Defending the Indefensible

Do court-appointed attorneys serve their clients or the courts?

Noted criminal defense attorney Randy Schaffer, who testified as an expert witness in the appeal of one of Mock's former clients now on death row, agreed to talk on the record about Mock. Schaffer was instrumental in the release from prison of Randall Dale Adams, who had been serving a life sentence (commuted from death) for the murder of a Dallas police officer. Defense attorneys were able to demonstrate that the state had suppressed evidence in the case, which was later featured in the documentary film The Thin Blue Line.

Schaffer was not very forthcoming about Mock, but his pointed silences revealed more than his words did as he sat in his high-rise downtown office, wearing cartoon-character suspenders and necktie.

"I like Ron Mock personally," said Schaffer, pausing for five pregnant seconds of silence before repeating himself. "I like Ron personally."

Pressed further on the subject, Schaffer finally added that "the public record will demonstrate Ron Mock's performance in various cases."

Last summer, attorneys from the Texas Resource Center filed in federal court a brief on Gary Graham's behalf. The TRC is a federally funded organization with the task of providing counsel for indigent death row inmates. The brief suggests that contrary to what he had recently told the Press, Mock did indeed believe that Graham was guilty from the outset of the case and, therefore, did not put much effort into defending him. The document cites a conversation with Merv West, the investigator who worked with Mock on Graham's case.

"Because we assumed Gary was guilty from the start we did not give his case the same attention we would routinely give a case," West is quoted as saying. "We just did not have time to worry about a guilty client, and I would not have felt comfortable trying to find evidence that would have proved him innocent. It may sound unfair but that's just the way it was."

But it's not just his controversial handling of the Graham defense that has tainted what Mock describes as his good reputation. Numerous times have Mock's clients asked the courts to remove him as their attorney.

* According to stories in the Houston Chronicle, in 1988 capital murder defendant Frances Newton unsuccessfully attempted to have Mock dismissed as her attorney because she believed that he thought she was guilty. Newton was subsequently convicted of killing her husband and two children, and was ordered to be executed by lethal injection.

* In 1990 Frank Valdez, an accused cocaine trafficker, attempted to have Mock removed as his attorney so he could represent himself. He eventually received a life sentence for possessing two kilograms of the drug.

* In 1991 Mock told the Chronicle he believed that one of his clients, convicted of stealing his grandmother's microwave oven in order to buy cocaine, should have been sentenced to more than the six months he received. "I hate this guy so much for what he did to his grandmother that I'm not even going to turn in a voucher to get paid for this case," Mock was quoted as saying. "I think he should be in jail for ten years."

* In 1992, during jury selection in the case of a man accused of theft, Mock actually selected a police Internal Affairs supervisor over a prospective juror who happened to be a defense attorney. Mock explained his decision to the Chronicle as a "tactical" move.

* Also in 1992, Mock was reprimanded by the State Bar of Texas after failing to respond to the Bar about a grievance filed by a former client. Mock had offered to testify against the client. Mock recently explained to the Press that his offer was intended as a joke.

* Last year Mock represented 19-year-old Searcy Deshun Singleton, who was charged with capital murder in connection with a robbery/murder. According to files the Press obtained from the Harris County district clerk's office, before the trial began, Terry Singleton -- Searcy's father -- wrote a letter to the judge presiding over the case, asking for Mock's removal as his sonÕs attorney. Contacted at his home in Maryland, the elder Singleton refused to discuss his displeasure with Mock. However, in the letter to Judge Donald Shipley, Singleton wrote, "Attorney Mock refuses to show interest in the case. Mr. Mock refuses to speak with Searcy...

"Mr. Mock's reputation in the legal community is less than attractive and this surprises me. He appears confident and zealous. Some attorneys attribute this to a possible addiction to alcohol. I am not calling him an alcoholic or an incompetent attorney. I do feel he's truly unconcerned about his client. I ask that he be dismissed."

Searcy Singleton was sentenced to life in prison. To Mock's credit, the case marks one of the few times that one of Mock's capital murder clients did not receive the death penalty.

Convicted murderer Gary Graham is not alone among those of Mock's former clients who quite possibly could be granted a second trial.

In 1985 Anthony Ray Westley, 23 years old at the time, admitted to taking part in the robbery of a bait-and-tackle shop near Lake Houston. During the holdup, 25-year-old store owner Murry Dale Stewart was shot to death.

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