino inmates’ Thriller; Youtube Homepage of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, Asian News: A prison system on the verge of collapse

Racehorse Haynes

Legendary trial lawyer and Houston Law alumnus Richard ‘Racehorse’ Haynes was in action at the Williamson County courthouse outside of Austin last week defending a 41-year-old mother of two accused of sexual contact with a minor, a 16-year old boy who has already testified that they had a sexual relationship.

There’s some video from local station KVUE and an article from the Austin American-Statesman.

Racehorse Haynes is one of my legal heroes, so I was a little aghast today to realize that I haven’t written about him here before. Haynes is widely known in the criminal defense realm and though he’s starting to get up there at 80, he’s still out there trying cases. He made a name defending wealthy, high-profile clients against seemingly overwhelming evidence. He had an ego to match. Court TV’s crime library recounts an episode when “Time magazine once referred to him as one of the top six criminal lawyers in America and shortly before Cullen’s trial, Haynes was asked by a reporter if he was the best criminal defense lawyer in Texas. He barely paused before replying, “I believe I am.” Then, he immodestly added, “I wonder why you restrict it to Texas.”

Another old article from the Wall Street Journal noted the following:

Once, during closing arguments, Mr. Haynes cross-examined a key witness that the prosecution had refused to call by addressing pointed questions to an empty witness chair. His questions were so demanding of answers that 10 jurors voted to, acquit his client.

A little further down it quoted another lawyer saying of Haynes, “The reason Haynes is the best lawyer money can buy, is because he does his own detective work, he picks his juries real careful-like, and he isn’t too damned pin-striped to take a wild-fool risk now and again.”

Hmmmm… I think I need to add that to the voir dire section of the trial notebook I’m working on – “pick juries real careful-like.”

How to Win Friends and Influence People in On Campus Interviews (OCI)

Each fall law school campuses blossom with a thousand hopeful dreams of spending the rest of their lives in a little cubicle high up on the skyline. This instructional video will help future lawyers “get their interview on.”

Are Law Students Getting What We Want or What We Need?

MoneyLaw’s Jeff Harrison, a law professor at the University of Florida who incidentally once taught at the University of Houston, caught my eye with a piece on Best Practices for Law Schools. Drawing on the relatively recent report Best Practices for Legal Education, Harrison made an interesting observation –

I could be wrong but I think there is some tension between what graduates say is most important and what current students think they want. What students think they need are clearly stated rules, an absence of ambiguity, nice power-point presentations, and lectures that lend themselves to well-organized notes.

I think of Law school as a little like boot camp – it has less to do with how much I’m enjoying the experience than how well it prepares me for what comes after. Like most law students I have no real way of knowing how pertinent my present law school experience will be to my eventual practice, but I’ve come to appreciate the professors that demand the most from their students and refuse to expect anything less than excellence.

So what is it we need?

What caught the eye of a colleague who then pointed it out to me is the report of a 2005 study of the Arizona Bar conducted by Gerry Hess and Stephen Gerst. One question for judges and attorneys was to rate the important of areas of legal knowledge. Four courses came in well ahead of the rest — Civil Procedure, Professional Responsibility, Contracts, and Evidence. Those three, along with Remedies, Torts, and Property were the only ones ranked as essential or very important by at least 50% of the respondents. Related to this is the response to a question about the most important professional skills for a new attorney. Here several skill ranked quite high. The leaders were “legal reasoning and analysis” and “written communication” with 96% of the respondents listing them as essential or very important.

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