A good way to end up on death row in Texas is to be accused of a capital crime and have Jerry Guerinot represent you.
Twenty of Mr. Guerinot’s clients have been sentenced to death. That is more people than are awaiting execution in about half of the 35 states that have the death penalty.
“People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty,” Justicehas said.
So what is Mr. Guerinot’s secret?
It seems to boil down to a failure to conduct even rudimentary investigations, said David R. Dow, a law professor at theand the litigation director of the Texas Defender Service, which represents death row inmates, including not a few of Mr. Guerinot’s former clients.
“He doesn’t even pick the low-hanging fruit which is hitting him in the head as he’s walking under the tree,” Mr. Dow said.
Mr. Guerinot did not respond to two messages seeking comment. In 2007, he told The Observer, a London newspaper, that judges gave him only tough cases.
“The easy ones, somehow, never came to me,” he said. “I think it’s a recognition that if I represent them, the state is in for one hell of a fight. Nothing goes down easy.”
Two weeks ago, theturned down an opportunity to review Mr. Guerinot’s work in the case of Linda Carty, a 51-year-old British woman. The case has gotten a lot of attention in Britain, where journalists and a documentary filmmaker, Steve Humphries, have been examining Mr. Guerinot’s performance.
“It is no exaggeration to suggest that Mr. Guerinot has perhaps the worst record of any capital lawyer in the United States,” Mr. Humphries said in a supporting brief urging the court to hear Ms. Carty’s case.
One would think that lede wouldn't be a great advertisement for Mr. Guerinot's legal services, but among the Harris County judiciary apparently that record amounts to a qualification, not a demerit. Says Liptak:
Mr. Guerinot, for his part, has given up capital work and now handles more ordinary criminal cases, on a volume basis. An analysis in The Houston Chronicle last year found that he had represented 2,000 felony defendants in 2007 and 2008 — far above the caseload limits recommended by bar associations and other groups that take criminal defense work seriously.
According to the Houston Chronicle, most of those Harris County cases are in the court of Judge Denise Collins, who recently declined to switch to a public defender system, saying "she has confidence in the experience of the three attorneys she already uses," including Guerinot. (I must admit, I don't fully understand why Judge Collins isn't required to use a "wheel" for counsel appointments.) Judge Collins faces Democrat Loretta Johnson Muldrow in the November election.What an extraordinary record, and more extraordinary still that Mr. Guerinot parlayed that ignominious experience into thousands of appointed cases in Judge Collins' court.