Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Lawyer Who Knows the Facts Best

On December 31, 2012 Brazos County will say goodbye to Bill Turner, probably the best Texas elected prosecutor ever. Turner choose not to run for office this year and retire after more than 28 years of government service to the citizens of Brazos County. 

I know Turner was the best. I worked for him as a prosecutor. I also worked against him over the years. Bill was my boss when I started my career in the early nineties. It was my first job out of law school. He helped trained me and helped me develop my work ethic as a criminal trial lawyer. Bill was also a colleague and an adversary. I tried two death penalty capital murder cases against him. Additionally, Bill was occasionally my adversary when he came to the defense of young prosecutors he believed I was beating up on.  :-) 

I liked trying cases against Turner because he was good, really good. I liked going head-to-head with him because defense lawyers feared him. Turner made me better. He challenged me. I was always willing to battle in the arena with Turner since I knew I'd be the better for it.

Recently, Bill gave me a bit of his time. I stopped by to tell him I appreciated him. He told me something of his plans after retirement and I was excited to hear about them. They sounded fresh and challenging. 

Lastly, I wanted to tell Turner about the most important thing he ever taught me as a lawyer. He taught me much, but I picked just one thing to share. As a young prosecutor, Turner taught me the lawyer who knew the facts best, usually won the case. That simple truth drove me to prepare each case as if it were my last. To know the facts better than the other guy, since I always wanted to win. I laughed with Turner during our visit when I explained that truism did not always hold water for the criminal defense lawyer. I lamented I often knew the facts better than my prosecutor opponent, but still lost my case. 

My parting words to the best prosecutor Brazos County every had were these: "The lawyer who knows the facts best does not always win. But the lawyer who knows the facts best NEVER looks like an idiot." We laughed and agreed that was good enough.