Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Life without Parole spared for 22 year old client of TLC grad Emily DeToto ('01)

TLC grad Emily DeToto ('01) fights for justice and the life of her client in a capital murder case.

Emily's client was the gunman in a home-invasion gone bad. He was holding a sawed off shotgun and he and 3 other boys were going to do a drug rip, and were startled to find the homeowner coming down the stairs. My client shot her in the chest in front of her children and she died.

The prosecutors for the State of Texas were seeking a guilty conviction on Capital Murder which would have meant an automatic sentence of Life Without the Possibility of Parole.

Emily's client was 22. She fought for him, using the TLC methods she has refined in several TLC Grad 2 programs, and she ultimately convinced the jury to find him Not Guilty of Capital Murder. They instead found him guilty of Felony Murder and sentenced him to 60 years in prison.

The full story will air on A&E on January 3 at 7 pm:

$28.3 million verdict and TLC-style justice obtained for woman injured by carbon monoxide poisoning in her apartment

TLC grads Bryan Ulmer ('99) and Tyson Logan (Sept '10) in the Spence Firm worked with grads across the country to bring TLC-style justice in the form of a $28.3 million verdict from a federal jury to woman injured by carbon monoxide poisoning in her apartment. ($2.8 in compensatory damages; $28.2 in punitive damages.)

Bryan and Tyson said they worked with members of the tribe across the country to brainstorm and discover the story. They worked with Gerry, for hours, on themes and danger points for the voir dire and the opening and closings. They started, and constantly relied on, psychodrama work and listening work, and worked with every single witness for months and years leading up to the trial to really learn and piece together the story that needed to be told.


Upon reflection, Tyson and Bryan said "it was a great experience and humbling to see how much people from the TLC tribe are willing to share and pitch in to help make something good happen."

Saturday, December 28, 2013

TLC grad shares his lessons learned on an effective Voir Dire

A recent grad of the 3-week program tells an inspiring story of how the TLC methods are helping him connect with his clients, judges, and juries, and how he is consequently getting more justice for his clients: 

"This course came at just the right time for me. I have been struggling so long with my career and my direction. I was able to get past so many internal roadblocks. Learning how to think about my client's story and developing the case from that point of view has  freed me in so many ways. I have already employed the tools I learned at TLC during several meetings with clients and learned so much more about them and their cases. I currently have three first degree murder cases that I have been appointed to. I'm using these tools now.

Last week, I argued for one of my clients before a  Judge about his competency to stand trial and about the State's motion to prevent us from putting on a defense of mental disease and defect (the client is mentally retarded and charged with felony murder). After the State finished their standard bs about us not having met our burden and their expert being all over it, I got up to argue. In the past, I would likely have tried to refute their argument point by point, relying heavily on my left brain and the facts. This time, I stood at the podium and paused. I reached deep inside and tried to figure out what I felt and what I was scared of. I felt anger that the State would persecute my client, that they would dismiss his lifelong disability for their obscene desire to blame the wrong person for a crime, and I was scared that a jury would not be able to hear the story of who he was, where he was from, and why they needed to care about him and see him as a person.

Then I started: I don’t know what it's like to be the kid in class who can't keep up. I don't know what it's like to be the kid that, by the time he's in second grade can only finish work with the teacher's help. To be teased and taunted by all the other kids for being stupid. But my client does.  My client sat in his first grade classroom…

I went through his story, which encompassed all of the facts that we had put on anyway. I have never experienced a reception like it. First of all, there were about 50 people in the courtroom, DA's, PD's etc, probation officers, and people in the gallery, and no one talked during the whole time I told the story. Everyone listened. The Judge, who usually looks down and takes notes, watched me the whole time, only glancing away for seconds to write notes, then looking back, shaking her head in affirmation as she recalled all the testimony that supported my story for my client.  I felt like I connected directly to her. I showed her the villains and who betrayed him all of his life. And I helped her see how she could help render justice by letting my client show the jury who he was so that they could find justice in this Courtroom.

It was a heady feeling. I was so in the moment, I didn’t think about it at the time, but afterward, in the hall, I was actually trembling with energy.  I could not have done this without the help of all the instructors and faculty at TLC.  So, I thank you, all of you, from the bottom of my heart."

TLC Death Penalty Seminar graduate talks about the role of mitigation in these important cases

Learning & Presenting the “Why”: Effective Mitigation in Criminal Cases
BY: Victoria Rusk, Mitigation Specialist  and graduate of TLC’s Death Penalty Seminar in 2011 and 2013
rusk.victoria@gmail.com   (Article was published in the Fort Bend County, Texas Criminal Defense Newsletter, Winter 2013-2014 edition.)  

Mitigation in the context of criminal proceeding is not touchy-feely, sentimental, whining, wailing, tugging on the heart strings boloney. Mitigation is a very real and practical presentation regarding all the facts and circumstance of the defendant’s background and history in relation to their current case. It is not an excuse. It is an explanation. From criminal to immigration law, mitigation is something only the defense can bring to the table. It is mandatory in capital cases because of the lethal punishment aspects. However, a majority of cases confront a punishment/ sentencing phase and attorneys are obligated to prepare for it. {Milburn v. State} {Shanklin v. State}   If knowledge is power, then this information is the light switch.

Multipurpose Tool
Mitigation can be utilized in every facet of court proceedings: bond hearing, grand jury packets, PSI, plea negotiations, trial and more. Mitigation is most beneficial to prevent trial (PSI, pleas negotiations). However, sometimes trial is inevitable, so it is best to retain a mitigation specialist from the start. Mitigation investigation provides the attorney with more information about the case and the client. This form of empathy can create a better attorney-client relationship, which can only benefit the outcome.  Mitigation specialists can provide immeasurable support in interviewing and obtaining support material from those who have known the client best and longer than the prosecutor, the judge or the probation department.  One of the main purposes of mitigation is to individualize each case and each defendant to determine punishment.  For every aggravating factor there is a mitigating factor to explain it or defend it.  Presenting mitigation can save years in the sentencing phase or in plea negotiation. It can also exclude lawyers from a potential IAC claim. {Moore v. State} 
Power of Why
Mitigation is the why.  Experience demonstrates to us that not only do the prosecutors and jurors, both grand and petit, want to know what happened, but they want to know why.  The why looks to the past as well as to the future, so that whatever the cause for this criminal conduct, it needs to be named and eliminated to avoid a recurrence.  After interviews with family, friends, neighbors, teachers, employers, doctors, counselors, etc. the pieces of the puzzle come together. Combine that with supporting records from various sources and you have a solid defense on how people become who they are. Information flows in from many directions and a mitigation specialist will organize it. Once you have this information, it is much easier to get an expert on board to testify on such mental disorders and/ or intellectual disabilities. Experts appreciate and utilize mitigation reports because they learn behaviors and characteristics of the client which very likely explains the circumstances of the crime. 

Client Relations
The specialist’s field work symbolizes a quality defense.  Surprisingly, many clients don’t know their own story or have never been asked to tell it. When a client realizes how their actions were influenced or supported by dependent conditions, it influences future decision making; including the decision on whether to plead or not. Mitigation builds a rapport with your client without extensive leg work. Since a mitigation specialist is an extension of the attorney, he/she is visiting the client, their family and potential witnesses, reviewing records and developing the story. Mitigation investigations not only unravel the client’s story but also the story of the parents giving a name to certain actions, behaviors, circumstance, etc. Those components assist an expert in drawing conclusions.  There are times when an expert is not hired because the mitigation report is enough to prevent trial.  Mitigation has the potential to build strong and positive client relations which results in more effective negotiations.
Mitigation is not miraculous. However, when used properly it is impressive to see how information shifts the mindset of another person.  It allows the attorney to concentrate on the case and to present the case in its best light.
  • Mitigation in non-capital cases is necessary and proper defense. Case law supports that. Where there is a will, there is a way. 
  • Mitigating factors are effective negotiating tools in all aspects of a court proceeding.  Depending on the case, the client and the circumstances, mitigating factors are strategically used for the best defense.
  • Mitigation Specialist versus Mitigation Expert. Experts testify and a mitigation specialist is a defense team member under attorney-client privilege. Mitigation specialists collect the information needed to hire an expert, assist the expert with records and reports and support attorney-client relations.
  • A mitigation specialist starts at $75.00 per hour. In a non-capital case, twenty hours is a good starting point. In mitigation, you don’t know what you will discover or when you will discover it.

TLCs methods to "Discover The Story" lead to justice for families with autistic children

A brief synopsis of how TLC’s methods to Discover the Story behind Health Insurance Denials for Autism led to justice for numerous families of autistic children.  (The full story about this case by 
TLC alum Scott Glovsky (’07) can be found in the TLC Warrior magazine, Fall 2013.  See www.triallawyerscollege.com, "Support TLC" tab.) 

Six years ago, "Guillermo" walked into my office.  He was agitated and trembling as he told me that Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, a “not for profit” health plan, had refused to provide his two-year-old autistic son with Applied Behavioral Analysis (“ABA”) – the most effective treatment for autism.  Because early intervention is crucial for autistic children, Guillermo’s desperation was palpable.  Autism Spectrum Disorders (“ASDs”) are a group of developmental disorders which onset in early childhood and often cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges.  There is no physiological test, like a blood test, to determine if someone has an ASD.  Instead, doctors analyze a child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. While there is no cure for ASDs, ABA is widely accepted as the most effective treatment.  

Kaiser, like every other health insurance company in California, refused to provide ABA to its members with ASDs.  Kaiser systematically denied ABA on the ground that it was not a medical service, was not provided by licensed medical providers, and was merely educational.  I took Guillermo’s case, and others like it, and filed a class action against Kaiser to stop them from systematically denying ABA for children with ASDs.

When I started to work on the cases, I struggled to understand ASDs.  Though defined above, it is difficult to understand what ASDs really are since their definition is amorphous.  I realized I needed to discover the story of ASDs so that people within the insurance companies, in the medical profession, and on juries, can wrap their arms around what autism truly is.  I worked with our TLC Local Working Group and we began by reversing roles with a three-year-old, non-verbal autistic boy.  I started to learn the story when I was spinning around in circles as a three-year-old boy without making any eye contact.  I discovered how scary, confusing, and overwhelming each day must be for children with autism.  Without understanding the tremendous limitations caused by ASDs, one cannot fully appreciate the importance of ABA.

To further discover the story, I spent time with my autistic clients.  I was completely overwhelmed with the chaos, stress, and lack of control in his house.  Andrew spun in circles in the living room as his family repeatedly tried to stop him from injuring himself – but Andrew still persisted.  As Andrew rarely slept for more than a few hours at a time, his entire family seemed overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, beaten down, defeated, and helpless.  I learned that getting through each day with an autistic child requires tremendous strength, courage, and perseverance.  As a result, these families rarely have the strength and fortitude to mount a battle against a powerful insurance company to fight for ABA. 

All of this work reminded me again that it is crucial to work up cases with TLC methods as soon as possible.  The focus groups and reenactments led to new avenues of formal discovery, which led to the discovery of new information, which led to new focus groups and reenactments, expanding the sophistication and breadth of our case along the way.  When I use TLC methods early in the case, and continue to employ the methods throughout the case, I approach trial with a much more refined and powerful story.   The result?:  after almost six years of work, Kaiser has finally agreed to change their policies and stop systematically denying ABA and speech therapy to children with ASDs.  As part of the settlement, it has established a large fund to reimburse families that paid for ABA and speech therapy over the past eight years.  In addition, the fund will provide millions of dollars for cutting-edge autism research at UCLA and UCSF.  Once again, the power of TLC methods to better “discover the story” of these cases, the powerful help of tribe members, and all of our caring, made the world a little bit better. 

TLC student rediscovers his passion for practicing law

Attendee of TLC's "Experience The Magic" Seminar in June 2013:

"I just tried my second jury trial since attending the 1-week program at the Trial Lawyers College last summer.  The cases were small so this is not a brag post!  But I put to use what I learned and I had both plaintiffs "re-enact" the crash and I saw that the jury was totally engaged.  The jury took notes and asked questions, which was the first time I experienced the jury asking me questions.

I came to Wyoming last June with little spirit, and too many losses.  In my head, I know that the facts are the facts, and we really don't get to try our good cases because all of those settle.  Still, in my heart, I always second-guessed myself.  I felt a difference in myself after I attended this program and that has translated into more confidence -- and success in the courtroom!  I received the best compliment I could imagine today from a couple of jurors who told me that they appreciated my passion.  It was very empowering to hear that my passion for what I do is coming across to jurors as a real emotion.  It finally feels natural and real and I am thrilled to try cases again -- a feeling I haven't had for a long time.  Please share my gratitude with the staff from this summer, and my thanks for all that the College has done for me and my clients."       

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Victory for Sisters

by Greg Reeves

I represent June and Carolyn. Sisters. Salt of the earth people. Quiet. Reserved. They had married, worked, raised children, buried family, and they found themselves at 76 and 79 years of age, living near to each other and living alone.  

Carolyn’s daughter was driving when a driver ran a red light. The impact spun their truck around 2 or 3 times. Instead of dinner, they were taken to a hospital, checked out, treated, and released.

The other driver denied liability, typical in Alabama, a contributory negligence state. The only independent eyewitness was very nervous, but, critical for us, as she said my clients had the green arrow.

I reviewed the medical records: pain, bruising, tests, doctor appointments.  Eventually, my clients improved. Carolyn had suffered a stroke years ago and had walked with a cane, ever since. But, June had only started to use a cane after the wreck.  

I saw no benefit to deposing a doctor or by introducing the medical records. The subrogation was $1,700 and $185, so the medical bills would have been pointless.

Before June and Carolyn came to see me they were offered somewhere around $1,200 each. This offer increased to $15,000.00 each before trial. We declined the offer.

I asked them to not use their canes in front of the jury. I escorted them to the witness stand. The only damage claim was for pain and suffering. Number of plaintiffs’ exhibits offered: zero. Not even a photograph or a diagram.  

The task of valuing pain is difficult. I admitted this to the jury. I asked them to consider $75,000, each, as an appropriate amount. I liked my clients. I believed in them. I felt that we, as lawyers, tend to complicate our cases. I wanted this case to be simple, basic and honest: my clients, their pain, and a request that the jurors agree to value pain.

We started the trial that Wednesday morning and had a verdict that afternoon:  $20,000 for Carolyn and $40,000 for June. This was double the total amount that had been offered by the insurance company.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

TLC Faculty Member Antonio Ponvert ('04) obtains justice for his client

... And a $9.3 million verdict to boot!

Antonio recalled:
This particular case involved 66-year-old B. L., who went into the hospital with a urinary tract infection, was overdosed with a blood thinner, suffered a massive abdominal bleed, died and was revived. After being revived, B.L. underwent three surgeries to find and repair the bleed, contracting MRSA osteomyelitis (bone infection) in her clavicle. She had two surgeries on the abscess and a third surgery to remove part of her clavicle bone, after which she contracted C-Diff (another bacterial infection) that caused very uncomfortable intestinal complications.  She left the hospital 75 days later wheelchair bound and in a terribly deconditioned state.  Four years later, the abdominal incision from the three surgeries herniated, and the entire contents of her abdomen (her bowels, intestines, some organs) pushed through the abdominal wall to sit just under her skin in a large mound. 

Throughout it all, she remained a proud and dignified lady, with a sense of humor, life-affirming attitude, and a strong will to survive.  

B.L. had been through several lawyers before getting to my law firm.  She was universally disliked and considered off-putting, pushy and entitled.  I was brought into the case a month before trial, just in time to pick the jury and to take all of the damages witnesses and one of the defense experts.  Because of my TLC training, I spent about 20 hours with her in the weeks before trial, establishing a trusting relationship that allowed her to let down her guard and to reveal her true self.  

The best example of this concerned her clothing and appearance.  She dressed very well and appeared to be affluent.  She had her hair coiffed, wore expensive looking jewelry and makeup, and carried herself with a dignified (some might say haughty) air.  Her appearance turned many people off, and all of the lawyers before me insisted that she dress down for trial.  They wanted to turn her into someone she is not.  Honestly, that was my initial reaction and impulse too.  But after spending a lot of time with her, I learned the reason that she dresses and carries herself this way.  This knowledge led to some key testimony, an intensely emotional and compelling moment in the trial when her frustration, pain, embarrassment and suffering was displayed in an honest, totally raw way, causing the jury began to identify with her.  

It was an honor to represent her.

Friday, August 30, 2013

TLC Methods - Helping with life, not just the courtroom

by Rhonda Bruner - Cullman, AL - July 2011 Grad

Since I last saw Laurie at the 2012 Death Penalty Course, quite a lot has changed. I am now practicing law only sparingly. This past Thanksgiving my Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer and stayed in the hospital until mid-February. Right before she came home, my Dad went for a routine check up, at which time his doctor found a tumor on his stomach. He was later diagnosed with late stage Gastric Cancer. Needless to say, my priorities changed. I moved out to the farm with them, closed and liquidated our family business, and have considerably scaled back my practice.

You know, God really does have a plan for my success and not my destruction. When I came to the ranch in 2011, that was timed by God. Twice before, I had downloaded the application, prayed about it, but did not apply. I needed to learn the TLC method. And I needed to learn how to use it. I also needed to learn how to cope with the method during times of "life or death". So, I came back for the Death Penalty course. Honestly, those were the best decisions ever made!

Both of my parents are still with us, defying all of the odds against their survival. Cancer is ugly. Chemotherapy stinks, especially when it is a double dose. I have had to use every psychodramatic technique I learned at the ranch. Doctors are not used to being questioned about the courses of treatment they choose for their patients. At least five of them now understand how important it is to really care about their patients and their families. And that has made all the difference.

What students learn at TLC is more than just ways to improve their practices. It is truly life changing. I encourage them all to take advantage of the glory of every single sunrise, as they usher in new hope for every day. I will come back to the ranch. For now, I will enjoy the time I have with family and friends and all 10 of my fur-kids (3 dogs and 7 horses).

Keep up the good work, Warriors!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Last Chapter in the Crowley Prison Riot Litigation

by Bill Trine

The Fall 2012 issue of The Warrior magazine (pages 10-14) included an article on the litigation surrounding The Crowley Prison Riot and the evils of the private prison system.  I described the consolidated individual lawsuits brought by over 200 inmates who were non-participant victims of the Crowley County Correctional Facility (CCCF) prison riot in July 2004. The lawsuits were finally settled on an individual basis two weeks before the scheduled 25-week trial was to commence on March 11, 2013 against Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private “for profit” operator of prisons in the United States.

Many of you followed this litigation with some interest – perhaps because of the length and complexity. The lawsuits were filed individually (not as a class action) against CCA and individual employees, alleging State tort claims. We were prohibited from pursuing §1983 claims in State or Federal court, because none of the inmates had complied with the PLRA notice requirements and their cases would have been dismissed. Class action certification was highly unlikely and also not desirable. Colorado “tort reform” greatly restricted damages with abolition of joint and several liability, caps on non-economic and punitive damages, and permitting CCA to designate the rioters as nonparties at fault to diminish or eliminate any damage award. We claimed that CCA’s negligence was a cause of the riot.

So, with that background, we were in the appellate courts five times resulting in two published opinions; defended the depositions of 126 inmate/clients; took the depositions of 30 CCA employees; and reviewed over 150,000 pages of documents produced by CCA, the Colorado Department of Corrections and the Inspector General. Multiple motions were filed resulting in three interlocutory appeals, as well as 13 motions in limini filed shortly before trial. But how did we start with nearly 240 plaintiffs and eight years later end up with only 193 who received settlements? During those years several clients died; some were released and became homeless, and could not be located; and some did not respond to discovery requests or court orders and were dismissed. Only non-economic damages were claimed and those damages do not survive death in Colorado.

The Settlement Process
An early settlement of individual cases was impossible. CCA filed motions to dismiss all cases, claiming that the plaintiffs were required by Colorado law to exhaust remedies before filing suit. The trial court granted the motions, dismissing all cases, and was then reversed by the appellate court – which made new law favorable to prisoners’ rights; however, this delayed the litigation for two years. After preliminary discovery, I evaluated each clients non-economic damages consisting of fear, pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc. There were no viable economic claims for lost wages or medical expenses. Individual demands were then made for settlement in varying amounts on condition that there would be no confidentiality agreement.

CCA’s response was the filing of formal offers of settlement under the rules for $250.00 per inmate, conditioned on a confidentiality agreement. That ended negotiations until all formal discovery was completed years later and after numerous motions for partial summary judgment had been ruled upon as well as other motions that were subject to interlocutory appeals. The critical court rulings that finally precipitated settlement were several evidentiary rulings adverse to CCA resulting in dismissal of CCA’s counterclaims, affirmative defenses, and designation of non-parties. But unfortunately, the court ruling that forced the plaintiffs into settlement was the denial of plaintiffs’ motion for separate trials in groups of 10 and the appellate court’s refusal to intervene.

Without separate trials, all 193 plaintiffs were scheduled for a 25-week jury trial. The barriers to proceeding in that fashion became insurmountable. First and foremost, it was virtually impossible for a jury to remember the damage testimony and render individual verdicts for each plaintiff. It was apparent that the trial would end in a mistrial, hung jury, or inconsistent verdicts, followed by one or more additional trials and appeals. With every year of delay, we were losing an increasing number of clients who would not receive justice.

In addition, as we prepared for trial, many of the clients who had been released from prison were scattered in several states, some with jobs and many on parole, who could not get employers or parole officers’ permission to travel to court to testify. Without testimony, their cases would be dismissed. As plaintiffs, the court would not permit telephone testimony over CCA’s objection. They would have to testify in person. Those still incarcerated could testify by telephone or video conference, but only if the prison would permit it. The Washington prisons said no. Therefore, we were making arrangements to bring suit in the state of Washington to compel their prison system to permit such testimony. The Colorado court had no jurisdiction to do so. The cases of those who failed to testify would be dismissed.

CCA decided to settle, but wanted to make a lump sum offer, and not individual offers to each plaintiff. We could not ethically do so. We made individual demands, again conditioned on no confidentiality agreement. The state of Colorado appointed one of its senior retired settlement judges to mediate. Finally, CCA made individual offers and after several rounds of negotiations, all 193 cases were settled individually for amounts varying from a low of $1,500 to a high of $17,000 for a total of about $600,000.

In my opinion, the settlements were totally inadequate, but necessary. We had exhausted our attempts to get appellate intervention for separate trials and separate trials were necessary to obtain a semblance of justice. Perhaps justice could have ultimately been obtained for a shrinking number of clients in future years after additional trials and appeals, but the prospects were dismal.

When the trial date was vacated pending completion of the settlements, my wife asked me how I felt. My response: “ I feel relieved and depressed. I feel like a pregnant elephant that has just given birth to a mouse.” My last hurrah was a moan.

The only ray of sunshine in this epic eight year battle was the opportunity to work with my daughter, Cheryl, whose contributions were enormous. We also received some satisfaction from the many clients who expressed delight and gratitude with their settlements -- particularly those who are now homeless.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How Justice Was Served

Ken Turek attended TLC in 1998 and has been on the TLC Faculty since 1999.  Earlier this year, TLC alum Howard Kitay asked Ken to help on the case of Dan Bean, a 42-year-old man who was rear-ended at a light. After the collision, Dan was treated intermittently for neck pain for two and a half years, but was then struck again in a more violent rear-end collision. Within a year he underwent a C3-4 neck fusion and recovered very well. The second collision had been earlier settled for $15,000 policy limits and the case was going to trial against the first driver in a couple months. The experts disagreed on what injuries were caused by the crashes but both sides saw no future medicals or loss of earnings. The first driver’s counsel offered $70,000 and never went higher.

Ken began his work by spending time with Dan and his doctors, family and friends in an effort to understand Dan and how the injury affected him. In preparing for trial, fellow TLC Faculty Member Ben Bunn (TLC ’97) helped Ken by conducting a session for Ken to explore his own fears of inadequacy and loss as well as to discover Dan’s story. Ken continued to work with Dan until he was comfortable reversing into him to truly experience Dan’s fears of being less valuable in the workplace, being less able to take care of his aging mother and losing the camaraderie he had through participating in extreme sports with lifelong friends.

Ken also did his medical homework and had Ben critique a first run-through of his opening.

“I was acting like a lawyer, not a person, and didn’t tell the story very well, so we worked on it and it got better,” Ken says.

He and his co-counsel Vickie Ross then spent the four Saturday mornings before trial with focus groups working on discovering the story and running through Voir Dire, Opening and Direct and Cross of Dan.

During trial, Ken showed his “mine” first in Voir Dire on personal injury cases and money, pain and suffering damages and feeling for a driver who makes a mistake. His Opening told a story this time, using scene setting, the present tense and all five senses. Direct of Dan and others took the jury to treatment rooms, sport fields, job sites and to Dan alone at home. Ken’s crosses came in part from the third chair, and in Closing Ken stepped into first person as Dan, the other driver and Dan’s spine.

The jury was out a day after a five-day trial, found liability and awarded Dan $1,271,594 ($126,594 in past medical expenses and $1,145,000 in pain and suffering, of which $850,000 was for future damages). The verdict was greater than Howard’s earlier statutory demand, so with costs and prejudgment interest, the result was over $1.4 million.

Ken says, “This was a pure TLC win.”

Ben summed it up, saying, “Everyone should know Ken immersed himself into Dan Bean’s life in an amazing and powerful way. Using TLC methods requires extreme commitment, dedication and love. Ken was a model for all these things. As a result, Dan grew to trust Ken and Vickie and together they were able to trust this jury. The jury cared about Dan and Ken and wanted to do the right thing. It was really beautiful.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A New Understanding

by Death Penalty Seminar Attendee, Joetta Keene

I don't like war and, therefore, didn’t pay attention to it. 

I went to the Death Penalty Seminar at TLC and I felt as though I experienced war through my eyes and emotions and lost my best friend on the battle field. I cried in ways I did not know I was capable of crying. 

I thought torturing terrorists was stupid, but honestly didn’t pay much attention to it. I went to the Death Penalty Seminar at TLC and experienced what it was like to be water boarded and tortured through other acceptable torturing tactics. It made me feel as though we, as a country, had lost our way. 

But I also found hope in the form of the military lawyers. These folks fight to hold people accountable for what they have done. They are heroes because they are on the front lines fighting to maintain our basic rights to be free. 

I don't like war and found myself disliking the military; however, I found, while at TLC, that my consciousness shifted and I found heroes in those I previously didn't appreciate. 

I came to TLC to try to understand my client in a case that is about to go to trial. I left TLC understanding my country in ways I had chosen to ignore. I left TLC as I have before, with more compassion and hope.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Victory for Justice

Congratulations to TLC Faculty Member and 2002 alumni, Andy Vickery, for a receiving a plaintiff's verdict for his clients in a negligence case against a pharmaceutical company that knew people were dying from an undiagnosed side effect of their medication, but failed to take reasonable steps to help the doctors diagnose and treat it. 

The first victory of hopefully many, they have about 15 other cases against the company in the same court - the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. 

In an excerpt of his Closing Argument, Andy shared great insight into the principle and foundation of a jury's role in this (and every) trial:
"In fact, you know, lawyers -- I've been doing this 40 years, and one of the things you do is you make little seating charts, and you say, well, I want to remember what this person seemed to be interested in. And you all blew it out of the way. You sit wherever you want to. Every time you go back, you come back and about half of you sit in a different place, and that's fine. And you notice what else happens every time you go out and every time come back? We stand. We stand when you go out and we stand when you come back. Even Judge Haddad stands when you go out and when you come back.

"Why? Because we've summoned you to do something, we summoned you from your ordinary lives to do something on behalf of society that is nothing short of heroic. It is a heroic quest for truth and for justice, not just for Delores, but for every other person who takes Humira, for every other doctor who struggles to diagnose a disease. Because we've only seen the tip of the iceberg, folks. Those 16 cases that were reported, it's at least 160 real people; if there were really 36, it is at least 360, and it could be ten times that much.

"We've only seen the tip of the iceberg. And so you're summoned because society -- I mean, this goes back to 1776. This goes back to the Framers. And thank you for the Law Day, your Honor. Thank you. It made me proud to be a lawyer, Francis Scott Key was a lawyer. The Framers said that the guardians of justice, the people that discern the truth, that listen to it all and decide to sort the wheat from the chaff and who forge justice out of a situation, are people just like you, summoned from ordinary life to do that. And then, when your job is done, you're gone. You're not like a politician running for reelection or anything else.  You do the most important civic duty in America and you do it well and then you're gone. And I thank you for it. I thank you for it."

For the complete transcript of Andy's winning Closing Argument, alumni may visit our password protected Alumni Archive page here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Death Penalty Seminar Reflections

By Death Penalty Seminar student Jeremy Bogart on June 7, 2013

Coming to TLC has been an amazing, eye-opening experience. First of all, the ranch is beautiful. The surrounding mountains, trees and fresh mountain air make for a wonderful place to put aside our normal everday lives and focus on our work.

TLC and the methods I have been taught here will undoubtedly make me a better lawyer. I have been practicing for 10 years and tried approximately 40 jury trials before coming here. The methods and techniques demonstrated by the amazing faculty have given me a new perspective on not only how to try my cases, but to tell my clients' stories.

I now possess many new advocacy tools and abilities that I will implement with my clients who face very serious charges.

Getting to work with other lawyers, investigators and mitigation specialists has recharged my batteries and provided a wonderful new community that I can turn to for support.  

I also believe that what is taught here goes beyond the courtroom. These skills will improve my communications, my ability to tell a story, and my interactions with others. I will gladly return in the future to absorb more of the ranch and this philosophy.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The TLC 3-Week experience through my eyes

by TLC Graduate, Kiesha Cannon

I applied to the TLC 3-week course while I was co-counsel with Assistant Public Defender MeLisa McNeil, a graduate of the TLC Death Penalty Seminar. I shared with her how nervous I was about my first murder case, which was court-appointed, and she recommended the TLC program.

When I was accepted into TLC, I was in a place in my life when I truly needed it; I needed a life changing experience. I believe God was speaking to me, letting me know that this was that experience.

Before attending the program, I had no idea what I was getting in to. MeLisa did not tell me anything about the program, besides sharing it was in Wyoming. I had no reservations about attending. I was excited about the possibility of the life changing experience I desired.

Being at TLC was one of the happiest times of my life. There is magic there. If you are open to the possibility, the experience will change you. I was made better there. I loved and was loved. I felt safe.

The most important lesson I learned through my time with TLC was the importance of honesty. Being honest with myself is necessary before I can be honest with anyone else. I learned that everybody is going through the same things in life. While I'm far from perfect, I am willing to do the hard work it takes to be a better human. My experience has helped me try to be more compassionate; I double everybody before I rush to anger or judgment.

After TLC, I feel like I'm seeing everything in life through a fresh set of eyes and life is different... It's better. I'm really grateful to God for that.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An Infusion of Courage

After 35 years practicing law, surprises are infrequent.

Pleasant surprises even less frequent.

My recent attendance at the Closing Argument Regional was a pleasant surprise and one worth summarizing.

I came into the Regional beat up, beat down, sick of life as a trial lawyer and generally ready to skip the whole experience. I was probably honestly just counting down the days till I finally died and went home to be with the Lord. I came in feeling I had let down everyone I knew and loved through bad decisions I could not fix.

The first evening was not my cup of tea. Too much interaction and too much emphasis on basic human interaction. I preferred to sit alone and listen, but that was not possible. The next day, the sessions in the morning, afternoon and evening were still grating on me and making me very uncomfortable. I was not interested in talking about "feelings" I just wanted some stuff to use in my closing arguments and the sessions were just pushing on me emotionally to get myself into the shoes of other people and experience what they were experiencing. It really pissed me off. I had enough trouble with my own problems and was certainly not wanting to share the problems of these strangers I had never met before.

Saturday the sessions began to move me. I found myself in the hall talking to people and was actually beginning to look forward to the next session starting. Suddenly and with no reason, I began to "get it". I began to understand that the heart and the things that matter in life require us to take risks, to be willing to feel pain and sadness, to emote with our entire being not just with our brains. It was like a moment of clarity and awareness. I realized that everyone in my small groups in the Regional was struggling with life just like me. It made me see these strangers as real people with the courage to face their situations and overcome their own obstacles to be better lawyers and to help their clients in ways the brain alone simply cannot help.

What happened for me was a sudden infusion of courage. The courage to try and fail. The courage to allow others to see me try and fail. The courage to get my ass up off the ground where I had been engaged in a self-loathing pity party and to try again, and again, and again without allowing my fears to get in my way. It was empowering and it also gave me a moment to reflect on all the things that I could change in my own attitude and perception of life. It not only gave me courage but it gave me hope. I realized and began to "understand" in some degree of complex awareness that the past is the past, it cannot be changed but by God the future is still unwritten and there are ways to change myself and my attitude that will provide me with a fuller and much more satisfying life.

I left the Regional thinking and contemplating ways to be a better human being, not just a better trail lawyer.


A. Daniel Woska