Longform

Counsel for the Defense

Page 5 of 9

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.

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Carlton Stowers
Contact: Carlton Stowers