Give criminal defense lawyer Mark Bennett great credit this week for successfully defending his client charged with murder. Mark's success was measured not by an acquittal, but rather the punishment verdict of probation after the jury convicted his client. Wednesday, the jury returned a guilty verdict here and awarded Mark's client with probation here. Based on Mark's trial blog post here, it appeared the conviction and probation was a compromise verdict. Often when jurors battle between themselves on whether to convict, the aftermath of a guilty verdict is probation. I've seen this many times over the years. Mark's successful defense was quite apropos following my Wednesday post about prosecutors and judges approving probation for murder. Here's hoping Dunklin and Egerton (reporting for the Dallas Morning News) catch wind of this story.
Another superb example this week of Texas criminal trial lawyering occurred in my own Brazos County, Texas backyard. The law firm of James and Reynolds represented Susan Chiniewicz, charged with the murder of her infant child, dumped in a trashcan at the Texas World Speedway in October 2005. Chiniewicz was originally charged with capital murder, but by trial the prosecutor had elected to proceed on the 1st degree felony charge of murder.
The offer to settle the case was 40 to do. That is, in exchange for her plea of guilty to murder, the state was willing to recommend a sentence of 40 years in prison. Ms. Chiniewicz would not have been eligible for parole until she served 20 years flat time.
However, the Brazos County D.A.'s Office got quite the smackdown. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide and assessed a sentence of 2 years in a state jail. (see article here) Ms. Chiniewicz will serve each and every day of that 2 year sentence. A tail whipping by Jim and Cameron, indeed!
Good work by the Texas criminal defense bar.