Friday, June 17, 2011

Sending Good Thoughts to Jamie Leigh Jones

Case being tried by Ron Estefan and Todd Kelly

When Margaret Mead famously said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” I’m sure even she couldn’t have envisioned a young woman named Jamie Leigh Jones. As a 20-year-old, Jamie experienced some of the worst horrors one could imagine but rather than cower in the corner feeling helpless and defeated, she has used that experience to change the world.

After a 6-year battle, Jamie’s lawsuit finally has begun (with opening statements today) against military contractor KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary. As we’ve noted here before, Jamie filed suit for a 2005 gang-rape and other horrendous acts committed against her by the company and some of its employees while she was working in Iraq.

Finish reading this article here or just google Jamie Leigh Jones. There's been a ton of press on this case, deservingly.

Notice of FWB Elections

The FWB is structured so that there are elections every year. There may not be elections in every region every year, but some seats are up for election every year. This year, the following seats are up for election:

Region #2- California, Hawaii and Nevada. Jim McCallion is the current FWB representative in this region. Jim will not be running again so this is an open seat. Thanks to Jim for his service on the F Warrior board.

Region #4- Texas. Ron Estefan holds this seat. This will be an open seat because Ron is President of the F Warrior board and will become President on September 1st, 2011.

Region #5- Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. Ken Adair currently holds this seat. This will be an open seat because, as a judge, Kenny will not be running for reelection. Thanks to Ken for his service to the F Warrior Board, especially his dedicated attendance at Work Week and TLC Graduations.

Region #6- North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri. David Terrell currently holds this seat. David is not running again so this will be an open seat as well. Thanks to David for his service on the F warrior Board.

Region #7- Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. This seat is currently held by Cheryl Carpenter. Cheryl will not be running again. Thanks to Cheryl for her service on the F Warrior Board.

The FWB representatives serve three year terms. The FWB has an election committee comprised of myself, Ron Estefan, Rosemarie Paine and Chris Flohr.

The F-Warrior Board asks for self-nominations. The self-nomination period will be from now through June 21st, 2010. In order to nominate yourself to serve on the F-Warrior Board, please send your self-nomination and a brief statement in support of your candidacy to the Secretary of the F-Warrior Board, Jo-Hanna Read at, with a copy to myself as the F-Warrior Board President, The candidate statements will be distributed with the ballots by June 28th. The elections will be conducted by email from June 28 through July 19th, 2010. The ballots will be sent by Survey Monkey. The terms of the representatives elected this summer will begin on September 1, 2011.

We ask for self-nominations because serving on the F-Warrior Board is a big commitment. It takes a lot of time. There is some travel involved and the F Warrior Board has no budget for travel. The FWB meets monthly via teleconference. In addition to the monthly teleconference meetings, the Board usually has two in-person meetings each year. One is a retreat that we hold in November in conjunction with the annual alumni meeting. The FWB participates in graduation and meets with the Trial Lawyers College Board in July. Attendance is essential to any functioning Board and, thus, we have a rule about unexcused absences on the conference calls. At the same time, we recognize that not everyone can participate in every activity, so the financial commitment is hopefully not overwhelming. Serving on the Board is a lot of work, but it is rewarding and gives one a sense of teamwork. The F-Warriors have been incredibly productive. (It is also a lot of fun.)

Here are some of the additional activities of a regional representative to the F Warrior Board:

1. Participate in and promote local groups.

2. Recruit Warrior articles from the graduates in the Region. Goal is to submit two to three stories every issue. The Warrior is the voice of the alumni.

3. Send a monthly email to members of the Region concerning F-Warrior activity.

4. Attend TLC graduations.

5. Attend the retreat and the annual meeting.

The F Warrior Board exists to serve the alumni of the Trial Lawyers College. Our tribe is accomplishing great things. It is crucial that we continue to work together in our fight for justice. Groups are meeting across the country. It takes effort to do this work but our clients are worth the effort.

The FWB looks forward to receiving the nominations of those who wish to put their names up for consideration. If you have any questions whatsoever, do not hesitate to call or e-mail any F Warrior Board Representative.

Betsy Greene

F Warrior Board, Trial Lawyers College

Hot Coffee

Hot Coffee the movie features many TLC lawyers cases... Ron Estefan, Todd Kelly and Reed Morgan to name a few!
Check it out!

In Honor Of My Client, A Veteran

By Steven Lucareli, TLC 2006

At the age of 17, my client, Tom enlisted in the Marine Corps, prematurely ending his education at Brookfield High School in Milwaukee, WI. It was 1962, and in a short time, Tom was sent to Vietnam.

In Vietnam, Tom participated in a number of named operations such as Operation Black Feret and Operation Orange. One day his platoon was ordered to take a reinforced enemy village. As they got to the perimeter of the village, Tom's group came under heavy fire, and he was shot in the head. The enemy then began a barrage with mortars, and as Tom lay mortally wounded on the battlefield, he was struck in the face and neck by shrapnel. It would be six hours before a helicopter could land and he was medevaced to safety.

Tom was operated on and the bullet in his head was removed, but the shrapnel in his face and neck remained, along with a muscle in his neck that was severed, but never repaired. He was eventually discharged from the Marines as disabled because he could not wear a helmet due to severe headaches.

Upon discharge, Tom returned to Milwaukee. Not content to sit and do nothing, he attempted to get a job with Inland Steel. On his first job application one day in the morning he was turned down, classified by the company as un-insurable due to his wartime injuries. He returned later that night and tried again and got hired on the third shift, where he worked for the next 10 years running a machine that expanded metal.

Factory life did not sit well with Tom, and after growing tired of it, he quit his job and moved to Phelps, Wisconsin, a very small town in the northern part of the state. He led a subsistence existence, supporting himself with hunting, fishing and trapping. His brother was also in Phelps, and had been adopted by a Native American man as his son. Tom was also ceremoniously adopted by his brother's father, as well. Eventually Tom met and married June, his wife of 23 years, a full blooded Chippewa Indian.

From 1961 to 1971, the United States sprayed some 20,000,000 million gallons of a defoliant and herbicide known as Agent Orange on approximately 20% of the land in Vietnam. In addition to Vietnam's flora, Agent Orange was also sprayed on the Vietnamese people, and our military personnel who were on the ground fighting the war. At the time, our service people were told it was nothing to be concerned about, a representation by our government and Dow and Monsanto, who made Agent Orange, that would later prove to be a terrible lie.

Agent Orange is a mixture of two toxic and deadly chemicals containing dioxins, some of the most deadly compounds created by mankind. In addition to killing all plant life that it comes into contact with, Agent Orange has also caused a variety of sicknesses and illnesses in people. In Vietnam, the legacy of Agent Orange has been generations of either stillborn babies or children born with severe birth defects and deformities. The adult population has suffered from a variety of cancers and incurable skin lesions, many resulting in horrible deaths to those afflicted. A large portion of the Vietnamese countryside remains contaminated by Agent Orange to this day, some 50 years after it was first sprayed by our government.

Tom was sprayed with Agent Orange while he was in Vietnam. Its impact on his health, as is the case with many Vietnam veterans, has been horrible. In Tom's case, his bones are slowly dissolving. His lower jaw is gone, along with all of its teeth, and his upper jaw and and teeth are following a similar pattern. Both of his shoulders are gone, and his knees are also rapidly deteriorating, to the point where he now has to walk with a cane, and rising from a chair causes him to make any number of guttural groans from the pain of putting weight on his joints. Perhaps worst of all, his spine is also deteriorating and he will eventually be left with no support in his upper body. By April 1993, the Department of Veterans Affairs had only compensated 486 victims, although it had received disability claims from 39,419 soldiers who had been exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. To this day, Dow and Monsanto have attempted to blame the U.S. government for problems resulting from Agent Orange.

In May of 2010, Tom and his wife, who he affectionately calls Junebug, were driving through downtown Phelps. As they rounded a corner on ST HWY 17, a group of men were standing next to two double parked vehicles in the middle of the road. Tom and June were coming from June's parent's house, where they had drank a few beers. As Tom's vehicle passed the group of men, one of them made a racial slur directed at June, which upset Tom very much. He went around the block and came back and parked, exiting his vehicle to confront the men who were still standing in the road. As he approached them, one of the men struck Tom in the face, knocking him to the ground. Tom got up and was promptly struck in the face again, knocking him once more to the ground. A large younger man who was with Tom and his wife eventually convinced the other men to back off and Tom was helped to his feet and returned to his vehicle. Tom and his wife and the younger man then left the scene of the altercation.

Apparently not content with the beating they had put on Tom, one of the men from the group then called the sheriff's department and accused Tom of running over his foot and striking his vehicle, which were lies. Upon being dispatched to the scene, the sheriff's deputies got a vehicle description and ran a license check on Tom. Their check returned an address in Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin , which is about 15 miles from Phelps. The deputies then drove to Land O'Lakes, where they found Tom and June and the younger man sitting in a bar. There was a fresh, partially consumed glass of beer on the bar in front of Tom.

The sheriff's deputies took Tom outside, where, after a variety of field sobriety tests, they determined that he was under the influence of alcohol. At that point, Tom was arrested for OWI 4th, Criminal Damage to Property, and Disorderly conduct. The latter two charges were based on the false claims of the men who had called the sheriff's department after they had beaten Tom up. A later blood alcohol test performed on a sample of Tom's blood would reveal a BAC of .228, almost three times the legal limit.

After he was released from jail, Tom hired me to represent him on his various charges. Sadly, after reviewing the arresting officer's reports, I determined that we were not likely to win Tom's case at trial, and I then determined that I would have to negotiate the best deal I could for him. My main concern was the minimum jail time of 60 days that Tom would have to serve upon conviction on the OWI, but more troubling was the presumptive penalty of 1 year in jail, based on his blood alcohol level. A year in jail for a person with Tom's health problems was tantamount to a death sentence. I also knew Tom would lose his driving privileges for 2 years, which would be a real hardship because his wife does not drive, and there is no public transportation where they live.

I convinced Tom to go into a VA in-patient alcohol treatment program. I knew when I went to the prosecutor, I would have to offer him something to hang his hat on, and treatment was the best way to show him that Tom accepted responsibility for his problem, and had sought help. I also thought I could convince the DA to give Tom day-for-day credit for time spent in treatment against the mandatory jail sentence.

I met with the DA and explained to him the facts of Tom's case and his service related health problems. I told him we would not be fighting the charges at trial, and asked him for compassion, to treat Tom with some level of humanity. Despite Tom's aggravated blood alcohol level, the DA offered me the minimums of 75 days in jail, with credit for the 30 days Tom spent in treatment, meaning Tom would only have to serve 45 days in jail. I also got Tom the lowest possible fine, and 2 years of probation. After reaching an agreement with the DA, I then paid a visit to the jailer, and convinced him to let Tom do his jail time on home supervision. He agreed, meaning Tom would not spend any time locked up upon conviction.

Today we went to court for sentencing on Tom's case. The judge followed our recommendation to the letter. Once he learned of Tom's service related health issues, he was almost apologetic about having to impose any jail time. In the end, Tom was satisfied with the sentence he got.

The result in Tom's case is not about a multi-million dollar verdict. I do not begrudge anyone who gets that kind of justice for their client, most of whom deserve a verdict of that magnitude. Instead, the justice in Tom's case occurred because people were able to see him as a human being with flaws just like all of us have in one form or another. Showing them Tom's flaws helped them want to help Tom. The strength in our case was showing Tom with all of his vulnerabilities, and our government's efforts to consciously distance itself from Tom's needs after he came home from war.

I remember turning 18 in 1973 and having to go register for the draft. I still have my tattered selective service card in my wallet, which I carry as a reminder of how lucky I was not to have the horrors of war visited on me. I was one of a lucky few who were spared because by then the fallacy that we could win in Vietnam had been exposed. Tom, and many others like him, were not as lucky a I was. My wife has a cousin whose name is etched on the cold granite of the Vietnam War Memorial.

The men and women who returned from the Vietnam War did not receive a heroes welcome. Instead, they were the objects of ridicule and scorn, some being spat on by protestors as they arrived at the airports or in their hometowns. Most of them were no more than conscripts, drafted to fight a war that they did not want to be part of, or did not fully understand. They were the sheep of a flock shepparded by the United States' military industrial complex and politicians, many of whom grew wealthy on the backs of those who died. Their offense, if it can be called that, was that they did as they were ordered. Their service to our country was no less honorable than that of any other person who acted similarly in other, "justifiable", conflicts.

I do not like war. Usually, people are asked to kill other people to advance an idea or a belief, because as a race, we have proven ourselves to be so often incapable or unwilling to accept that others may have ideas or opinions that differ from ours. Instead of acceptance, we resort to exterminating those who do not agree with us. But, as much as I do not like war, I have a tremendous respect for those who have acted when called to service, mostly those who had no choice, who acted out of a sense of duty or obligation.

It was my privilege to serve as Tom 's lawyer. I hope that in some small way I was able to make his difficulties at this time in his life a little less onerous, and little less of a burden. Lord knows, the weight that he carries each day is heavy enough. What I am most amazed by is that during the entire time that Tom's case brought me into contact with him, never once did I hear him complain about the hand that life dealt him.

Many years ago when I worked in the prosecutor's office in the courthouse, I used to walk by the second floor elevator at the end of the day, and invariably there would be a man who worked in the Vet's office waiting for the elevator to arrive. He would be sitting in his wheel chair, both of his legs gone from a land mine that he had stepped on in Vietnam. No matter how hard my day had been, all it took was one look at that man sitting in his wheelchair for me to realize how lucky I was. I have not seen that man for many years, but my chance encounter with Tom has once again served to remind me how lucky I am.

Essay: Letters of Love

By Alejandro Blanco, TLC 2000

It has taken me a long time to understand the nature of what we do.

Until a couple of years ago, it was easy to feel, sense if you will, that what we do is go to battle. Equipping ourselves with the tools of the trade, the weapons, we would go into the courtroom to kill the enemy. We become good at killing the other side and we would win for our clients.

Or, we are killed this time; we lose our clients’ case. And a part of us will die. But, as in the phoenix bird story, we will regenerate to go to battle yet for another client -another chance to be Warriors, to engage in the battle. Our “dead” clients will be few, we hope. And we will honor those who have died along the way. This is, after all, an honorable war. It is one that must be fought. For if WE, the Warriors, don’t stand to fight, who will? The Reign of Injustice will spread about the land. Evil triumphs when Good People don’t stand against it. It is how we have been taught in the stories of our childhood; it is what we have come to believe. And so we stand … against evil.

I saw fashioning, interpreting, our learning along this understanding of the world, along this “Way of Being”, to quote Carl Rogers the founder of the human potential movement. We talked about our losses and our wins in terms of fighting the “good fight”, as our Women Warriors rolled their eyes.

Lately, in the midst of some wins that have impacted me deeply, I have come upon another way of perceiving what we do. Feel free to disagree and criticize, since that will spawn your own way of understanding this Truth. It is real to me, since it is the way I perceive it. What we do –killing in the courtroom- is an act of love, a true Love Letter we write to those of US who, in this incongruent and cruel world, are harmed by the carelessness, greediness and, at times, plain meanness of people who refuse to see OUR humanness.

I have been asked to dig deeper, to explain how and where I reached this way of perceiving what we do. How can Death and Love co-exist? How can we Kill out of Love?

I don’t know how to delve deeper into this truth with words. Perhaps some stories might scratch the surface and help the deeper dig. I have further learned that some truths lie deep within the self, to be uncovered and treasured only after the exacting dig has exhausted and prepared us for the moment.

Sergeant Cabral, a Guarani native and grenadier soldier in the 1800s from my native Corrientes, threw himself in front of spears intended to kill General San Martin of the argentine revolutionary forces during the battle of San Lorenzo; he took the Spanish spears, saving the General’s life. The Argentines grenadiers went on to defeat the Spaniards in that battle. After the battle, General Don Jose de San Martin came up to him to tell the Spaniards had been defeated. Cabral said: “Muero contento che General, hemos batido al enemigo …” (I die content my General, we have defeated the enemy). He died for the love of freedom.

Our world has grown accustomed to inflict on us Pain without rhyme or reason. It hurts US, and it does not care. Many people have grown used to this “way” of the world; they join in causing our brothers and sisters unforgivable pain. It is as though an insane virus has taken over this “dog” that goes around spreading hate and pain, hurt and madness. And after this “dog” has hurt one of our loved ones, we stand in front of the dog, ready to die or kill, because love compels us to take that stand. Energized with something we quite cannot state in words we move to kill those who embrace this Insanity that hurts all of US, including them, so as to restore balance.

That is what I am talking about.

While we earn a potentially fantastic living by being trial lawyers –true Peaceful Warriors- I am willing to stake my claim to the possibility that it is this type of Love resonating in your heart that drives you to be spurned, scorned, vilified, crucified many a time, so that Rosie –or Johnny, Mary, Jamal, Eulanda, Vijay, and so many others- will have a voice, a voice for Justice, whether it be Civil or Criminal Justice. Whether we get them the right amount of Money for the Wrong done; or the right Freedom for the Wrongful Accusation, they will have Our Voice resonating for them.

Call me a lunatic, but I insistently argue that without Love in your Heart, you would not -could not- find the courage to write that closing argument, or rake your soul for the “right” voir dire questions, or re-enact yet one more time the story in the hopes of finding its essence so that you can tell the universal story to the jury and obtain Justice. You simply could not stand. And would give up the Way of the Warrior.

And so, find that Love, and stand … Write with your life, in pages of your life, all of the Letters of Love that come to you to be written. In the courtroom. Be a Warrior.

Boyfriend charged with missing woman's murder

Case being tried by Emily Detoto, TLC 2001

A 44-year-old machinist was charged Thursday with murdering his pregnant girlfriend five years ago, even though her body still remains missing.

When the charge was filed Miguel Antonio Martinez was already in the Harris County Jail on $500,000 bail for another felony charge of illegal weapons possession. Authorities had confiscated several handmade gun silencers from his southwest Houston home.

Martinez told investigators he made the silencers for his "own personal use."

His girlfriend, Senovia Medina, was 37 and three months pregnant when she disappeared after dropping off food at her mother's Houston home Jan. 5, 2006.

Without her body, Martinez's lawyer believes investigators will need more evidence to prove murder.

"And if a killing did occur it was self-defense as my client has stated," said his lawyer, Emily Detoto.

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