No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about this British guy who has (as of today) been sitting in the Harris County Jail for more than three weeks, charged by complaint with the class C misdemeanor of aiding suicide.

The 351st District Court, where his case is pending, has no jurisdiction over a class C misdemeanor case. The maximum penalty for a class C misdmeanor is a $500 fine. The guy discharged that fine with his first ten days in jail.

The guy is represented by Dionne Press. I have dealt with this court-appointed lawyer before, and I anticipated that her client was going to receive substandard representation. It appeared that she had spent more time talking to the newspaper—and not doing her client any favors (actual quote: “It is very strange. Why the DA would choose to prosecute this, I don’t know. I guess because [the decedent] was not elderly”)—than researching the law applicable to the case.

So I go to see the guy in jail and offer him my pro bono help. I don’t want money, and I don’t want publicity. I just want to try to get him out from under these charges and back to his life, and I think I can bring more resources to bear on the problem than his court-appointed lawyer can or will.

Led to water, the horse didn’t drink. That’s okay. I emailed Dionne Press to offer her my help in filing a writ of habeas corpus to extricate the guy from jail. That horse wasn’t thirsty either. I wasn’t surprised—like I say, I have dealt with her before.

Today I learned that Dionne Press had complained to the DA’s Office, trying to get them to file criminal charges or a bar complaint against me.

My visit to her client passes muster under both the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct and the Texas Penal Code—solicitation of pro bono work doesn’t violate either (in fact, it’s in the best traditions of the bar). But Dionne Press is not the sort of lawyer whom I would expect to have more than the sketchiest familiarity with the rules or the law. So I was not shocked.

Not shocked, but not happy. Now, instead of fighting the DA’s Office to try to get her client out of jail (where he is plainly unlawfully held), she’s complaining about me?

You know what, Dionne? If  you think there’s a grievance to file, file it. But take care of your client first. The guy’s case should be dismissed at his next court appearance on 30 July. If it is, that’ll be nice, but he still will have spent weeks longer in jail than he should have. For that, Dionne, he can thank you.

8 responses to “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”

  1. Assuming the felony version of this case can be made, the prosecutor could just replead it. Whether the case is worth repleading depends on facts we don’t know. Perhaps there is more going on with this case, or perhaps the DA has already planned to replead or nolle it. I suppose we will see next week.

    • That “the actor’s conduct caused suicide” (the element that would make this a felony) is unlikely to be proven. A learned colleague pointed out to me that a “Gaslight” scenario might qualify, but one thing we know in this case is that the Sheriff’s Department has said that there is no suggestion that the defendant was actively involved in causing his wife’s death.

      “They can fix it” is rarely a good reason not to force them to.

  2. I don’t know you Dionne Press. But I know Mark Bennett. Ms Press, Mark Bennett is one of 10-15 lawyers who in the last 10 years built HCCLA into a formidable organization. Shame on you for your actions. You owe Mr. Bennett an apology for running to the Da.

    Mark call me tomorrow. This man deserves a real lawyer. We will put together a dream team for this man and we will educate Ms Press on duty.

    Ms Press, re-read the sacred oath you took. It was not to the judges God dammit.

    Robb Fickman
    713- 655-7400

  3. I am disappointed to read this, but I’m glad to see you getting back into the fray again, Mark.

    You’ve gotten so quiet over here that I didn’t even know about this post until I read on Greenfield’s blog.

  4. Mr. B., good afternoon sir. While we all can appreciate an earned vacation despite the fact it’s over before you know it, we are also happy to see you back in the saddle. Regarding the Post – This ‘event’ has to be an all time first for the legal profession from coast to coast. I for one have never ever heard of an attorney / lawyer deciding to visit with a person in jail that already has a mouth piece, much less offer free assistance. In the 120 plus days I sat in hell, my paid ‘fake’ CDL sacrificed only 15 minutes and no one said a damn thing about a Class C misd being discharged and no white knight came to visit. Which makes ‘you’ sir, “The Man”.

    Honestly, I’m friggin baffled by one of my public heroes’ actions. My right brain, says it’s the right thing to do when a Real CDL learns of incompetence, while the left side says WTF? In the end my gut says, there are plenty other folks you and / or dream teams can visit with and offer assistance in their release and or post conviction issues.

    NOTE: *If they ‘all’ turn you down and you still feel the urge to do a solid in return for no money and or fame, then man have I got a case for you. Warning! It’ll be harder than this piss ant shit case and one of the players is famous and wears a robe now. Thanks.

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