Longform

Counsel for the Defense

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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.

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Carlton Stowers
Contact: Carlton Stowers