Thursday, December 12, 2013

On the phenomenology of Maverick Ray and the worthlessness of Texas capital qualifications

Mark Bennett recently called out a newbie solo criminal defense attorney named Maverick Ray for "deceptive" advertising on his website, trashing his questionable claims of experience and gravitas:
The cal­low­est young lawyer puts up a web­site in which he calls him­self “The Law Offices of Mav­er­ick Ray” (he has one office), “An Expe­ri­enced Hous­ton Sex Crimes Lawyer Your Free­dom Can Depend On” (he has been licensed for less than eight months and been hired on one felony sex case), “the Assas­sin of Sup­pres­sion” (Har­ris County records show no granted sup­pres­sion motions in drug cases), “Houston’s pre­mier DWI Attor­ney” (I won­der what Gary Trichter or Troy McK­in­ney, or Lewis Dick­son, to name but three of Houston’s top DWI lawyers, with decades of expe­ri­ence each—[edit: not to men­tion Tyler Flood]—would have to say about that), “often opt­ing to let a jury deter­mine whether some­one was truly intox­i­cated rather than the highly flawed Field Sobri­ety Tests, Breath Tests, or Blood Tests” (Dis­trict Clerk records do not show him try­ing a sin­gle DWI case in Har­ris County dur­ing those eight months).
Grits thought Mark was being a bit harsh on the youngster until he followed up with this post pointing out that Mr. Ray, though fresh out of law school, has been hired to represent a capital murder defendant in Walker County, where Bennett points out, “Huntsville is the county seat; think 'juries packed with prison guards and their families.'”

I cannot fathom the hubris required for such an inexperienced attorney to take on DA David Weeks, in Huntsville, in a capital murder case. Mr. Ray is gonna get creamed (as he did at a recent bail reduction hearing), and his client will be lucky if he doesn't wind up with a needle in his arm. The judge "had appointed a lawyer to represent Lewis who is approved to defend capital cases in Walker County, but Lewis chose to hire his own counsel."

Mr. Ray's story is as much an example of the utter and complete failure of the State Bar of Texas to regulate its members as it is of one young attorney's over-inflated self esteem. When Bennett contacted Ray about misleading claims on his website, he responded, “What do you mean decep­tive? It was approved by Texas Bar and is no dif­fer­ent than count­less other attor­neys websites.” Indeed, that's the real problem, isn't it? State bar approval of web advertising by lawyers is utterly meaningless if this example makes the cut.

Similarly, and more gravely, this example shows more stringent strictures are needed regarding who can represent capital murder defendants. A recent, detailed report (pdf) by the American Bar Association's Texas Capital Punishment Assessment Team recommended that:
Texas must better ensure that appointed counsel possess the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the uniquely complex and demanding challenges of capital representation. Texas should adopt statewide qualification standards that include an assessment of the applicant’s knowledge, skills, and commitment to zealous advocacy as set fort in ABA Guidelines and the State Bar of Texas’s Guidelines and Standards for Texas Capital Counsel. Texas should empower regional or county authorities to make selection and evaluation determinations with respect to list qualified appointed counsel. As with the appointing authorities established in other capital jurisdictions, these local authorities should be comprised of individuals with demonstrated knowledge and expertise in capital representation, and their membership should be, to the extent possible, independent of the elected judiciary.

Attention also must be paid to monitoring the performance of capital counsel. What constitutes tolerable attorney competency in a non-capital case may be fatal in the capital context. To this end, Texas must adopt performance standards for capital counsel, with particular emphasis on required training and acceptable attorney workloads. Finally, Texas must implement mechanisms for monitoring the performance of list-qualified appointed counsel.
Ironically, if the defendant were indigent, he'd be entitled to a better lawyer. Art. 26.052 of the Code of Criminal Procedure insists that lead counsel in capital cases must "have at least five years of criminal law experience," they must "have tried to a verdict as lead defense counsel a significant number of felony cases, including homicide trials and other trials for offenses punishable as second or first degree felonies or capital felonies," they must have "trial experience" in "the use of and challenges to mental health or forensic expert witnesses and investigating and presenting mitigating evidence at the penalty phase of a death penalty trial," and they must have "participated in continuing legal education courses or other training relating to criminal defense in death penalty cases." Why shouldn't the state bar require similar standards for retained counsel in capital cases? And if they won't, shouldn't the Legislature step in to do so?

This blog has criticized the state bar for its failure to discipline prosecutors who commit Brady violations, but the truth is they're hardly regulating anybody. Their failures embodied in Bennett's first post are pathetic. Those in the second are profoundly disgraceful and bother me a lot more than does one young lawyer's ham-handed chutzpah.
had appointed a lawyer to represent Lewis who is approved to defend capital cases in Walker County, but Lewis chose to hire his own counsel - See more at: http://www.itemonline.com/local/x520093163/Reduced-bail-for-murder-suspect-denied#sthash.GRPBsaID.dpuf
had appointed a lawyer to represent Lewis who is approved to defend capital cases in Walker County, but Lewis chose to hire his own counsel - See more at: http://www.itemonline.com/local/x520093163/Reduced-bail-for-murder-suspect-denied#sthash.GRPBsaID.dpuf

29 comments:

Lee said...

Imagine if the fields of medicine or accounting were just as poorly regulated...

Jennifer Laurin said...

This is a terrific post, and a great point about the irony of standardless representation for retained counsel. Hats off.

Anonymous said...

Imagine if the fields of medicine or accounting were just as poorly regulated...

Google "Eric The Red" and tell me they aren't.

Rage

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Rage, I think Lee was engaging in sarcasm.

Thanks Jennifer. And a tip of the cap to you for your work on the ABA report quoted in the post.

Anonymous said...

I've been practicing criminal law about five years now. I thought the pressure of a DWI client facing 25 to life as a habitual in spite of no accidents or harm to anyone was quite challenging enough. I can't imagine having taken on a capital case solo during my first year (or even now).

If someone is absolutely allowed to represent themselves in a captital case regardless of any qualification I suppose they should also be allowed to have anyone more qualified than themselves represent them...as long as that person providing representation does not misrepresent their qualifications as an inducement to being hired. Same philosophy should be applied to other professions as well. I suspect that most regulation is really about keeping the money in fewer hands, but the state should play a role in preventing fraud in representing one's self and let clients make their own informed choices. I don't want the state giving me a list of "approved" persons in felony or captital cases. Ms. Anthony's lawyer was not considered by most to be "qualified" in her case, but he won.

The state needs to be held to some higher standards in how to charge capital crimes. Maybe probable cause should not be enough to put someone on trial in capital cases. PC seems a little light when people keep getting convicted for murders they did not commit, by prosecutors who prefer to convict rather than do justice. How many prosecutors will move to dismiss when they have a reasonable doubt if they also think they can convict? The system is just not set up to favor 10 guilty walking to prevent one innocent being convicted.

Anonymous said...

@4:22, who is "Ms. Anthony"?

dfisher said...

Of all the convicted murder defendants released for being innocent and those still fighting to over turn their conviction, almost everyone of them had an experienced court appointed attorney, who mostly failed their clients.

Based on what I have seen reviewing many of these murder cases, the defendant would have been better off with a recently licensed attorney who actually fought them, then the 30yr. veteran court appointed attorney.

I believe if Attorney Ray uses all resources available to him and knows when to ask for help, he may just be the best thing for the defendant.

Anonymous said...

Casey Anthony whose daughter dissappeared and her bones were found close to their home.

Anonymous said...

This man is a menace to his clients. Unfortunately, selling yourself as Maverick, even if that is not your name, is often a way to attract clients who (rightly) want someone prepared to fight the system. I profoundly hope that this idiot listens to some of the sage voices posting on the Mark Bennett blog, telling him to get help (which he probably needs in more senses than one).

There is a state bar mechanism for suspending attorneys who present an immediate threat to their clients' welfare - not sure that the bar would have the cojones to do that in this case, but it would be a welcome sign that someone actually takes capital representation seriously.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

dfisher, claiming a newbie lawyer with less than a year's experience going up against David Weeks in a capital case "may just be the best thing for the defendant" is delusional.

I'll grant there's something to be said for having a lawyer who's hungry and eager to prove themselves compared to someone resting on their laurels. But an attorney who's never been in a murder trial or been involved with capital mitigation in the sentencing phase has absolutely no business taking on this kind of case, especially as first chair and especially in Walker County.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

well someone needs to warn this fellow in walker county before he goes to death row. That his lawyer has zero time on capital crimes and will get him thrown in hades

Anonymous said...

How DO you hire an attorney? If I want a parole attorney is there a way to check the backgrounds of lawyers and see what kind of experience they have and how effective they are? Another question: Do attorneys have access to an inmates record or are they just as blind in that area as the inmate and family? I've asked a couple of lawyers that same question and still have no answer.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

There aren't many good ways, 10:30. The online resources are worse than useless and consumers have almost zero access to valid information on which to base a decision.

That's my beef with the sort of free-market-rules attitude expressed by 4:22 above. Efficient markets require knowledgeable consumers (in economic theory, "perfect" information) and in the real world consumers a) don't have a clue and b) have nowhere to go to inform themselves. There's no lawyers' version of Consumer Reports to rate them or help you figure out who has the expertise you need. The best source is references from other good lawyers and if you don't know any, it's basically a crapshoot which is why, IMO, in the most serious cases like capital murder the state bar should set minimum standards, or the Lege should.

Anonymous said...

Having worked in a couple of regulated professions, I have a little different opinion. I don't think regulation really offers much protection to the consumers of those services. Regulation tends to be more about collecting fees, minimizing competition, and supporting the licensing bureacracy. It allows those who meet minimum qualifications to enter a profession but provides little protection from those who may meet the minimum requirements but are otherwise incompetent, lazy, or corrupt. I say caveat emptor. When hiring someone to perform a job, whether it be a plumber, an appraiser, a cosemtologist, or a lawyer, the consumer should shoulder the responsibility for making sure they are hiring someone who is competent. If they fail to do any research, they will suffer the consequences.

Appraisers, mortgage officers, brokers, and real estate agents are all licensed and regulated. That did nothing to stop the significant amount of fraud that was going on during the boom years (up until about 2008).

When people fail to take responsibility for themselves, the government can't take care of the problem for them. In fact, licesning probably creates a false sense of security in that, because a person has a license the consumer believes them to be qualified and doesn't bother to do any more research.

Anonymous said...

Rage, I think Lee was engaging in sarcasm.

Ahh. WHOOOSH!

almost everyone of them had an experienced court appointed attorney, who mostly failed their clients.

[Citation needed.]

Rage

Anonymous said...

I am elderly and taught my children about Gog, Country and the American Way that I so fiercely believed in An adult child got in trouble. We talked to 2 lawyers. The only guarantee for the future was bankruptcy. I don't remember being asked about guilt or innocence.but we learned a hard lesson. An individual in trouble for the first time has the belief that the truth will set him free. We discover that with a court appointed attorney that the innocent and guilty alike were scared into plea bargains. The day I lost my son to the system I also lost everything I had believed in. From behind bars my son asked why I hadn't taught him about the evil that exists. The answer was simply that I did not know it was there. I had no idea that I was teaching my children lies. Looking at the ages of those being released through the efforts of the Innocence Project I would bet that they came from a family such as ours. Now we teach our children to give only their name and to demand a parent or a lawyer because that's the best we can do.

Anonymous said...

You can't determine the ability of a defense lawyer by looking only at results. Due Process is about the process, not the result.
The problem here is either hubris or ignorance, compounded by the state's callous indifference to the process of supervising felony and capital counsel.
You don't know what you don't know and so many critical mistakes can be made early in capital cases.
Do you subject your client to a psych eval before you use your own expert? (no)

Do you talk to the media? (probably no)
Who do you hire as a mitigation team, and where does the money come from for experts and investigation? This is a retained lawyer and he'll have to file motions to get appointed investigators and other personnel.
How do you deal with prison snitches and letters by your client? Do you have the time to engage with your client enough so that he heeds your advice instead of someone else on the cellblock?

How in the world can someone "catch up" with the blindingly complicated sentencing phase legal issues, many of which are intricately intertwined with guilt phase strategy?
And this lawyer is advertising for more clients, so he won't have a free calendar by any means.
This list could go on for many pages.
This is callous indifference, but that, unfortunately, will mean nothing when this case gets into habeas review.

Anonymous said...

I am got Board Certified 5 years out of law school. In my 25 year career I have handled lots of death penalty cases, but I didn't think about trying one until I had been practicing for 6 years. Nobody should be allowed to do what Mr. Ray thinks he is capable of doing at this stage in his career. When his client gets the needle, the first claim on appeal the TCCA will have to deal with is Ray's arrogance and incompetence. It is time for the State Bar to step in and stop this suicide mission. Just because you graduate from med school doesn't mean you can successfully perform brain surgery, why should this arrogant POS be allowed to do something equivalent in our profession. I would be real curios to know how much he was paid

Anonymous said...

Excuse the typos in the previous post. That should read "I got Board Certified in 5 years" and "would be curious to know to know how much he was paid." It has been a long day and his will be longer.

Anonymous said...

I have seen many an attorney prey on already convicted inmates here in Texas for parole representation. They aren't ashamed of themselves - which is what disturbs me the most. Grits is right in that when the consumer isn't educated it's easy for them to fall prey to people like these which appears to be exactly what Maverick Ray is doing. I'm not understanding how this is ethical in any sense of the word.

I'm so heavily regulated as an RN I can't imagine lying the way Mr. Maverick does in his description of his legal experience. I'd lose my license before I even knew it was gone.

I'm beyond saddened and disappointed by this kid's bravado. But no worries. Inmates are worse than a bunch of clucking hens when it comes to spreading information. I'll make sure to let them know about this kid and his predatory nonsense.

Thanks for sharing Grits.

B's Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

To clarify: I wouldn't just lose my nursing license if I mis-represented my nursing experience. Depending on the infraction, I could absolutely be referred to legal authorities for something like that. It's not just morally corrupt, it's ILLEGAL in many instances. Why isn't this the standard for the Texas bar as well?

Anonymous said...

To the person wanting a parole attorney - try Bill Habern's team, based in Huntsville:
http://www.paroletexas.com

I am a criminal defense attorney and am familiar with the work that office does - they are professionals in that specific field, and their website along contains more solid information than you will get out of many people who claim to do parole work.

Anonymous said...

Protection from fraud is a function of the law, legislatures and our courts. A person who can prove fraud in the way an attorney represented his qualifications should be able to obtain a new trial if the lack of qualifications resulted in ineffective assistance by a licensed attorney or one falsely claiming to be licensed. I believe however that a person who has the right to self represent should logically be allowed to choose ANYONE to represent him. However, doing so should also involve waiving any claim of ineffective assistance if an unlicensed attorney including ones self represents the case. If some of you were really concerned for the welfare of the accused you would also be arguing against being allowed to self represent. It is less dangerous to be represented by a Maverick Ray than ones self. It is intellectually inconsistent to allow one and not the other. People must be free to live or die with their choices. We don't require sane people to accept life saving medicine and we should not require them to hire representation approved by who knows who with interests other than the welfare of the accused.

Lynne Benson said...

Recently read: ....narcissism is epidemic on college campuses...it is the new anorexia nervosa which on the decline

Anonymous said...

When has it been the rule that an attorney is required to disclose his client's trial strategy? I thought that was privileged information. And yet we have all of these so-called brilliant lawyers so ready to criticize a defendant for his choice in representation. Didn't the Supreme Court not long ago hold that a defendant has the right to choose his counsel? And what if Maverick wins? What if Walker County's District Attorney loses in the end? Carry your own conscience counselors. If any of you had any sense about yourselves you would move to try and assist this young defense lawyer to be all that the Texas Defense Bar claims. Who knows what is in the planning of the defense. You are so anxious to criticize and do little to further the interests of the Defense Bar. What a bunch of losers. No wonder Texas defense attorneys lose more capital cases than any other State in the Union.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I agreed to fire his parole attorney last year that his parents hired against his wishes. She was horrendous. I did everything myself this year and if he's set off again we'll be looking into another attorney. This time without anyone else's "assistance". I've read alot about Bill Habern but to be completely transparent - I can't see that if parole is such a secretive process how an attorney who's as vocal as Mr. Habern has been about speaking out against our legal system as well as TDCJ is going to be of much assistance in convincing the board of much. At this point it seems that unless a board member and the attorney have a strong relationship and the member is doing the attorney a favor, a parole attorney can't be of that much help. I thing i need more convincing and or better education on the subject.

Anonymous said...

I think Mav Ray is proof the State Bar IS REGULATING attorneys effectively --
high prices, few selections, low quality.

The right to represent oneself is really the right to choose none of the attorneys - the average man's only check on corruption.

Like auto insurance. The right NOT TO CARRY insurance is the only check against high prices. If you can't opt out, you can't say "i won't buy (any of) your policy(ies) becuz of the price."

About Ray, tho. "What if Maverick wins?" He can't do good for his "client" (victim) if he can't do right on his website.
If he really has a shot at winning, he wouldn't need to lie on the webpage. He could say "I have eight months experience."
Doesn't the defendant have the right to at least ask McKinney for help? Shouldn't he have the right to know McKinney is better? or have both websites look the same.

Is "Maverick" really his name?

~Lava~

dfisher said...

Grits,

Having done more research in this case I found the Walker CO commissioners court entered into an inter-local agreement with the Lubbock CO Public Defender's office.

This was done 15 day after Ray's defendant was charged with capital murder.

Based on the fact that the Lubbock CO Public Defender is a county appointed official, his appointment as a public defender in Walker CO at the same time would violate Art. XVI, Sec. 40 of the TX Constitution.

Additional problems with this public defender inter-local agreement is the Walker CO inter-local agreement with Montgomery CO for autopsy services. Montgomery CO employs two forensic pathologist to do autopsies for their county, which is a violation of the TX Corporate Practice of Medicine, a felony.

Lastly, as you remember in 2008 I went after the illegal autopsy arraignment between Lubbock Co and the TX Tech Medical School that operated for more than 7 years.

It appears this same Lubbock CO Public Defender has never challenged those illegal autopsy reports when allegedly defending Lubbock's capital murder defendants.

Like I said in my earlier post, if Attorney Ray uses all resources available to him, he may just be the best thing for the defendant.

I believe this more than ever now that it appears the attorney the court appointed, and the defendant rejected, was the Lubbock Co Public Defender.