Lawyers Face Dangers, Too
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Every day, police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges who work in our criminal justice system face significant dangers that most of us in the legal profession never have to worry about. That’s because they regularly work with defendants who are sometimes capable of horrific crimes.
When the courts decide to levy punishment, some of these defendants violently lash out at those who prosecuted them, or even those who have done their best to defend them. (Family lawyers face similar dangers since the cases they handle often involve emotionally charged issues such as child custody and visitation, which can cause those involved to take extreme measures.)
Yesterday, the trial court denied a motion for new trial in the convictions of Eric and Kim Williams for the murders of former Kaufman County DA Mike McLelland, his wife Cynthia, and his former First Assistant DA Mark Hasse. Mr. Williams was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in late December for his role in the brutal, execution-style slayings, which were based on his earlier prosecution by McLelland and Hasse for stealing county computer equipment.
Shortly after Mr. Williams’ conviction, his wife reached a guilty plea on murder charges, earning a 40-year sentence. Now, Mr. Williams, the triggerman, is on death row, and his wife, the getaway driver, will serve 20 years before being eligible for parole.
The case against Mr. Williams was prosecuted by private criminal defense attorneys who were brought in to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. They willingly stepped outside their normal roles to present a compelling case for why this defendant deserved the death penalty, and the unanimous jury agreed. On the other side of the case, Mr. Williams’ public defenders handled their roles with competence and professionalism in the face of extensive evidence confirming their client’s heinous crimes.
This is the way that the justice system is supposed to work, where the rule of law wins out over vendettas and violence. Kudos to the judges and lawyers involved who upheld the rule of law in what was no doubt very personal and very trying circumstances.
Posted: 3/4/2015 8:11:54 AM by
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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.
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