Have you ever seen that old movie with Henry Fonda called “12 Angry Men” about a murder trial where everyone on the jury votes to convict except one person who thinks the person is innocent. He eventually changes everyone’s minds and they vote “not guilty” unanimously. I tried to pull that last December on the CCA, but I could not succeed in changing even one person’s mind. It was a bit different than in the movie though. Everyone thought the person was innocent, except me. I could not convince one single person that I was right. I need to go rent that movie again so I can get some tips on how to argue better.
I have come to expect the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule me and lower federal courts to overrule me, but this is too much. My very own court all turned against me. The vote was 8 to 1 and I lost. Everyone else thought this woman’s conviction should be overturned, but not me. No one wanted to support me. I am the presiding judge and I get no respect on my own court.
Today, I read in The Houston Chronicle that Brandy Del Briggs is seeking to regain custody of the child she had lost custody of after she was “wrongfully” convicted of murdering her other child. Briggs was exonerated and released after spending five years in prison “wrongfully” convicted of killing her other child. I was the only member of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who voted to deny relief to Brandy Del Briggs. The vote on the court was 8-1 with me being the one. Forget about “12 Angry Men”, this was “Rebel without a Cause”. Everyone else voted to overturn the conviction on grounds that the “applicant’s attorney failed to adequately investigate this case under the standards set out in Strickland v. Washington and Wiggins v. Smith.” I argued in my dissent that the trial counsel was not ineffective, but that he was following a “reasonable trial strategy”.
Brandy Del Briggs was released in December 2005. Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal later dropped charges against her because he could not prove she was guilty. The Houston Chronicle wrote an editorial arguing that she should be compensated for the five years she spent in prison:
Whatever Rosenthal’s personal beliefs or intuition about the cause of baby Daniel’s death, he has admitted he cannot make the case against Briggs. Unless the definition of innocence in Harris County depends on Rosenthal’s unsubstantiated opinions, that makes this one-time defendant innocent and qualified for state restitution funds.
Briggs was charged with murder in the May 1999 death of her first son, Daniel Lemons. She pleaded guilty to injury to a child and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
She denied harming 2-month-old Daniel but said her attorney told her she would receive probation if she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge. The attorney, Richard Anderson, has denied saying that.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Briggs’ conviction last December and she was released. The court cited ineffective counsel, saying her lawyer had not thoroughly investigated Daniel’s medical records.
Experts who reviewed the records for her appellate attorney, Charles Portz, said a birth defect had caused a bacterial infection in the infant, who had been in and out of hospitals. They also said a breathing tube mistakenly was inserted in Daniel’s stomach rather than his lungs at Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, depriving his brain of oxygen for at least 30 minutes.
His death originally was ruled a homicide, but Harris County Medical Examiner Luis Sanchez later changed the ruling to “undetermined,” saying he found no evidence of abuse.
What is the point of being the presiding judge if no one listens to me. Am I irrelevant on my own court. Should I just resign? I don’t know what to do. Please advise in the comments.