Counsel for the Defense
Show me the phone, lend me a dime
I ain't rollin' over, I ain't doing no time
Ain't coppin' no plea, I'm hip to your game
I ain't talking to no one 'cept Racehorse Haynes
--from the song "Racehorse Haynes" by Tom Russell/Andrew Hardin
When attempting to examine the legendary life of Richard "Racehorse" Haynes, a man generally considered one of the premier criminal defense lawyers in modern judicial history, it seems prudent to first clear away some of the old wives' tales and outlandish myths; to offer up, as they say, the truth and nothing but the truth.
So, no, despite the fact there are alumni who will swear they were on campus that day and witnessed the event, Haynes did not jump from a plane and parachute into the University of Houston fountain as a publicity stunt during his successful campaign to become student body president. And, no, he didn't really nail his own hand to the jury box railing while defending members of a biker gang alleged to have "crucified" one of their female companions. Still, one need not look hard to find people who insist they were in the courtroom and saw it with their own eyes.
We'll deal later with the time he supposedly stood before 12 stunned jurors and drank deadly insect poison and another when he is said to have repeatedly shocked himself with a cattle prod in defense of a man charged with keeping an unsuspecting drifter locked away at his Texas ranch-turned-slave camp.
Seated in his Houston office that looks more like a museum than workplace, walls and shelves cluttered with plaques, books, framed photos and mementos of all manner of professional achievement, Haynes, now 76, puffs on his ever-present pipe, smiles and offers up an innocent shrug. Hey, there is some measure of reality to each of the stories, he explains. If he didn't actually do everything you've heard, he did, at least, seriously consider such theatrics before abandoning the ideas in the name of common sense and physical well-being.
And, he'd like it part of the official record that he's not the originator of such embellishments. Oh, maybe sometimes, after hearing the stories retold for the umpteenth time or reading them again in a newspaper or magazine account of his career, he doesn't always dash to the phone to quickly set things straight. What's the harm?
Even the true origin of his nickname has been lost in fuzzy folklore. True, it was given to Haynes by a junior high football coach when he was growing up in the blue-collar Sunset Heights section of Houston. But it had far less to do with the youngster's speed afoot than the fact he seemed interested in carrying the ball only from sideline to sideline rather than advancing it up field. "You a football player or a damn racehorse?" the coach is said to have bellowed.
Haynes, as anyone with the mildest interest in modern Texas history knows, became the latter. Today when asked for his autograph by trial-goers or admirers he encounters on the banquet circuit, he adds a quick cartoon drawing of a horse's head to the signature. Best-selling books--Tommy Thompson's award-winning Blood and Money, Steve Salerno's Deadly Blessing, Mike Cochran's Texas vs. Davis, Gary Cartwright's Blood Will Tell, etc. --have recounted high-profile cases he's worked; so have numerous made-for-television movies. He's been involved in everything from the Watergate investigation to the shutdown of La Grange's infamous Chicken Ranch, which was immortalized on Broadway as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Every organization from the International Society of Barristers to the American Academy of Achievement has honored him. Time magazine has named him one of the six best trial lawyers in the country.
Such is the way bigger-than-life legends are seeded and grown, part of the backdrop that has provided the flamboyant ex-welterweight boxer, South Pacific war hero, motorcyclist, sailor and millionaire with a reputation that has grown to 9 feet tall and weighs in at a junkyard dog mean 500 pounds. Like the songs and stories say, if you're in deep trouble--and have deep pockets--you contact Racehorse Haynes. It has been the remedy of desperate people for more than 40 years.
Only days earlier he had returned from Virginia Beach where he successfully defended a young man accused of stalking and solicitation of capital murder. Which, of course, raises the question of why, at his age and with his legacy and finances in good order, he continues to put himself through the grueling demands of being a trial lawyer.
"I like the feeling I got when that verdict was announced," he explains. "In preparing for the trial, I'd met that boy's mother and father, his brother, his aunt...all really nice people, all devastated by the situation they found themselves in. By doing what I could to see that my client didn't spend half his remaining life in prison, I felt I was able to make that family whole again. When that happens, it is just as rewarding and as much fun as it was when I started out."
Keeping people out of jail or prison is what Haynes does. And the style and flair he has historically displayed in doing so have been met with great admiration from some, condemnation from others. "For 48 years," he admits, "I've been asked the same question every defense attorney hears: How can you look yourself in the mirror after representing so many people you know to have done terrible things? That just tells me those asking have assumed a great deal and simply can't tolerate the concept of fair representation of someone who just might not be guilty. As I've told law students and young lawyers for years, I'm not the judge; it's not the attorney's prerogative to determine guilt or innocence. I don't get people off. The jury acquits them."
Yes, but what about those times when you know for certain that your client is stone-cold guilty, that he or she has committed a crime that literally screams out for justice? "Then I do my best to see that real justice is done. In the first place, I never try to compel a client to confess to me. All I ever want to hear from them is what they think the prosecutor is going to try to prove to a jury. We plan our case from there, always assuming that the state is going to ask for the highest degree of punishment possible. If it looks like my client is, in fact, guilty, the goal is to see that he gets something less, something more fair and reasonable. If he is innocent, we go hell-bent after an acquittal."
Even Haynes' rare defeats have, in a manner of speaking, been triumphs. During his career he has defended 38 clients who faced the death penalty. "Nobody's been sentenced to die yet," he says. Then, as he tamps his pipe, he makes a telling admission: "But I still live in sheer terror of getting a death penalty case and failing. Every defense attorney does."
Throughout his near half-century career, failure and Haynes have been virtual strangers. Still, he won't disclose his won-loss record. "Trials aren't sporting events," he argues. Yet all one need do is recollect some of the most highly publicized cases in Texas criminal history as proof of his success:
In 1969, Dr. John Hill, a celebrated Houston plastic surgeon, was charged with killing his socialite wife, Joan, by injecting deadly bacteria into a dessert he served her. The case was a tabloid writer's dream: ruthless ambition, high society, beautiful people, a vengeful father, hapless assassins and, most important, River Oaks wealth.
It was the kind of challenging case most litigators dream of. And, as Haynes launched his defense of Dr. Hill, word quickly spread that there was a good chance the doctor might actually beat the rap. Why? Because Haynes had confided to several friends that he was convinced his client was innocent. Unfortunately, the world would never know. In his first court appearance, a mistrial was declared--a for-the-time-being victory for Haynes and his client. But before the doctor could be retried, he was the victim of a contract murder.
Still, the nationwide publicity generated by the case greatly advanced the celebrity of the engaging attorney with the strange nickname, slow drawl and trademark pinstriped suits and ostrich-skin cowboy boots.
Then, in 1976, there were eyewitnesses who swore it was Fort Worth multimillionaire T. Cullen Davis they had seen enter the Davis mansion on an August night shortly before his estranged wife, Priscilla, was found seriously wounded, her 12-year-old daughter Andrea and boyfriend Stan Farr dead. The wealthiest man ever tried for murder, Davis reportedly paid Haynes a quarter-million dollars to defend him in a trial that lasted six months (making it the most lengthy and expensive murder trial in Texas judicial history). Davis got his money's worth, ultimately acquitted to the surprise of many who had closely followed the soap opera-like case.
And then, just when it seemed Haynes' work was done, Davis was suddenly back in custody, charged with hiring a hit man to not only kill his divorce attorney but a dozen others on his enemies list. This time, there were even FBI surveillance audio and videotapes that seemed to make it slam-dunk clear that Davis was guilty. Thus Haynes would be called on to defend his wealthy client twice more--in a Houston courtroom where the proceedings ended in a hung jury and later in Fort Worth where he again managed to convince a jury that his client was innocent. Davis left the courthouse a free man. Though he won't confirm it, the four-year legal ordeal reportedly earned Haynes $3 million.
And head-shaking members of the legal community began referring to the high-dollar Haynes as a miracle worker. Others less charitable acknowledge him as a legal gunslinger. Several years ago, one judge split the difference, calling Haynes a "charming little jerk."
Retired Associated Press reporter Mike Cochran, who covered each of the Davis trials and later wrote the definitive book on the saga, calls Haynes "as good a courtroom lawyer as I've ever seen." No small praise from a man who has seen the likes of the legal icon Melvin Belli in action as he defended Lee Harvey Oswald's killer, Jack Ruby.
"Racehorse has this charisma and showmanship that just takes over the courtroom the minute he walks in," Cochran says. "The guy is spellbinding. And he's tough as a floor safe."
Veteran Fort Worth defense attorney Jack Strickland, who prosecuted the Davis murder-solicitation case, is not so generous. Still, he admits a grudging respect for his old adversary. "I think Haynes is an exceptional lawyer," he says, "but that's not to say I agreed with the tactics he used in the Davis case, trashing the victim [Priscilla Davis] the way he did. There's no question we really went at each other, and there were definitely hard feelings when the case was over."
Time, however, has thawed the relationship. "We've seen each other on social occasions a few times," Strickland says, "and even served as co-counsel on a drug case a few years ago.
"Richard is bright, as fast on his feet as anyone I've ever seen, and has a phenomenal memory. And he's always prepared. Having said that, he's also a man who can stand in front of a jury and say the most outrageous things imaginable, and somehow manage to keep a straight face while doing so."
The historic Davis case, Strickland admits, brought out the worst in a lot of people. "On both sides," he admits. At one point, the former assistant district attorney even publicly suggested that Haynes and his team of attorneys had crossed the line from advocates and become accomplices to the crime with which their client was charged.
Interestingly, it is no longer the personal wars or courtroom tactics or even brilliant examination of witnesses that come to mind as Haynes reflects on the milestone events of the Davis trial. Rather, it is an angry and tearful late-night call that came from his wife, Naomi, to whom he's been married for 53 years and delights in referring to as "the widow Haynes."
"She'd just had the flowerbeds landscaped," he recalls, "and my two Rhodesian ridgebacks had gotten in them and torn them all to hell. I said something like, 'Darlin', I'm up here [in Amarillo] trying the Super Bowl of capital murder cases, and you're calling me about the dogs tearing up the flowerbeds? I don't have time right now to worry about that. If it'll make you feel any better, just get a pistol and shoot the sons-a-bitches.'
"Well, all that did was cause her to cry harder and get even madder. She said, 'That's just like you. I'm here alone. I need somebody to talk to, and you're only interested in your stupid trial.' I could tell she was really steamed. So, I said, 'You're absolutely right. I apologize. I'm dead wrong. Put the dogs on the phone and I'll talk to them.'"
In the early '80s, a former Dairy Queen waitress named Vickie Daniel was charged with killing her husband, Price Daniel Jr. The fact the victim was not only the former speaker of the Texas House but the son of Price Daniel Sr., one of the most popular governors in the state's history, fueled a gossip firestorm in the little East Texas community of Liberty. Racehorse was summoned. Even before the murder trial, he would have to defend Daniel in a lengthy and raunchy battle against her rich and powerful in-laws for custody of her children. When, finally, his case had been laid out and Haynes rose to present his closing argument in the historic Liberty County courthouse, a triumphant marching song suddenly began to filter through the open windows.
"The high school band was practicing nearby," Haynes recalls, "and it was nothing more than happenstance that it struck up the 'William Tell Overture' just as I got ready to address the jury. The prosecutor jumped out of his chair and objected, saying I had orchestrated the whole thing. I explained to the judge that I didn't--but if I hadn't been dumber than a bucket of hair, I'd have certainly given it some thought."
Vickie Daniel got custody of her kids, was later acquitted of the murder, and Law & Order's Fred Thompson played the role of Racehorse in the movie that soon followed, getting Haynes' good ol' boy mannerisms down far better than NYPD Blue's Dennis Franz had when he played the defense attorney in the film based on the Davis case.
The Daniel case, legal experts say, broke new ground in the defense of battered spouses driven to retaliate against abusive husbands. Once an automatic murder conviction, a guilty verdict in such circumstances is now far more difficult to achieve. "There's no question about that," says longtime Dallas civil attorney and jurisprudence historian John Collins.
"What he's done throughout his career," says Collins, who worked with Haynes on a bribery case back in the early days of their careers, "is prove time and time again that the keys to success are thoroughness in preparation and being articulate in the courtroom. He is a prime example of all the positive things the advocacy system of justice is supposed to be."
Entering the courtroom without a bulging briefcase, a stack of law books or even notes on a legal pad has long been one of Haynes' disarming tactics, Collins points out. "But, as history shows, he comes to work with a keen awareness of the smallest weakness there might be in the government's case, completely prepared to give the prosecution a run for its money."
Even before the headlines and the fees that now start in the $500-per-hour range, before courtroom stardom and no last name was necessary, Haynes had long been serving up proof that he was on his way to becoming Texas' new litigation giant, the heir apparent to the title so long held by his mentor and first boss, Percy Foreman. During a 10-year period that began in the late '50s, Racehorse represented 163 clients charged with DWI and never lost. "That," he boasts, "is still a record."
The closest he ever came to losing, in fact, was in a Dallas courtroom as he defended a young SMU student who had been arrested while driving home following a fraternity party. "My own vanity got in the way," Haynes admits.
Having had a front tooth knocked out during a motorcycle racing accident just days before the weeklong trial was set to get under way, Haynes was self-conscious about the effect of the temporary tooth a dentist had put in place. As a result, he was far more reserved in his defense than usual. "I didn't say anything unless I had to," he recalls, "and, by the time the trial was drawing to a close, I knew that I hadn't connected with the jury."
When time came for closing arguments, Haynes knew that desperate measures were in order. "I walked up to the jury box, explained about the tooth and asked if they minded if I took it out so I would feel more comfortable talking." With that he removed the temporary tooth, set it on the railing, flashed a gaping smile, then gave an impassioned argument on behalf of his client.
It took the jury 12 minutes to return with an acquittal.
Then there was the aforementioned Outlaws gang "crucifixion case" in Titusville, Florida. It is the one, many say, that served as the true genesis of the Racehorse Haynes legend. Inasmuch as the clients he agreed to defend had nicknames like Fat Frank, Crazy John, Super Squirrel and Mangy and at least one had a dead rat pinned to his jacket while a couple of others had a habit of French-kissing whenever a cameraman was in range, Haynes saw the case as a definite challenge. The charges weren't pretty: After learning that one of the gang's female groupies had violated a rule that stated all profits earned from what Racehorse delicately refers to as "the world's oldest profession" were to go into the gang's treasury, they had decided to punish her by nailing her to a tree.
"Actually, it sounds a little worse than it really was," Haynes insists. "They just nailed her hands to the tree. She wasn't killed, wasn't even hurt real bad. But the whole state of Florida was up in arms. Truth is, it probably wouldn't have been that big a deal if the victim's daddy hadn't been a rather prominent citizen who was calling in all kinds of law enforcement favors in an effort to get the whole gang strung up."
Haynes put the father's "unreasonable persecution" of the gang on trial and offered pretty compelling evidence that the victim had actually "volunteered" for her punishment. At one point during the trial, however, he began to feel his case needed a dramatic boost and went in search of a medical expert. What Racehorse wanted to know was how painful having a nail driven into one's hand might actually be.
When the doctor explained that there were places on the hand, particularly the webbing between the fingers, where there was very little feeling, Haynes, the story goes, became almost giddy, fantasizing about a scene where just before delivering his closing argument he would have the doctor inject his hand with a local anesthetic and mark a spot where no serious damage could be done. Then, as he passionately argued that little serious damage had been done to the victim, he would grab a hammer from his briefcase, place a hand on the jury box rail and drive the nail into it.
"To be perfectly honest about it," he says, "that wasn't my first idea." His wife had accompanied him to Florida. "I first asked her if she wanted to be famous," Haynes remembers, "then explained how she could come up and stand by the jury box and I would hammer the nail into her hand. As I recall, Naomi said something like, 'Not only no, but hell no,' and stormed out of the room."
Suffice it to say the longtime Mrs. Richard Haynes is a lady of great patience and understanding.
Ultimately, Haynes judged his case strong enough and reluctantly dismissed the theatrical notion. Fat Frank, Mangy and the gang were acquitted. And the victim? "My understanding," says Haynes, "is that she became quite the celebrity in the bars down in Florida, telling her story and showing off her stigmata."
It is getting late, but now the gifted storyteller is on a roll. There was the client accused of killing his girlfriend by having her ingest a potent insecticide he'd allegedly dissolved in her drink. Haynes contacted the manufacturer of the poison and learned that despite any amount of shaking or stirring, the poison would not dissolve in liquid, and it would be impossible to swallow since it would immediately stick to the roof of the mouth. "So, I began thinking I might demonstrate that to the jury," he admits. Ultimately, however, there was no need since he succeeded in having the case dismissed.
He did, however, do that show-and-tell with the electric cattle prod in a Kerrville courtroom in an effort to prove to a jury that the means by which his client had allegedly killed a drifter he was holding on his "slave ranch" wasn't as lethal as the prosecution would have them believe. "It was pretty damn painful, though," Haynes admits. But, he reflects, worth it. His client received five years' probation.
And there's the story about his defense of angered Fayette County Sheriff T.J. Flournoy, who had assaulted Houston TV reporter Marvin Zindler after he'd exposed the existence of La Grange's famed Chicken Ranch brothel. ("Aw, we settled that one, and Marvin, an old golfing buddy of mine, agreed to donate his money to charity.") And the one about his client Robert Allen, formerly head of President Richard Nixon's Texas campaign organization, who allegedly served as a conduit for funds routed through Mexico to pay the Watergate burglars. ("My guy didn't really do anything illegal. He thought he was just handling campaign funds.")
A Dallas case won back in the mid-'80s, he acknowledges, would be a much more difficult task in today's climate. The man he was defending was a Briton named Ian Smalley. A cattle rancher and international arms dealer, he was charged with attempting to smuggle 100 military tanks to Iran and more than 8,000 anti-tank missiles to Iraq to help the countries ward off possible attacks from Russia. If convicted of violating the U.S. Neutrality Act, Smalley could have faced up to 70 years in prison.
Haynes argued that his client had been duped into believing the shipments were secretly authorized by the federal government. "The whole case turned on a tape of a conversation he'd had in which, according to the transcripts, he said he was 'going to the airport to meet the Russians.' I listened to that tape until I had a headache, and for the longest time I kept hearing the same thing that I was reading on the typed transcript," the attorney remembers. Finally, however, he became comfortable with his client's thick accent and heard what had actually been said: "I'm going...to beat the rush hour."
On his lengthy résumé, then, are alleged corporate thieves and capital murderers, prostitutes, drunks, deviates and doers of all manner of dastardly deeds. "I've made some interesting friends over the years," he says.
The Sunset Heights streets of Haynes' boyhood were not so mean as they were tough and demanding. The people who called the north Houston neighborhood home--including the parents of heart surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley and network anchorman Dan Rather--fought a constant battle against two-dollar tribulations and second-lien woes. So hard were times for his construction worker father in the '30s that for a while the young Haynes was sent to San Antonio to live with his grandmother. It was, he reflects, a blessing.
From age 2 to 10, he was cared for by a petite, energetic lady who rolled her own cigarettes, read to him from Shakespeare and the Bible and taught him to write and do arithmetic. By the time Richard Michael Haynes was ready to attend school, he was able, without help, to fill out the paperwork required to skip the first and second grades.
He was viewed as something of a prodigy, and the local paper published his picture. "Years later," he says, "Granny would tell me the homeschooling she gave me was the worst possible thing she could have done. She said, 'It got your picture in the paper for the first time and you've been in love with that idea ever since.'"
Far from publicity shy, Haynes had little room for argument. "Still," he says, "in everyone's life there is a great teacher, a great influence. My grandmother was mine."
When the Haynes family finances took a turn for the better, Richard was called home to the little white frame house on 26th Street. By the time he was ready to graduate from Reagan High School, he had earned a reputation as one of the city's premier amateur boxers and an excellent student whose teachers were encouraging to consider studying medicine. If, however, Haynes was going to afford higher learning, it would only be with the help of the GI Bill. Thus, barely 17, he joined the Marines and spent 1944 through '46 in the South Pacific.
For his heroic actions during the assault on Iwo Jima, pulling two wounded and drowning Marines from the cold February waters, he earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. "What I'm most proud of," he says as an impish grin crosses his face, "is the citation that read something like 'with unselfish concern for his own safety.'" Then he comes to the punch line: "That's the only time in my life I've ever been called 'unselfish.'"
A man of famed dark humor and good ol' boy self-deprecation, Haynes admits there was precious little humor to be drawn from his World War II days. "You grow up pretty fast sitting in a foxhole," he says. He would quickly learn that the battlefield offers no safe haven. "We had this fella we all called 'Pops' because he was about 10 years older than most of us. He was married, had a couple of kids back home and had already seen more than his share of combat. So, on the day we assaulted Iwo, the commander told him to remain aboard the troop ship out in the bay.
"We later learned that Pops had been walking out of the ship's mess hall when a stray Japanese shell killed him."
From that day, Haynes says, he's remained keenly aware of the frailty of life. He reaches across the mounds of paperwork piled on his desk and picks up a small vial filled with volcanic ash and sand from the Iwo Jima beach. "I keep this," he says, "to remind me of people like Pops and how lucky I was to get back home in one piece."
Says Huntsville's Jack Kerr, former Sam Houston State professor, product of the Heights and friend of Haynes for more than 50 years, "The unique thing about Richard is his genuine concern for and understanding of people. He's been that way since we were kids. Becoming wealthy and famous hasn't changed that a bit."
Every Wednesday, Kerr says, Haynes and old buddies from the Heights gather for lunch. "On those days, with all the reminiscing and storytelling that goes on, you wouldn't even know he's a lawyer."
When he enrolled at the University of Houston in the fall of '46, paying his way with a government loan and partial athletic scholarship from the basketball and track coaches, it was with the long-range plan to become a doctor. "That," he says, "didn't last long. I got me a part-time job at the medical center and immediately saw the frustration that the work offered. There were so many patients that no one could seem to help. There was no way to stop them from dying or, in some cases, even ease their pain. I knew I wouldn't be able to handle that."
So he exchanged his weekend medical center job for one pumping gas, decided to pursue a degree in accounting and set about making a name for himself on campus. The latter he did with a vengeance. It was a time when the nation lived in fear of the Communist threat and schools across the country were requiring that students sign documents stating they had no allegiance to the Communist Party. Though still years away from his days as a lawyer, and then student body president, Haynes not only refused but led rallies against the idea. "I was damned sure no Communist," he recalls, "but the idea of making it official by signing a piece of paper seemed absolutely ludicrous. So, yeah, I raised Cain."
He's been doing so ever since. It just took him awhile to find the proper stage for his showmanship. Upon graduation, he lasted less than a month with an accounting firm that had hired him, quitting, he says, before he was fired. "I began to think that maybe a military career was the way to go," he says. For the next two years he served as a paratrooper and hand-to-hand combat instructor with the 11th Airborne Division.
"It was my wife who made me a lawyer," he says. "She wasn't particularly thrilled with the idea of me jumping out of airplanes for a living and suggested that 'as a backup' I might want to think about going to law school."
Haynes didn't need a great deal of encouragement. During his undergraduate days he'd often skipped class to visit the Harris County courthouse and watch the legendary Percy Foreman argue cases. "He was absolutely brilliant," Haynes remembers. And then he is grinning again. "Quite honestly, another thing that influenced my decision was all those Mickey Rooney 'Andy Hardy' movies. In them, Andy's father was this wise and caring judge who seemed to always have the right answer to every problem imaginable."
Thanks, then, to Naomi Haynes, Percy Foreman and the mythical Judge Hardy, the Racehorse again changed his course. And in a roundabout way, Haynes' dog, Baron, also did his part.
Which leads to yet another story:
"I'd just finished classes one afternoon," Haynes remembers, "and got this frantic call from my mother. She'd been keeping my dog for me, and he'd gotten out of the back yard and had been picked up by the dogcatcher." Haynes immediately drove to the local pound to await Baron's arrival. "In those days, all you had to do was prove you were the owner and pay a $5 fee to get your dog back."
It was early evening before the dogcatcher arrived with a truckload of yelping and frightened strays. Anxiously, Haynes pointed out his dog to the man in charge of the pound and extended a $5 bill. "He said, 'Nope, you'll have to wait until tomorrow.' We argued for some time until it was clear he was not going to let my dog go home with me. So, I just reached over, flipped the latch and told Baron to come with me."
As Haynes and his boxer were walking away, the pound administrator pulled a pistol and fired two shots into the air. "That's when I lost it," Haynes remembers. "I turned and said, 'You ignorant SOB, are you going to shoot me in the back for taking my own dog? I love him, but I damn sure don't want to die for him. I'll just sit outside the pound tonight and get him in the morning.'"
That's when the man slapped Haynes. Baron jumped into the fray, attacking the man who had struck his master. "He started hitting my dog with his pistol, so I took it away from him and tossed it into some nearby weeds."
Baron wound up back in the pound for the night. Haynes went to jail. The following day, the boy-and-his-dog story not only made the local papers but was picked up by the wire services. In short order, Haynes was released, Baron was allowed to go home, and the pound administrator was fired.
Only years later, long after being hired to work part time in Foreman's law firm, did Haynes learn that the story of his pet's rescue had a great deal to do with his getting the job. Foreman, in fact, explained that people's affection for dogs would ultimately provide the new attorney with a valuable courtroom tool. "If," Haynes' mentor explained, "you can show that the victim ever abused a dog, you can pretty well bet that your client won't be convicted."
There would, however, be lessons a young Haynes had to learn the hard way. After defending an elderly client accused of embezzling a sizable amount of money from a bank, he was feeling good about the defense he'd put on and, in fact, told his client that he felt pretty confident the jury would come back with a not-guilty verdict. "If they do," Haynes said, "I want you to be sure to thank the judge and the jury."
Indeed, the man was acquitted, and dutifully followed his lawyer's instructions. "Judge," he said, "I want to thank you." Then, turning to face the jury, he said, "And members of the jury, I not only want to thank you...but I promise you I'll never do it again."
"I should have known better," Haynes reflects. "Once before, I'd suggested that an acquitted client thank a judge--whose mother had been my Sunday school teacher when I was a kid--and his response had been, 'Don't thank me, you little turd. I know you're guilty.'"
Such events, however, did little to tone down the flamboyance that had already become Haynes' trademark. His first victory had come in the form of a $5,500 fee for the settlement of a client's personal injury claim. "I went straight to the bank, cashed the check and asked for 55 $100 bills," he recalls. With one he purchased bottles of scotch and bourbon, then phoned several law school buddies and invited them to a celebration in his tiny office. The guests arrived to find the other 54 bills scattered on the floor, chairs and desk. The show-off Haynes offered a mock apology for not having had time to clean the place up.
It was not the insurance claims or defense of those accused of drunken driving--cases that had begun to earn him sizable fees--that stirred Haynes' passion. For that matter, even the verdicts in the high-profile murder cases have not provided the personal satisfaction he received from a long-ago pro bono defense of a man accused of stealing some materials from a construction site.
"There was no question in my mind that the man was innocent," he says, "and I worked my butt off to convince the jury of that." Having successfully done so, Haynes was invited to a post-trial celebration at his client's home. "It was this little ol' shotgun house way down in the ghetto," the lawyer recalls. "His wife and grandmother had cooked this wonderful meal, and the kids had made all these little signs that said things like, 'God bless you, Mr. Lawyer.' There was barbecue and soda pop, singing and dancing and more than a few happy tears."
To this day, he insists, it is the nicest party he's ever attended. "I went home that night feeling that I'd done something pretty damn good," he adds.
It was that case and its warming aftermath that convinced Haynes to devote 10 percent of his time to pro bono representations. "It's my tithe," he explains.
Though his schedule doesn't indicate it, Racehorse Haynes insists he's finally slowing down. While he still enjoys getting out in his power boat, he recently sold the 64-foot sailboat he'd piloted all over the Gulf of Mexico for more than 20 years ("I named it 'Integrity,'" he says, "because for years people said I didn't have any"), and he doesn't ride his Harley as often ("Too many idiots on the highway today, talking on cell phones while going 90 miles an hour"). His firm is smaller now, with only three fellow lawyers and four clerks and paralegals. He avoids the 80-hour workweeks that were once commonplace, and he's become more selective in choosing cases. "For instance," he explains, "I've made up my mind to stay away from the corporate criminal cases that often take years and a ton of paperwork to resolve. I don't want to start anything I can't finish.
"But, good Lord willing, I'd like to keep doing what I'm doing for four more years." Age 80, he says, seems like a good stopping place.
Then what? There are, after all, just so many banquets and roasts at which one can be honored, so many lazy days on the water to enjoy, concerts to attend, books to read or memoirs to write.
"I have a couple of fantasy scenarios that come to mind now and then," he admits. "In one, it's the last case of my career and I'm defending a client who everyone in the courtroom thinks is guilty as sin. But I do such a fantastic job of cross-examining one of the people testifying against him that the witness suddenly throws his hands into the air and blurts out a confession that he is the one who really committed the crime."
And the other?
Haynes grins again, leans back and strikes another match to his pipe. "I'm standing in front of a jury, see, giving one hell of a closing argument when I have this heart attack and fall to the floor. Barely able to speak, I whisper a request that the judge allow the jurors to leave the box and gather around me so I might complete my argument before I die."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.