Interview with Roy Greenwood

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Table of contents 
  •  VIRGINIA RAYMOND: It is December the 3rd. It’s Friday afternoon and it is an absolutely gorgeous day. We’re here at the home of Mr. Roy Greenwood surrounded by plants and it’s wonderful. Maurice Chammah is behind the camera and my name is Virginia Raymond. We’re here with the Texas After Violence Project. So as I was starting to tell you and I guess Maurice told you before, we are a non-profit organization that--we seek to understand the causes and effects of serious violence in Texas including murder and including the death penalty and the criminal investigation and legal procedures surrounding and leading up to and following these.  
  •  MR. ROY GREENWOOD: Pretty broad.  
  •   RAYMOND: Pretty broad, but much of the work on the death penalty and we are trying to hear from as many different people, situated in one position or another, as possible. That has included travelers, appellate lawyers, prosecutors, including about three elected DAs to date, one current and two former elected district attorneys, murder victims’ family members, family members and friends of executed persons, clergy, media witnesses to executions, and law enforcement, law enforcement.  
  •  It is in that we have learned an incredible lot from each person. We are interviewing you because of your legal experience as a criminal defense attorney and even more specifically this respective capital cases. Although, I certainly, if there’s something about jury selection, or whatever, that you want to share with us, whether or not it’s a capital case, I do hope that you will do that. As soon as I stop talking, I hope to talk very little, mostly we want to hear what you wish to share with us. I may clarify things. I may prompt you to talk about certain things but mostly we want to hear what you have to share with us and we learn better by listening than by asking questions.  
  •   GREENWOOD: Hmm, okay. I’m not sure—Okay.  
  •   RAYMOND: I think rather that us come in with our agenda we want to hear what you, with your tremendous, deep experience, have to show us.  
  •  GREENWOOD: Okay. Before we get started what’s my range on if I move.  
  •   CHAMMAH: Oh, if you move. Where you are, I’ll follow you, honestly, if you go way too far this way. But generally, like, you can move your hands out a little more than that and that’s—  
  •   GREENWOOD: That’s it?  
  •  CHAMMAH: Yeah, go with that.  
  •   GREENWOOD: Because I tend to move around a lot. 
  •   RAYMOND: Good. Makes a good video.  
  •   CHAMMAH: It does make for good video.  
  •   RAYMOND: As far as time range we don’t stay any longer than two hours because after then everybody gets tired. If you have more you want to say, we have questions we want to ask and you agree, we will come back a different day. So what will happen is we will have the interview today. You tell us when to stop. We will need to stop at least once to change the tape probably. We will then send you the DVD as soon as we can. It takes longer to transcribe and we have several rounds of corrections and stuff in our office. We will then send you the transcript for you to review.  
  •  GREENWOOD:  The written transcript? Really.  
  •   RAYMOND: The written transcript. You can make any changes that you want to make in the transcript. Those frequently might be a mistake, we misspelled something, it is our mistake we just correct it. If you decide to correct yourself, you say, “oh this was in front of judge so-and-so” and really it was judge somebody else and you make those changes we make the changes, we will put them in brackets to indicate to the listener of the video that there is a change and it was deliberate and it was after the fact. If you want to cut anything out of the transcript you can do so. If you-- 
  •   GREENWOOD: I’m retired, nobody cares about me so-- 
  •   RAYMOND: We do want you to know, with the video we have limited ability to cut things out. We can cut out big sections but not little words.  
  •   GREENWOOD: It’s not a problem.  
  •   RAYMOND: Then if you want to add material to the transcript, you know, you say, “well, I want to add a paragraph here,” that you have the ability to do that on the written—  
  •   GREENWOOD: I could maybe, to explain. Even though I’m slower today than I normally am, depending on how this goes, I might get off on a tangent, and I can do that. 
  •   RAYMOND: Tangents can be wonderful. Tangents are often the best journey. So don’t worry about that but, you know, we can add to the written transcript, we cannot add to the—  
  •  GREENWOOD: Sure.  
  •   RAYMOND: So you understand all that. After you’ve had a chance to make it the way you like and we’ve make the corrections to your satisfaction then we say, will you consider donating it to us, a non-profit, for non-commercial educational purposes, Understanding that those will almost certainly include, we have a relationship with the University of Texas libraries. It might also include other libraries or non-commercial educational institutions and we are open to sharing these with non-profit organizations. We sometimes make cuts, we make the whole interview, as much as you allow us, available to people so they can see.  
  •  If they think we took it out—Maurice makes these YouTube things—and if they think we took that out of context they can see the whole interview and see exactly how it came out. We want you to know that you’re in control as much as you are. I have just, I’m finding now that I—oh, risks. The risks, the main risk would be that we accidentally release something to the public or some volunteer comes in and breaks our rules about confidentiality and says something before we have, before you have allowed us to do that. We try not to make that happen, it has not happened yet to my knowledge, but that is a main risk.  
  •   GREENWOOD: I can’t see me getting into any confidential stuff anyways. That would be a violation anyways so—  
  •  RAYMOND: Well, thank you. The benefits as you know, we’re not exchanging any money, nothing except—  
  •  GREENWOOD: Well, damn.  
  •   RAYMOND: Just in case there are other Roy Greenwoods out there. Wonderful, thank you. Okay. Why don’t we start, if you would just tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from.  
  •   GREENWOOD: Well I was born in Orange, Texas in 1945. My parents were both educators, teachers, and my dad was—worked for Austin Independent School District. He was in the maintenance department and my mother was a school teacher and we lived here in Austin until 1956 and then my mother was offered a job as Director of Elementary Curriculum in Victoria and my dad, coincidently--the superintendent of the public schools in Victoria and my dad had known each other forever and he was hired as the business manager for Victoria. And so we moved to Victoria and I graduated from high school in sixty-three in Victoria. I had always, since I was thirteen, wanted to be a lawyer. Perry Mason, you know.  
  •  So went to, initially went to North Texas University, North Texas State then. In order—My parents had gone there for brief periods of time throughout their educational career and so I went there my freshman year and at the end of the freshman year, right before finals, some of my gang that we hung out with came back early from Christmas vacation, before finals, and were riding horses and a horse threw me into a telephone pole and that broke my leg and wound up with several operations over the next couple of years. I wanted to be a lawyer but I also wanted to be a professional baseball player. I had some talent and had talked to the coach at UT to come out for spring training but that broken leg took care of my athletic career. I went from a hundred and eighty-two pounds to two forty and I was in a cast and had several operations. Anyway, went on back to University of Texas and graduated in sixty-seven, then law school in seventy. I was real lucky in the summer of nineteen—Is this the kind of detail you want?  
  •  RAYMOND: Yeah.  
  •  GREENWOOD: Summer of 1969 my mid-law deal, the Ford Foundation offered an internship at the Texas Department of Corrections. The Unites States Supreme Court had handed down a case that year dealing with legal services to inmates and at that time the director of the TDC, Dr. George Beto, was interested—Dr. Beto’s—the prison system was way different than it is now. There were thirteen thousand inmates then as opposed to one-hundred and fifty-five thousand. Some more intelligent inmates, of which there were a handful, were using the providing of legal services to other inmates for blackmail and extortion and what-not. He wanted to control that and because of previous litigation he couldn’t really stop inmates from helping other inmates do legal stuff so he wanted to know if it was appropriate to have a real live law office.  
  •   And so he picked four of us to work at the units that summer and it was a fascinating experience and we all enjoyed it, learned a lot and, of course, with my desired specialty that was just perfect for what I wanted to do. Anyways, at the end of the summer I came back and Dr. Beto decided he was going to actually create that office. In December of sixty-nine, he did. That was before I graduated in May of seventy. He didn’t really have anybody to staff it so the story I got, and I think it’s legit, one of the board members of the TDC was the CEO of Cameron Iron Works and his son had just graduated from law school, Harry Malch [Walsh?]. And Harry wanted a job and applied for it and got a job.  
  •  So he was the first, quote, “inmate attorney” for TDC and when I graduated that spring I though I had a job with the DA’s office in Alaska. But they had an election, the old DA was beat and somebody forgot to tell me that they were not hiring me anymore until late April and I freaked out. Just about that time Professor Bob Dawson, who died several years ago, he and Mike Sharlot and a couple of other professors were really interested in criminal law training. UT had nothing like that before and we all started it. If you know anything about the first year at UT law, it’s all mandatory courses, no choice. But once you get out of that you can get electives in and Professor Dawson and Mike Sharlot and Mike Rosenthal, who was another professor there, were all interested in criminal law and a handful of us wanted to do that. So we started various groups of criminal students clinics and things like that, which now there’s dozens of clinics like that over there, several criminal law, stuff in various formats.  
  •   So anyway, Bob Dawson came out of the blue and told me that, not only had the office been created, I didn’t know until he told me, I knew they were thinking about it, but it had been created, but they also needed a second lawyer to staff it. Of course, you graduate in May, you take the bar in June, you don’t even know if you’ve passed until the end of September. I met, Dr. Beto, came to Austin, we talked about, well, a lot of things. He said, “I can’t pay you cause there’s no money. We only hired, staffed one attorney from the legislature as a try-out.”  He said, “You’d have to take guard’s pay.”  I said, “I don’t care,” because in those days, you remember the LEAA branch? Law Enforcement Assistance [Administration]--  
  •  RAYMOND: I do.  
  •   GREENWOOD: That was under President Nixon and they were giving money to every cop shop in the country. Anybody who wanted shoes, or guns, or patrol cars, I mean they were throwing hundreds of millions of dollars around. You literally could just ask for a grant, anybody could! Courts, cops, DAs, if you were in the system you could get money. I had looked into some grant work and they said, “You get here and apply for a grant and get your money” fine. So we did that and sure enough, I passed, finished the bar exam on whatever day it was and three days later I was in Huntsville.  
  •   Harry didn’t know anything about criminal law. He was a great guy but didn’t know anything about criminal law. He had set up an office and he had interviewed a few inmates but he didn’t know where to go. Because of that experience a year before I really knew what the inmates were looking for. So we had a little training stuff and organized and fortunately he and I worked really well. We started some serious litigation over the next year and a half I argued seven or eight cases before the Court of Criminal Appeals based on writs of habeas corpus, you know all about that, that I had filed. So everything was going great, it was really good. Huntsville in those days was dry.  
  •  There was no apartments, all the kids were commuters but I managed to get an apartment just two blocks from our office. Our office was like seventy feet from Dr. Beto’s monster office. He gave us—he stayed out of our way. The only rule was we don’t sue TDC, well, we didn’t do civil stuff anyways. The lawsuits didn’t come until later. It was a fascinating experience. Anyway, while I missed Austin, we were, I was working ten, twelve, fifteen hours a day. There was never a lack of supply of clients. I had the southern units, below Houston.  
  •  Harry did the northern units even thought there was only thirteen, sixteen thousand inmates, there was like nine or twelve units or whatever it was then. Just geographically, in order to get to them, we had stacks of mail to the ceiling, and so I just took south because when I had worked at the internship I was down at Retrieve Unit [now Scott Unit] right outside of Angleton, so I knew they had facilities. Not every unit has facilities, for even employees, to live. Some of the bigger units did but most of them didn’t, most of the guards went home.  
  •  So there wasn’t living places but Retrieve had real nice officer’s bunk-house so I stayed there. Sometime in October of 1970 I went up to argue a case at the Court of Criminal Appeals. The March before that the Court of Criminal Appeals had gotten those LEAA funds to create, for the first time, an administrative assistance office at the court. Before it was just clerks who were not lawyers, they were shuffling paper. The judges had, each had one briefing attorney, who had just graduated from law school. Some hadn’t even been licensed yet. They would just stay the one year and then leave. So there was no continuity, no computers, of course, and the judges—Texas has always had a big caseload, but all criminal appeals went to the Court of Criminal Appeals then. They were just getting inundated. There were only five judges as opposed to nine.  
  •  So they had gone to a judicial conference and talked to some judges, very sharp people, in Michigan. They told Judge Onion, who was the presiding judge, how much help the administrators could take all this load off them, this crap that they had to deal with. Judge Onion came back and, because it was in the midst of a legislative season, he just said “LEAA grant” and bam, there it was, the office. And Marvin Teague, a Houston attorney, was appointed the first administrative assistant in March of seventy-one and Marvin was a big time criminal defense lawyer, appellate specialist, trial lawyer, that was his life.  
  •  In any event, Marvin dug in and, of course, the court was pretty conservative, like Texas has always been, and Marvin was just this screaming defense lawyer but he served them very well. Marvin had seen me come up, I didn’t know him before that, I had heard of him, and he’d seen me argue several of his cases before. So I was getting ready to argue a case and he asked me to come over and sit by him and he said, “How do you like you job in Huntsville?”  I said, “I love it.”  He says, “How would you like to come back to Austin and make double the money working for the Court of Criminal Appeals? The only problem is you've got to be here in a month.”  
  •   Well I did. I mean I spent the next week preparing letters to all the clients I had telling them, talking to Harry about how to rearrange the case load so some people don’t get left out and managed to get there. So I spent seven years at the Court of Criminal Appeals and from that time it went from us two administrative assistants to, they’ve had as many as fourteen. I don’t know what they have now. Probably twenty five different staff attorneys in one format or another. [Mr. Greenwood off-camera] You getting ready to leave? Okay.  
  •  RAYMOND: It was nice to meet you.  
  •   [Mrs. Greenwood]: Thank you.  
  •  GREENWOOD: Be careful. We’ll see you later.  
  •   [Mrs. Greenwood]: It’s too bad he sounds like a foghorn.   
  •   GREENWOOD: Yeah. That was something else, this arrangement is probably well--for some reason or another, I get back from Cuba in one piece almost in one piece and pick up a cold on Wednesday so I’ve been drowning it in drugs and this exercise to get rid of it. Anyways, when I started there were five judges on the court and two administrative assistants and now there’s just all these staff people. They went from five judges, five judges and four commissioners who were appointed by the other judges to help. Then there was a constitutional amendment sometime in the seventies to make nine judges and then in 1981 they allowed the courts of appeals, for the first time, to take criminal jurisdiction too, so that the Court of Criminal Appeals has discretionary review of all non-capital appeals. Anyway, I left and went into private practice in 1978 and stayed here in Austin.  
  •  After three of four years, for two or three years, I tried more cases in Travis County than anybody did by appointment. Austin has never had that much money for criminal defense lawyers. It took about that long to establish a statewide appeal practice. By ‘eighty-six or seven, because Travis County, unfortunately, has always been very provincial, they’ve got some friendly people, but a handful of real professionals in the DA’s office, only a few. They had a big turnover, people were going criminal defense lawyer, prosecutor, and it’s only been in the last fifteen or twenty years they they’ve really, that all the DA’s offices really, have just said, “Well were not going to do this revolving door thing, it’s going to be professional prosecutors.” In those days Travis County hadn’t done that yet and I had took a lot of appointments in big cases.  
  •  It’s ‘eighty-six or ‘eighty-seven because of the real inefficiency of the Travis Courts I said,  That’s it, I’m not taking any more Travis County appointments and started doing stuff outside with just the appeal practice. I had two or three capital cases in the mid to late—I had tried a capital case here in ‘eighty-two and we got a “not guilty.” I represented his co-defendant who had been convicted. That stayed in the courts for nineteen years.  
  •   RAYMOND: What case? 
  •   GREENWOOD: That was Charles Rector.  
  •   RAYMOND: Oh, Charles Rector. Okay.  
  •   GREENWOOD: The only one that beat that was Gary Johnson who was twenty-three or twenty-four years. He was just executed in January this year out of Huntsville. Then after that I started—was doing capital appeals and non-capital appeals then, of course—There were very—The Resource Center, you familiar with it?  
  •   RAYMOND: It would be helpful for the oral history for you to talk about the Texas Resource Center.  
  •   GREENWOOD: I was doing the Rector case and I started representing him in 1982 and we, between 1982 and 1988, even though Texas had more people on Death Row except for California probably. Houston and Dallas were in a mini-contest to see how many people they could out on Death Row. Because of the number, the US Congress passed this act to allow the Resource Center because, while at that time you had the right to counsel through your direct appeal to that case, there was no right to counsel on habeas corpus. That was getting to be a big deal. The Court of the Fifth Circuit was just jammed with death penalty habeas corpus cases without counsel and none of the judges knew how to handle it. In those days, the Fifth Circuit was a fairly liberal court and they reversed something like forty-five or sixty percent of the death penalty cases they got. But it was hard because there were only a handful of attorney generals that knew anything about it, who could defend the cases. 
  •   A lot of lawyers would be volunteers who could for stay a while but not a decade like they were lasting. So anyway, Congress passed this law and I happened to be reading a copy of the magazine The Champion put out by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. It had this blurb on this law passed in Congress. A defense lawyer out of New Jersey was interviewed about this law and he said, ‘”I just applied for money in a capital habeas corpus and got it!” Well, I called our US Magistrate Steve Capelle, because Rector had been sent back for some state proceedings and was on his way back to federal court, and I called our US Magistrate, then Steve Capelle and said, “Steve, do ya’ll know anything about this appointment in federal court for capital cases?”  
  •  He says, “No.” Judge Nowlin was the only federal district judge then.  And I said, “Well,” and I faxed it over, a copy over to him and I said, “Look at it, because Rector is coming back." Steve couldn’t work on Rector because he represented one of the co-defendants for a while. But he was the only real magistrate and he was kind of advising Judge Nowlin about what to do. So I get appointed, and I may have been one of the first lawyers in Texas appointed under the Criminal Justice Act. Not sure, probably somebody in Houston, Mandy Welch or somebody knew about it. First lawyer in Austin, for sure, because the federal judges didn’t even know about it.  
  •   RAYMOND: And these were habeas only?  
  •   GREENWOOD:  Yeah. Right. And so they appointed me on Rector and then after that, since then, I’ve represented somewhere over sixty-five people either charged with, convicted of, or some status of being capital murder defendant. Lots of appeals, direct appeals.  In those days it was my opinion, because I had learned this from Marvin Teague who eventually was a judge on the court for about a decade before he died of a heart attack, that if you represent a capital murder defendant at a trial, and in those days a lot of lawyers would do them at trial but didn’t do the appeal, but if you did the appeal you continued to represent him. That was just the way it was for an ethical criminal defense lawyer. You just didn’t leave him, and that’s what I did. So I had three of them. Two from here and one from somewhere, Houston I think.  
  •  A lot of lawyers didn’t do the appeals so I would get appointed from other counties and there was a handful of us that did that. Then I started working with the Resource Center a little bit. The Resource Center started having reputation problems because there were so few of us who would, or could, do capital cases. The Resource Center was only supposed to, literally, be a resource for other attorneys, try to get people to represent capital murder defendants on federal habeas, state habeas even, or to help other attorneys who were actually appointed. It was never their original mandate to actually represent everybody that was there, but they couldn’t find the lawyers to do it. So they started jumping in and they were way thin and there were a few people that got caught lying to judges about the evidence that they had and their reputation just fell of a cliff.  
  •   There were some really good lawyers, really dedicated. Most of them were honest, but they had a couple of people—One of the problems with the Resource Center, and still some of the people that do it, is they are ardent abolitionists. I’m not, you know. I think death penalty ought to be used very sparingly. The Constitution of the United States still provides for it so therefore it’s constitutional until the Supreme Court says it’s not, fine, but I've represented a lot of guys and most of them didn’t deserve the death penalty, but a few of them did. I don’t want to see, I never want to see these people out on the street again. And there’s a couple of guys I didn’t represent, but got close, that I would have pulled the switch on.   So that’s my opinion about the death penalty. But they were ardent abolitionists and a few of ‘em—sorry if that offends your sensibilities but--  
  •   RAYMOND: It does not.  
  •   GREENWOOD: Unfortunately, when you take that ardent abolitionist stand, as opposed to just an objective attorney theoretically working for your client, you’ve got another agenda which can hurt your client if you do it wrong. Some of those attorneys would lie to judges just to delay, delay, delay or put just total bullshit into petitions thinking they were pretty much absolved from any court sanction, because they were. I don’t know of an attorney, I cannot think, right now, of an attorney who’s ever been sanctioned for conduct in a habeas corpus case where he’s theoretically on behalf of his client. I mean, they’ve hit prosecutors, hit witnesses, and threatened judges and stuff like that but not just because they were doing unethical things and filing false pleadings and stuff like that.  
  •  Just pretty much immune from sanctions. Just file it and whatever, there’s too many of them. So the Resource Center started with a good theory but started going downhill. In 1994 Congress—it didn’t take but five years—five or six years nationally, this wonderful potential program was dust. Now just think, what congressional program with a lot of money, millions of dollars to spend, comes and goes so fast? It had to have been bad. It was bad in Texas. They dealt with—If you’re going to lie to some judges, there’s some you don’t lie to, cause these guys have political clout, the know the state reps, they’re not just turnips up there on the bench like most judges are.  
  •  Ted Poe, US Congressman from Houston, he was one of the district judges. Mike Spradlin wasn’t in Congress, but they were big, not only judges and former prosecutors, first assistant DAs in Houston, lots of capital murder experience, but they’re political. Those guys plus a few judges in Dallas just blasted them in the legislature. The legislature got back to Congress and in five or six years that program was gone. [standing] Excuse me, coffee all day. [TAPE CUTS] 
  •   GREENWOOD: Not only did it take from ‘eighty-eight to ‘ninety-four, whatever exactly, it finally went away. In the meantime, the Republicans’ growing power in Congress had tried to start limiting federal habeas and they had tried at least twice to get an act passed to limit federal habeas. The Texas Republicans and mainly the prosecutors in Texas managed to—they thought this Congressional act was going to pass in ‘ninety-five. It didn’t but the prosecutors got the Texas act passed in ‘ninety-five to jump the gun. That caused like ten years of additional litigation because the federal act didn’t go into effect until April of ‘ninety-six. Other than limiting the ability to go— 
  •  The real big problem was a capital murder defendant would go in on one habeas corpus, halfway through if he lost in the federal district court and was appealing to the Fifth Circuit he’d come back and file another one, raise another issue, and do this fifteen or twenty times. There was a mechanism whereby the courts could have stopped that. It’s called abuse of the writ, but they wouldn’t do it. So finally, there was grumblings about the Resource Center, grumblings from the judges about this case load. 
  •   I mean, some capital murder defendants in Texas who had been on the row ten years or more wound up having fifteen and twenty different writs pending all at the same time. Technically, at that time, they could have them pending in as many as two different federal districts. The judges, for whatever reasons, just couldn’t handle it so Congress took over and passed the AEDPA Really, some legislation needed to be done but it was much too limited. It prevented, even though there’s this theory whereby it says new evidence can come in, they’re way too restrictive on it. We saw what the handwriting on the wall when the legislature passed that act and so there was the remnants of the Resource Center people and maybe a hundred other lawyers who were interested in this stuff plus the TCDLA John Boston was the executive director of the TCDLA at the time.  
  •   RAYMOND: TCDLA is-  
  •   GREENWOOD: Criminal Defense Lawyers. John was big on education and so, John and I, we have been friends for years, so after the legislation for the Texas act passed in April, it wasn’t going into effect until September. After a handful of us studies it we said, “We’ve gotta start teaching people because we’ve got five hundred some-odd people on death row.” By this time the federal act we thought was going to be passed at any time, we didn’t know what that was. All these people needed lawyers and we wanted to be able to give some instruction as to what was going on. With John’s help we put on a big seminar down in Corpus about the acts, just about that.  
  •   RAYMOND: This is now just the Texas act?  
  •   GREENWOOD: Yes.  
  •   RAYMOND: In ’ninety-five?  
  •   GREENWOOD: Right. In August of 1995 we had this seminar in Corpus and like four hundred lawyers showed up for it, a lot more interest that I would have ever thought. We knew there was maybe fifty or sixty resource center lawyers plus maybe another fifty or sixty lawyers who, across the state, were appellate specialists and another handful who did habeas. We figured there couldn’t be more than one hundred and twenty or a hundred and fifty that would care. Well come to find out these were people who needed money, didn’t have a practice, and wanted to make some money. Because the guess-timates of what could be paid were all over the map.  
  •  So the act passed and we tried to tell them some of the problems. The Court of Criminal Appeals just sat there, they didn’t do anything. Then the federal act went into affect several months later in April of ‘ninety-six and that put a statute of limitations on filing. So you’ve got five hundred inmates, almost none of whom have lawyers and the statute on limitations started running and the Court of Criminal Appeals just sat there. So David Botsford, who right about in there either was or had been president in the TCDLA, I told David, and David knows his stuff, he had expressed some concern that they weren’t appointing lawyers and the time was running.  
  •   So he and I went to go see Judge Mike McCormick and said, “Judge, you have got to start appointing these people.”  He had no clue what was in the federal act, didn’t even know that there was a statute of limitations. Within three weeks of that meeting they started appointing lawyers. But of course there weren’t enough lawyers. Two guys who had worked for the Court of Criminal Appeals actually quit and took ten cases a piece. Both good guys, Gary Hart and I forget the other guy’s name [Robin Norris], they knew what they were doing but taking ten capital murder habeas  corpus petitions, you got more than two at one time, you’ve got a handful.  
  •  They did it and we never heard any complaints about their work. Other lawyers who wanted to take one, two, three, some of them couldn’t handle a DWI appeal much less a capital appeal. So all these people were appointed and then the court couldn’t make up its mind on how it wanted to pay people. Then they fought internally about that so we had a State Bar committee that was headed by Vince Perini from Dallas that was the only State Bar committee that cared about this problem. For a number of years this committee would meet and have like fifteen people in the committee and two hundred people would show up. Judges, appellate judges, district judges, prosecutors about the problem about how you handle the statute, how you handle the money because somebody forgot to ask for enough money. Because the Court of Criminal Appeals wouldn’t tell them how much money they were going to pay.  
  •  The federal courts had already determined, “Well, we don’t know what to do so we’ll set a cap so at least everybody will know what you look for.” Judge McCormick, who was the presiding judge, and Charlie Baird got into a fight about how much was going to pay. McCormick announced in public that he was going to pay five thousand dollars. Well that would be reading the record and not doing anything else. So all of a sudden a bunch of people said, “Nah, we don’t want this.” So you had withdrawals of lawyers who had been appointed right and left. Charlie Baird came back and said, “No, he’s wrong,” and they got into an internal fight and Baird ran against McCormick, sitting on the same court running against him for presiding judge twice, so that wasn’t good. 
  •   The Court of Criminal Appeals has never handled money for lawyers, never should’ve handled money. That was a nightmare. Bills were coming in right and left and the clerk’s office didn’t have a clue about what to do. So that was a major problem. Then, as you’ve probably heard, a lot of these people were drunks, idiots, lazy, all they wanted was to clock hours and whatever the maximum fee was, they’d charge the judges for it and it would be a two-page petition that didn’t even qualify as a writ of habeas corpus.  
  •  So that walked along for a long time and that’s taken until like two years ago. Somehow there have been some tremendous abuses but I guess fortunately for most everybody, most of them were guilty. Most of them. But then you had a few diligent lawyers, all of a sudden for the first time, you found some innocent ones. Oh my God. And that’s changed the whole ballgame, the fact that people were shown to be innocent. First it was the non-capital guys out of Dallas and a few other places. The guys here in Austin, Ochoa and whatever the other guy’s name was. There got to be more and more and the only capital murder, capital death row guy to be found innocent on habeas corpus was, that I know of, is Michael Blair, who was my client. It took the Court of Criminal Appeals four years to understand that somebody really could be innocent and their opinions are now all over the map.  
  •  But at least, I’ll give them credit, at least they recognize a claim of actual innocence on habeas. The federal courts still don’t, even though there’s a Supreme Court decision saying, “Yeah, probably if you prove it we’d grant relief.”  Most federal judges say that doesn’t exist. Or, “I won’t consider it exists until you show me a guy that’s innocent.” Those of us who have gotten guys off the row who were innocent have been real lucky. It wasn’t necessarily the lawyering it was just flukes. Just flukes.  
  •  Now I don’t know how many people have been declared innocent, capital or non-capital, in the last ten years but there have been a bunch of ‘em. Anthony Graves, who was my client, we had an factual innocence claim in his Fifth Circuit appeal and as I walked up to argue that case the first time the presiding judge, I guess it was Judge Davis said, “Now Mr. Greenwood you know that your original, your point number one is actual innocence that we don’t have jurisdiction to even-”  I said, “I know. That’s just the setting of the stage, let’s get to the real stuff.” And they eventually granted him relief but not on the actual innocence and, of course, the case was dismissed right before we left for Cuba after him sitting in jail for four and a half years. Had it not been for Jimmy and Katherine representing him, they might have tried that case.  
  •  RAYMOND: Jimmy?  
  •   GREENWOOD: Phillips. Katherine Scardino, two of the best lawyers ever. I couldn’t believe it when they were appointed. I stopped taking cases in 2005 knowing how long it would take to clear. I’m still fighting with the Fifth Circuit on one of ‘em. I was going to work on his case had it not been for this appointment. Probably the last document I will file will be filed by December the fifteenth, for anybody. I stopped taking—I just—I couldn’t start again looking at Anthony, representing him for another twenty years. I wasn’t going to live that long. I explained all that to him and Jeff Blackburn originally started representing him and then he got Katherine and Jimmy. Anthony was very fortunate to have that and the Texas Monthly. So, in the meantime, the legislature sees the error of--the possibility of allowing life without parole as an option. And that, the death rate just falls off the table. That and juries are now understanding that people are innocent and then the CSI effect which impacts them all. But that’s just changed Texas totally.  
  •  RAYMOND: Can you explain what you mean by the CSI effect? Different people--  
  •   GREENWOOD: If you watch TV and you watch any number of the three of four CSIs that are on, it seems like everyone of them goes down to DNA or some bizarre scientific test. Only a handful of criminal cases are solved that way. Rape cases certainly could be. But there is rarely forensic evidence. I don’t know if I’d put a percentage on it, but sixty to seventy percent of crimes there’s just no forensic evidence. There theoretically could be fingerprints but there’s just not. If you’ve got five thousand fingerprints what difference does it make? Even if you could get all five thousand people there and say, “Pick a defendant,” what are you going to do? Eyewitness identification is just—I mean almost all of these DNA release guys had positive identification. Certainly before DNA was discovered. Blair, that was so bizarre. Everybody told us they had tried to run DNA on his hair. Are you familiar with the background on Blair?  
  •   RAYMOND: Would you talk about Blair a little bit? Looks like a horrible crime, certainly.  
  •   GREENWOOD: Well it’s, you know, child abduction and murder. Lots of those. That’s when I say it like that, lots of those. I don’t know if now is the time to get into Blair. Why don’t you ask me about Blair-  
  •   RAYMOND: Later?  
  •   GREENWOOD: Yeah after I finish the synopsis of history. Once you get me off into individual cases that takes care of history.  
  •   RAYMOND: Okay. 
  •   GREENWOOD: So the entire landscape of Texas capital defense, prosecution, everything— Well, the CSI effect. Anyways jurors watch all this stuff and they expect the DA to come in with all this stuff and it’s not there and they’re disappointed and the prosecutors lose out. Now a lot prosecutors have to do the voir dire, the jury panels on the CSI effect. Of course, unfortunately, the brain quotient of the American public, which should have increased exponentially since I went to school in the fifties, has gone into the toilet. If you have children in school you know. Children are idiots. There’s no statesmen left. Even of my age. Think of a statesman. There’s nobody. I mean, Bill Clinton is as close to a statesman as we’ve got. Jesus. And I voted for the guy just because I can’t see anybody else. Clinton did a—   
  •  Hell, Clinton’s the one who got the AEDPA passed and the only reason he did that is because he had commuted guys in Arkansas that got beat and said, “Hm, I gotta be hard on crime so now I’m hard on crime,” and gets his job back as Governor of Arkansas. In that field Bill Clinton’s not a real force, as far as I’m concerned. But the entire landscape has changed and certainly, if you want to be in capital murder, you’re better off than you were ten years ago. 
  •   RAYMOND: One of the things that a number of people have mentioned in this total scene is the expense of capital murder trials for counties. I don’t know if that’s an issue that you--  
  •  GREENWOOD: Oh sure, the small counties can’t afford to do it. Now, nobody can afford to do it. I mean, Houston’s letting go cops and school teachers. They can’t afford to—I mean, just think cost, what’s cost? Rather than a trial lasting a jury selection in a day and an average trial lasting two and a half days the jury selection takes a month or more and a trial takes a minimum of two weeks. That’s some money, but in Houston’s budget that’s not much. But then you’ve got to pay jurors. If you just count the prosecutors, that doesn’t count, they’re there all the time. The cops and overtime and expert witnesses and travel. It’s the expenses. After that, the expenses are there but it’s not the defense lawyers getting all the money. I mean they’re going to be doing this whether it’s a capital murder or not. Unless you’ve got ten thousand murderers, you’re not going to impact Houston’s budget.  
  •   You’ve got fifty? Well it’s going to be a little bit but it’s not going to take away teacher and police officers. It’s the horrendous fees being charged by expert witnesses which, basically, we can’t control. Doctors mostly, cause they’re not getting the money they used to from Medicare so they jack the criminal justice system.  My opinion. Cardiologist living next door. He’s a good guy. But I just talked to my doctor today and the twenty-percent reduction in the Medicare was supposed to go away and they blocked that, extended it. Just wait. If they go with twenty percent.       
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Title:Interview with Roy Greenwood
Abstract: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.
Sequence:1 of 5
  • Roy GreenwoodRole: Narrator
  • Texas After Violence ProjectRole: Collaborator
  • Virginia RaymondRole: Interviewer
  • Maurice ChammahRole: Videographer
  • Maurice ChammahRole: Transcriber
  • Jesse HarderRole: Transcriber
  • Virginia RaymondRole: Editor
Date Created:2010/12/03
Geographic Focus:North America--United States--Texas
Geographic Base:North America--United States--Texas--Austin
Type of Resource:Moving image
    This electronic resource is made available by the University of Texas Libraries solely for the purposes of research, teaching and private study. All intellectual property rights are retained by the legal copyright holders. The University of Texas does not hold the copyright to the content of this file. Formal permission to reuse or republish this content must be obtained from the copyright holder.

Source Metadata

Analog/Digital Flag:physDigital
Carrier Number:1 of 5
Signal Format:NTSC



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