Interviews with Lawyers, Judges, Jurors, and Other Legal Actors

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Interview with Calvin Wilhelm

Video 1 of 2

Calvin Wilhelm, an engineering consultant who has worked on projects around the world, served as the jury foreman in Eric Nenno’s capital murder trial in Houston, Harris County, Texas in 1996. The jury sentenced Eric Nenno to the death penalty and he was executed in Huntsville on October 28, 2008. In Video 1, after offering a brief overview of his educational background, work history, and eventual residence in Houston, in 1992, Mr. Wilhelm describes his experience as the jury foreman for Mr. Nenno’s trial, including the jury selection process, the guilt/innocence phase of the trial, the penalty phase of the trial, and the announcement of the sentence in court. In Video 2, Mr. Wilhelm discusses his thoughts on the purpose and value of the death penalty; his reactions to a commentary raising questions about the jury’s vote on Nenno’s “continuing threat to society” posted at the The StandDown Texas Project blog on the day of Nenno’s execution; his perceptions of growing crime and insecurity in the United States since the 1960s and in comparison to other places he’s lived; and further thoughts on jury selection, trial testimony, procedures and discussions within the jury room, and the aftermath of the trial. This interview took place on August 17, 2011 in Overland Park, Kansas, where Mr. Wilhelm now lives.

Interview with George Parnham

Video 1 of 3

George Parnham is a criminal defense lawyer practicing in Houston, Texas. He has been representing clients in capital cases since 1970 and in 2001 he was retained to represent Andrea Yates as she went on trial for the murder of her five children. As a result of his work in that case, Parnham has worked with the Yates Children Memorial Foundation to spread awareness of the dangers of postpartum mental illness. As of 2011, he and the Yates Foundation have brought case to the Texas Legislature, on three separate occasions, to change the way the mental illness is addressed throughout the judicial process. In Tape 1, Parnham talks of his early life studying in a Catholic seminary, working as a salesman in New Orleans, serving in the Army from 1963-64, and receiving his law degree in 1970. He describes his forty-two year career representing clients from all professions and walks of life as their criminal defense. Throughout the interview he talks about his mindset as a defense attorney, as well as his experience defending Andrea Yates as she faced the death penalty during her first trial. In Tape 2, Parnham picks up in 2006 with his defense of Yates during her second trial for the 2001 murder of her children. He gives anecdotes that illustrate the mental state of Yates and speaks about her history with mental illness and what that meant for his defense. Parnham also gives insights to the use of media in defending a high profile, capital case, what the Yates Foundation is doing to help mothers suffering from postpartum depression get help, and the process of selecting a “death-qualified jury.” In Tape 3, Parnham continues discussing the Yates’ trial, the difference in the way the trial may have proceeded if it had been held in Austin rather than Houston. He segues into a discussion about mental illness in the judicial process and the emotional impact a case like Yates’ has on all involved – from attorneys to media reps. This interview took place on June 28, 2011, at the office of George Parham in Houston, Texas.

Interview with James Lohman

Video 1 of 2

James Lohman is an attorney who has represented clients sentenced to death in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Arkansas. In Video 1, Lohman explains how he got involved in capital defense work in Florida after his childhood in New York and talks about some of his specific cases, highlighting problems he sees in the entire death penalty system. In Video 2, he describes in detail several more cases he has worked on in Florida and Texas, including Ted Bundy and Jesse Tafero. This interview took place in Austin, Travis County, Texas on February 24, 2009.

Interview with Katherine Scardino

Video 1 of 2

Katherine Scardino, a criminal defense attorney in Houston, Texas, has defended roughly forty clients charged with capital crimes. She was appointed to represent Anthony Graves in 2006, before prosecutors dropped all charges against him and he was exonerated in 2010. In Video 1, Scardino discusses her background and journey to becoming a lawyer; Anthony Graves' case, her general feelings about the death penalty system in Texas and her place within it; and her strategies for jury selection. In Video 2, she continues to discuss jury selection; and then goes on to share her thoughts on cross-examination; on interacting with her clients; and on assembling a team to work on the various facets of a capital case. She concludes with a brief discussion of mental illness and working with mentally ill defendants, as well as the emotional impact of the work in general. This interview took place on January 5, 2011 in Houston, Harris County, Texas.

Interview with Larry Daves

Video 1 of 4

In Video 1, Daves describes how he and small group of recent U.T. Law School graduates first went to Nacogdoches in the early 1970s to assist voter registration efforts in Black communities; the virulent anti-Black racism and poor material conditions the students observed in East Texas; how they started a legal services office; effects of single-member districting; and his first criminal trial. He also describes his current work with the Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition as it resists U.S. Army plans to turn much of Southeastern Colorado into a training area for a ground war against China. In Video 2 and the first part of Video 3 he recounts the capital murder trial of Herman and Thurman Davis. In Video 3, Daves describes his successful representation of undocumented immigrant children barred by Texas statute from attending public school, a case that he filed in federal court under Judge William Wayne Justice, and that ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court as Plyler v. Doe. Video 3 also describes Daves' unsuccessful representation of Mexican American women workers who lost their jobs and organized as Fuerza Unida when Levi's closed its San Antonio plant. Video 4 concerns Daves' upbringing in New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle, including high school in Amarillo, his family's early encounters with law enforcement and juvenile incarceration, and finding his way to Washington University and then U.T. Law School.

Interview with Leon Grizzard

Video 1 of 1

A lawyer since 1978, Leon Grizzard has spent most of his professional career as a criminal defense attorney in Austin, Travis County. In this interview, Grizzard recalls three capital murder trials. John ("Jackie") Elliott was convicted of the 1986 capital murder of Joyce Munguia and executed in 2003. David Madrigal was convicted in the 1991 capital murder of Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper Carlos Ray Warren and sentenced to life imprisonment. Paul Vallejo was acquitted of a 1990 capital murder charge in the killing of cab driver Eleazar Hinojosa, after Austin Police Department investigator Brett McDonald expressed doubts about Vallejo's guilt. Two months after this interview, a jury convicted another man for murders originally attributed to Paul Vallejo. This interview took place in Austin, Travis County, Texas on June 4, 2008.

Interview with Linda Icenhauer Ramirez

Video 1 of 2

Linda Icenhauer-Ramirez is a criminal defense attorney in Travis County, Texas. She has formerly worked as an on staff attorney in the Ferguson Unit in Huntsville, Texas representing convicts in a variety of legal cases. Icenhauer-Ramirez also worked as a legal aid in Beaumont, Texas. In Tape 1, Icenhauer-Ramirez describes her background and career; discusses working on criminal defense cases; and describes her views on the death penalty. In Tape 2, Icenhauer-Ramirez describes the strain of having a career in the legal system; discusses the effects of reliable evidence, testimony, jury selection, and media coverage on cases; describes her work on death penalty cases; and discusses her views on the death penalty further. This interview took place on February 11, 2011 in Austin, TX.

Interview with Mark Pryor

Video 1 of 2

Mark Pryor has worked for the D.A.’s office as a prosecutor in Travis County since 2005 and he has a special interest in capital punishment. In Video 1 Pryor discusses his background and how he became interested in death penalty cases as well as the professional relationship and mutual sharing of information between prosecutors and defense lawyers. Pryor also detailed the importance of a lawyer’s discretion in going forward with capital cases in addition to his specific style of trial lawyering including how he picks jurors and how he carries out cross-examination. He described what he has learned on the job and how he plans to use that in his future cases, as well as his blog where he writes about news that take place both inside and outside the courtroom. In Video 2 Pryor discussed how Travis County’s criminal justice system differed from the rest of Texas and other states, and lawyer’s strategy of playing to their strengths in the courtroom. This interview took place on May 3, 2011 at the Texas After Violence Project office in Austin, Texas.

Interview with Mr. Chris Tritico

Video 1 of 2

Chris Tritico, a criminal defense attorney in Houston, Texas, has defended several clients charged with capital crimes, including Timothy McVeigh and Eric Nenno. He was also a legal analyst for several radio shows, including Hearsay and the Chris Tritico Show.  In tape one, he discusses his early legal career, how lawyers (including himself) become involved in defending capital cases, as well as his involvement in the defense of Timothy McVeigh. He discusses the importance of ensuring McVeigh received a fair trial, even though he and all involved knew that McVeigh would receive a death sentence. He talks about being brought on to Eric Nenno’s case, and the investigative work that goes into post-conviction appeals. He describes his first visit to Texas Death Row, and his experience witnessing Nenno’s execution. In tape two, he discusses interacting with victims’ families, and what makes a good litigator. Tritico was interviewed on April 6, 2011, at his law office in Houston, Harris County, Texas.

Interview with Roy Greenwood

Video 1 of 5

Roy Greenwood is a former criminal defense attorney. In Video 1, he discusses his upbringing and education. He talks about the changes in the court system throughout the time he practiced law and the capital appeals he worked on, including Charles Rector’s. He speaks about national and state political trends and how that has affected the court system over time and how the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act effected criminal defense in Texas and the changes in claims in actual innocence. He also discusses the high cost of capital murder cases. In Video 2, he talks about problems with suppression of evidence and prosecutorial misconduct. He discusses why he stopped taking cases, and then delves specifically into the Charles Rector and Anthony “Cowboy” Miller cases, Michael Blair’s case and Jesse Patrick’s case, all of whom he represented. In Video 3 he talks about the end of the Michael Blair case and James Carl Lee Davis case. In Video 4 he talks about the process of a direct appeal and the process of appealing a Death Row case specifically. He also talks about filing writs of actual innocence for clients in prison. In Video 5 he speaks more about the Michael Blair case and then about a case involving a defendant named Baltazar. He talks about his relationship with jurors and with his clients, and about how race impacted the clients he defended. He concludes by talking about how the DA’s office in different counties operate differently. This interview took place on December 3rd, 2010 and December 7, 2010 at Roy Greenwood’s home.

Interview with Sam Millsap

Video 1 of 5

Sam Millsap is a former Bexar County District Attorney who is now in private civil practice in San Antonio. In this interview, he describes his background, education, work in state politics, and decision to run for office. Describing his tenure as D.A., he describes his work on to discover, chargee, prosecute, and in aid in the prosecution by other counties of Genene Jones. He also explains that he had no doubt about the guilt of Rubén Cantú, who was executed on August 24, 1993 for a crime he did not commit. Mr. Millsap explains that his recognition of Mr. Cantú's innocence of the crime for which he was executed has caused him to oppose the death penalty, and in fact to campaign for its abolition.

Interview with Scott Atlas

Video 1 of 3

Scott J. Atlas is an attorney in Houston, and graduated from the University of Texas Law School in 1975. He was working as a commercial litigation attorney in Houston when he started taking on pro bono cases, most prominently the capital murder case of Ricardo Aldape Guerra (1982 - 1997), which is the focus of this interview. In Tape 1, Atlas offers a brief overview of his educational background; and then describes his year clerking for Thomas Gee, a federal judge on the US Court of Appeals on the Fifth Circuit; his first job in the commercial litigation section of the law firm Vinson & Elkins; his introduction to pro bono work; his first pro bono case in 1977, which he eventually argued before the Supreme Court; and his involvement in the appeals process for Ricardo Aldape Guerra, at the request of the Mexican government. In Tape 2, Atlas elaborates on the events in the Aldape Guerra case, and describes his interactions with the Spanish-language press in the United States and Mexico; the events during the first federal hearing in 1993, which ended with the ordering of a new trial; the events of the second evidentiary hearing in 1995; and the dropping of all charges by the DA's office in Houston soon after. In Tape 2, Atlas also discusses the details of Aldape Guerra's release from death row; post-release events; and his impressions of Aldape Guerra. In Tape 3, Atlas speculates on the reasons behind the police and prosecutor's zeal to convict Aldape Guerra; shares the lessons he's learned from investigating the case; and offers some final thoughts on the death penalty in Texas. This interview took place on January 12, 2011 in an office in Houston, Harris County, Texas.

Interview with Scott Medlock

Video 1 of 1

Scott Medlock is an attorney and the Director of the Prisoners Rights Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. In Video 1, Medlock explains how he ended up working in this field. Working for a non-profit on prison issues, he explains the types of cases that he typically works with, describing a specific wrongful death case due to inadequate healthcare. He discusses problems in funding with prisons, hiring and maintaining a good prison staff and why plaintiffs are under pressure to settle cases. He talks about a case he worked on where an elderly woman died of pneumonia in the Dallas County Jail, he also describes a suicide case in Jasper County and a sexual abuse case with the Texas Youth Commission amongst many others. He talks about misconceptions of the types of people that get caught up in the criminal justice system. He talks about how his experience taught him about the challenges that people with physical and mental illness face when seeking adequate healthcare in Texas prisons and jails. This interview took place on July 1, 2010 at the Texas Civil Rights Project office in Austin, Travis County, Texas

Interview with Sean McMurrey

Video 1 of 3

In 2009, Sean McMurrey was a juror in the trial of Albert Segura. The Travis County jury convicted Segura of capital murder and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In Video 1, McMurrey explains the process by which he was selected for the jury; shares what he learned about Segura thoughout the trial; and discusses the bonds that formed between jurors. In Video 2, he narrates the story of the murder and the issues and tensions the jurors faced as they deliberated over guilt and punishment, including the definition of "reasonable doubt." In Video 3, he reflects on the overall lessons and the lingering psychological effects of the experience; and offers advice to prospective jurors. This interview took place in Austin, Travis County, Texas on November 15, 2009.

Interview with Steve Hall

Video 1 of 3

Steve Hall is the director of StandDown Texas Project, which advocates "a moratorium on executions and a state-sponsored review of Texas' application of the death penalty." In Video 1, Hall describes the renewal of capital punishment in Texas, which he facilitated and witnessed in his capacity as Chief of Staff for Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox from 1983 to 1991. Texas executed thirty-six people during this period. Hall also draws on his experience, between 1993 and 1996, working for the Texas Resource Center, which was charged with both directly representing and recruiting pro bono lawyers to represent inmates on death row. In Video 2, Hall continues to discuss major issues in death penalty jurisprudence and politics. In Video 3, Hall identifies signs that the death penalty may be disappearing. This interview took place on January 28 and February 4, 2009 in Austin, Travis County, Texas.

Interview with Vic Feazell

Video 1 of 2

Vic Feazell was the District Attorney for McLennan County for two terms. In Video 1, Feazell speaks about his capital murder prosecutions of David Wayne Spence and Muneer Deeb, Clifton Belyeu, and Ed Graf. He also describes challenging the bogus confessions of self-proclaimed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and the retaliation he endured as a result of his investigation. In Video 2, Feazell discusses Texans' attachment to capital punishment, describes his own Baptist upbringing, and explains his thought process as a prosecutor and defense attorney in voir dire (or jury selection). Vic Feazell closes his interview by recommending that people forgive those who have caused them pain.