Friday, October 3, 2014

The Blind Leading the Blind - UPDATE

In high school, I had a history teacher who told us that the hallmark of a democracy is that people get to choose who their dictator would be.  (He didn't phrase it that way, but he was just as blunt.  It was the mid-60s and ours was a school that would let a teacher get away with saying something like that.)

In a similar vein, one of the hallmarks of freedom is that people get to make bad choices.

Which brings us, I'm afraid, back to Maverick.

Not the tall, dark stranger, the riverboat gambler, the rider of a trail to who knows where.  

Not him.

No, we're talking about Maverick Ray, the kid lawyer who'd been licensed for 6 months when Sharon Lynch hired him to defend her fiancé, Howard Wayne Lewis, in a death penalty case.  Lewis was charged with murdering his 18-month-old son and the boy's grandmother.  From the Huntsville Item.
"I didn’t want anyone from Walker County,"
She said she used the Internet to look for a criminal defense attorney in Houston. Lynch said she talked to "less than five lawyers" before speaking with Ray, who said he would take the case.
Lynch said she knew Ray had not been practicing long, but hired him because he was "fresh and not part of the old boy network." She also said at the time she was under the assumption he was qualified to handle a death penalty case.
Remember, this is Texas.
Where they execute with abandon.

The judge was wary. The fucking prosecutor was wary.   (He didn't want to have to try the case twice after it got reversed because Lewis had constitutionally ineffective counsel.)  Criminal defense lawyers cringed.  Blawggers tried an intervention.  Back off, they we said. *
There's still time.  You're too inexperienced.  Death cases are too hard.  And they're different.  Don't do this to him.  Don't do it to you.  Learn first.
Experienced capital lawyers offered to help.

Jack Stoffregen is the chief defender for the Texas Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases. He got hold of Maverick, offered to help.  

"We indicated to Mr. Ray that he could stay on the case, and we would provide two qualified attorneys, a mitigation specialist and an investigator," Stoffregen said. "We said he could stay on as second chair and participate, but the strategic decisions would need to be made by our lawyers because we have the experience."
Stoffregen added that Ray told him he would talk to Lewis about the offer but Stoffregen never got a response.
Maverick himself?
Ray said that he has a paralegal and an investigator with decades of experience who will assist him. He also said he would consult the case with his mentor, long-time Houston defense attorney Gilbert Villareal.
"I have help and I have experience," Ray said.
And balls.  Gotta give him that.

All of this was at a hearing before Judge Don Kraemer on the prosecutor's motion to get Maverick kicked off the case.  
The District Attorney's office had filed a motion to determine Ray's qualifications to try a capital murder case in which the prosecution was seeking the death penalty. District Attorney David Weeks argued that Ray does not have the experience to serve as lead counsel in Lewis' case, since Ray was only out of law school for about six months when he was hired by Lewis' fiancé.
There were concerns that his lack of experience hampers Lewis' right to a fair trial, thus bolstering Lewis' chance at an appeal for ineffective counsel if he is found guilty.
"This is a violation of ethical responsibility to take this case knowing (Ray) is not qualified," Weeks said. "I understand the Sixth Amendment, but this is unfair to Mr. Lewis and unfair to the state of Texas."
The bottom line though is that Maverick won't voluntarily get off the case.  And Lewis doesn't want him to get off.  Which leaves the judge with no real choice.
It is his Sixth Amendment right to representation of counsel of his choice and if that, Mr. Lewis, is what you choose to do, then Mr. Ray will be your attorney," Kraemer said.
Because one of the hallmarks of freedom is that people get to make bad choices.

And then have to live - or perhaps die - with them.

Exhibit B
Maverick Ray in self-aggrandizing mode
Exhibit A
Howard Wayne Lewis on his way to court last year


Read Greenfield, Choice, Poor Choice and Then What

*See, for instance, here and here and here and here and here and here and . . . . You get the idea.  You can read the comments and follow the internal links to other blawggers if you're so inclined.  

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