Charge: Burglary of a Habitation (Habitual)
States of Texas’ Offer: 25 years TDC
I was a criminal lawyer of only 2 years, conducting business with a client in the holdover jail cells of the 183rd District Court when I first met Joe. Joe, another inmate in the holdover cell who was not yet my client, kept interrupting my discussions with my client trying to get my attention.
I figured him for a pest, but gave him a minute to explain his case to me. Joe quickly explained that his court appointed attorney was trying to get him to accept a plea bargain of 25 years in the Texas Department of Corrections (prison) for a burglary. Joe mentioned that in the past he had always fessed up and done the time, but for this alleged burglary he was innocent.
After telling Joe what I charged and hearing that he could only come up with $2,000, I told him that I wouldn’t be able to represent him and resumed my conversation with my client. Shortly thereafter, I overheard Joe’s court appointed attorney advise Joe that he should take the State’s offer of 25 years; “take it Joe or you’ll probably get 60 years if we go to trial.” Joe refused the offer and his court appointed attorney immediately became angry.
One of the prosecutor’s for the state was present during this discussion, and with a half smile on her thin lips, kept shaking her head in feigned amusement while Joe’s court appointed criminal defense lawyer started calling Joe a “fucking asshole” for turning down the State’s offer.
I got hot, cut her off and immediately accepted Joe’s offer.
Attorney Jack B. Carroll Gets Involved
Joe stood accused of burglarizing a home in his trailer park right before Christmas, and stealing, among other things, the wrapped gifts of the three children that lived therein.
The prosecution had several hand written and signed eyewitness statements at their disposal. Due to the timing of this alleged burglary the prosecutor called the State’s case “The Grinch that stole Christmas” and referred to Joe as “the Grinch” over defense counsel’s repeated objections. The State’s three eyewitnesses turned out to be children, yanked out of their elementary school classes, and presented with hand written statements written by the investigating Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy. Never allowed to read “their statements”, the three children blindly signed them and forgot about the entire incident until they were called to testify at trial.
During cross examination the defense was able to elicit from each child witness that the statements they signed were not their own, nor were they written by them. Further, the children admitted that Joe, the man on trial, was not even the man they had seen leaving the trailer during the crime.
The jury was out for less than 10 minutes before returning to court with a not guilty verdict.
This and a few other cases in my 24 years of criminal trial experience is the reason for my personal and professional policy: if a client repeatedly says they are innocent they will be treated as such regardless of my personal opinion.