First, in Texas, a man was charged with multiple murders and the prosecutor is deciding whether to seek the death penalty. In that case, his lawyer is a kid named Maverick Ray1. Mark Bennett has this to say about Ray:
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).
Maybe all of this can somehow be rationalized in a callow young lawyer’s mind, but it just isn’t true. Maverick is a nice kid, but I think he’s committing large-scale fraud on potential clients. Even if it’s factual, it’s deceptive. I am saddened and disappointed, and I see no way for this to end well for him.
But—for now at least—it works. Ray gets at least three new cases a week on average, mostly felonies. I don’t know how much he’s charging—whatever it is, it’s too much—but it doesn’t take big fees to turn 94 cases in a little over seven months into serious money.
Walker County District Attorney David Weeks, the prosecutor who’s deciding whether to seek the death penalty, has this to say about Mr. Ray:
Weeks also challenged the defense attorney’s qualifications to try a capital case Friday morning. Ray has only been out of law school for six months. There are concerns that his lack of experience hampers Lewis’ right to a fair trial, thus bolstering Lewis’ chance at an appeal if he is found guilty.
Kraemer 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.
“I am extremely troubled about Mr. Ray’s lack of knowledge and training in taking this case,” Weeks said. “(Capital murder) is the most difficult and integral criminal case we have in this state.”
Mr. Ray’s response – “the defendant has the right to choose his own attorney” is the correct response, but also the wrong, glib response. I’m not sure there’s a single attorney, no matter how talented, in the United States, who is qualified to handle a death penalty case within the first 5 years of practicing as a lawyer.
Meanwhile, in reality:
“Because of the state’s filing of a death motion in this case, our office quite frankly lacks the resources to defend a death penalty case,” [Nashville Assistant Public Defender Mike] Engle told [Criminal Court Judge Randall] Wyatt in court Monday morning.
Engle said the American Bar Association estimates that a typical death penalty case requires upward of 2,000 hours of preparation. He explained that the office only has a few attorneys qualified to defend capital cases, two of whom are already on one case, and one of whom is retiring soon. The others, he said, have supervisory duties over other public defenders, making it impossible for them to take on a case of the magnitude of the one against Jenkins.
Mr. Ray seems to be making the same mistake that most attorneys who aren’t that sure of themselves make: acting too sure of themselves. The best ones will admit what they know and don’t know and the best new ones will recognize this early on.
It’s one thing to tout yourself as the “premier DUI lawyer” only 6 months out of law school. It’s quite another thing to take on the defense of a death penalty case. Even if it is Texas.
Update: Tornado Mark, in his gentle, kind way is soliciting advice for the Maverick in re: his capital representation. Be sure to add your two cents.