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

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

Gerry Spence Blogs

Gerry Spence is an icon of modern criminal defense lawyers, the author of numerous books, and now, apparently, a blogger. I thoroughly enjoyed the reports on Spence’s defense of Geoffrey Feiger and reading Spence’s unique and by most accounts extremely effective approach to trials in books such as How to Argue & Win Every Time and Win Your Case. I was initially skeptical that this was indeed Spence behind the curtain, but the first post is so unmistakably Spencian that I’ve decided to suspend my disbelief.

These are my first words on a blog. It is a frightening experiment—that I should enter your world, without invitation, without yet knowing you as friends, or clients, or those whose shadows and mine have merged, or who have been readers of my books and who have therefore shared with me my thoughts and experiences and have made them their own. That has been a great gift to me.

But you of this other world, this internet world—I have not reached out to you except through my web site which, I am told, is miserably inadequate considering today’s more experienced ways.

What can I offer you? I am sitting by a stream in the country as I write—in Wyoming where I was born and where I have practiced law for many years, yes, for 55 years. I am truly a country lawyer. Yet I have spent much of my life trying cases in the great cities of this country.

I have learned things about our broken judicial system I want to expose to you.

I have ideas about our condition in this slave-hold under which many decent Americans suffer.

I have published sixteen books, and have tried many cases for people–some cases you may know about, like the Karen Silkwood case, the murder defense of Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, recently the defense of Geoffrey Fieger, the great trial lawyer who defended Dr. Kevorkian, and many others.

In 1994, I established the Trial Lawyers College at our ranch near Dubois, Wyoming, a non-profit institution to reeducate trial lawyers for the people.

My greatest fear is that I will die before my life’s work is complete. That unfinished business includes joining you in this internet world and sharing with you what I have learned. I hope you will hear my timid knocking at your door and let me in.

Harris County Jail dot com

The Houston Chronicle’s Web site offers future inmates a look at Harris lockup (archive) noted a new website,

The site, which is not affiliated with Harris County or the Jail in any way, offers information and advice from those having had the pleasure of past experience in Harris County lock up. The site is part of a growing franchise run by Jail Media, whose owner, Katie Nielsen started the project by after analyzing subjects that had inadequate links when people searched on search engines. Jail media has other sites for Cook County (Chicago), Orange County (the other OC) and Utah County.

The interviews, for which, Jail Media apparently pays, are terrible, but the question section is useful and anyone can comment.

My own first impression of Harris County lock up is still firmly ingrained. When I was in high school and visiting for the summer I would make deliveries with Sal, the delivery guy for my grandfather’s wholesale rose business. He would point at it from the freeway overpass with the 3 and half fingers left on his right hand and say ‘bad place, bad place’.

Prosecutors at Dallas County DA Office Reflect on Exoneration

In the wake of exonerations for 17 men in Dallas County, released after DNA evidence revealed they were innocent of the crimes they had been convicted of and were serving time for, Texas Lawyer tracked down some of the prosecutors involved in Witnesses to the Prosecution: Current and Former ADAs Who Helped Convict Exonerated Men Reflect.

Some of the lawyers don’t remember details of the cases they tried years ago. But others remember them like the cases happened yesterday. One was even driven to tears when recalling the trial of a man she helped send to prison for 15 years who has since been pardoned.

Most of the 17 cases are strikingly similar — a victim of a sexual assault positively identified her attacker in a photo lineup or in court, testimony that was nearly impossible to contradict at the time because of the limitations of forensic science. In the early 1980s DNA testing was not available. And while DNA testing was used in the 1990s it became even more sophisticated a decade later. In each of the 17 cases, it was DNA evidence that helped set the men free after years of wrongful incarceration.

“In the criminal justice system, people are being convicted on one-witness cases. And what this says to me is we’ve got an inherent problem about how many of these cases we’re getting wrong. And it’s still going on today,” says James Fry, a former Dallas prosecutor who helped send a man to prison for 27 years for a crime he didn’t commit. “My question to everybody involved in this across the state and across the nation is what are we going to do about this? I don’t know.”

Writ Writer on PBS Independent Lens

The PBS series Independent Lens features the documentary Writ Writer featuring jailhouse lawyer Fred Cruz.

By most measures, Cruz was an ordinary criminal. But in prison he studied law in order to file an appeal of his conviction and 50-year prison sentence. Before long the harsh field labor, brutal corporal punishments and arbitrary disciplinary hearings experienced by prisoners prompted Cruz to file lawsuits against the prison system. He was classified as an agitator and transferred to the Ellis Unit—“the Alcatraz of Texas”—a maximum-security prison overseen by C.L. McAdams, the most feared warden in Texas.

Under pressure from McAdams and his guards to drop his lawsuits, Cruz was subjected to long periods in solitary confinement on a bread and water diet. Despite the isolation and confiscation of his legal papers, he managed to help other prisoners with lawsuits. In 1968, when an inmate was caught with legal papers prepared by Cruz for Muslim prisoners who alleged that their civil rights were being violated by prison authorities, tensions mounted and came to blows. The uprising that ensued drew the attention of outsiders, including attorneys Frances Jalet and William Bennett Turner, who assisted in Cruz’s watershed case, Cruz v. Beto.

Told by wardens, convicts and former prisoners who knew Cruz, WRIT WRITER weaves contemporary and archival film footage to evoke the fascinating transformation of a prisoner and a prison system still haunted by their pasts.

The next showing in Houston ‘s KUHT (Channel 8) is Friday, June 20, 10:00pm

via the Fifth Circuit Blog

Noted Harris County Prosecutor Kelly Siegler Blogs

Harris County Criminal Justice Blog notes that Kelly Siegler Takes a Shot at Bloggingwith There’s No Such Thing as “Closure” on the Women in Crime Ink Blog

Can you imagine the bottomless pain that a parent endures when they have learned that their child has been murdered? As many times as I have met with and counseled with parents suffering through that agony–and told them that we are there to do all that we can to make sure that the defendant is convicted and punished justly–I have also had that “other” conversation with them.

You see, in our world, the world of a prosecutor who handles such cases (as I have, far too many times), we also talk about the fact that as parents, they shouldn’t put their lives on hold waiting for a defendant to be charged or arrested . . . or waiting for a trial to commence . . . or waiting for an appeal to be exhausted or even waiting for an execution to happen. I tell them that too many other parents, who have walked in their steps and truly do know their pain, have told me the truth.

The truth. The truth is that there is no such thing as “closure.”

Sure, you hear it all of the time. You hear that closure is what we should be seeking on behalf of victims everywhere. You hear experts and psychologists and even law enforcement officials all over the country talking about closure as if it is some “state of mind” that we can help a mommy and a daddy, who have learned they will never see their baby again, obtain.

But when you ask those same victims if any of that–the arrest, the conviction, the sentencing, the execution–ever truly helped them gain “closure,” you know what they all say? They all say no. They all say there is no such thing. They all say they are glad that phase of the process of the criminal justice system is complete. They all say thank you, and then they go back to having to figure out how to get up again the next morning and live another day in a world that no longer has the same color and light and joy in it that it did “before.”

Great stuff. Hopefully she keeps it up.

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