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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Injustice For Willard Bishop Jackson

Life was going well for Willard Jackson in January 1972. The basketball team he coached at Dallas’ Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior High School was undefeated. They’d won the city championship two seasons before and finished second the previous year. There was talk of an opening soon at South Oak Cliff, and he’d been told his name was at the top of the list. The 29-year-old envisioned his future: a few years successfully coaching high school and then he’d take another step to the collegiate level.

If only he hadn’t stopped in for a drink at the Sportspage bar on Inwood Road one Saturday night, that might have been. Instead, as recounted by one of the 40 greatest stories ever published in D Magazine, Jackson was arrested and charged with the rape and robbery of two women in an Oak Lawn apartment weeks earlier. In “A Case of Rape,” Jim Atkinson writes of how our justice system delivered injustice for Jackson — convicting him of a crime he didn’t commit despite what seems to be overwhelming evidence in his favor (including a solid alibi and the confession of the actual perpetrator.) It’s a heartbreaking tale, and Atkinson’s article was a finalist for a National Magazine Award.

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New Reasons to Think Texas Executed an Innocent Man

Yesterday a new nonprofit news organization focused on reporting on the criminal justice system published its first story, and it centers on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, the Corsicana man who was executed for setting fire to his house to kill his three young children in 1991. We’ve discussed the case before, which received long-form treatment several years back from the New Yorker, as well as episodes of Nightline and FrontlineYou’ll also likely remember how Gov. Rick Perry replaced members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission before they could consider new evidence that cast doubt on the science that was used at the time of Willingham’s trial to determine that arson was the cause of the fire.

Well, the news in the Marshall Project piece is that a jailhouse informant, Johnny E. Webb, has recanted his testimony and that there’s evidence — despite what the prosecutor has insisted for 20 years — that a deal was made to lessen the informant’s jail time in exchange for saying that Willingham had confessed to him:

In taped interviews, Webb, who has previously both recanted and affirmed his testimony, gives his first detailed account of how he lied on the witness stand in return for efforts by the former prosecutor, John H. Jackson, to reduce Webb’s prison sentence for robbery and to arrange thousands of dollars in support from a wealthy Corsicana rancher. Newly uncovered letters and court files show that Jackson worked diligently to intercede for Webb after his testimony and to coordinate with the rancher, Charles S. Pearce Jr., to keep the mercurial informer in line.

The Innocence Project filed a grievance against Jackson with the State Bar of Texas, saying that he violated his ethical and constitutional obligations.

Willingham was executed in 2004.

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Spencer Barasch ‘Transitions’ out of Andrews Kurth

Back in May, I wondered how much longer Andrews Kurth could continue to employ Spencer Barash, a lawyer that we had to remove from our Best Lawyers list because of some Allen Stanford-related shenanigans he was involved in (you’ll have to follow some links; it’s complicated). Well, an alert FrontBurnervian points us to a story (paywall) in The American Lawyer that says Barasch is on his way out. Explaining why Barasch’s profile page had vanished from the Andrews Kurth website, a managing partner told the magazine: “Spence Barasch is still a highly valued member of Andrews Kurth. However, he is in the process of transitioning his legal practice. Under those circumstances, we have agreed that it’s best not to continue to publish his website biography during the transition period. The firm continues to fully support Spence in all of his endeavors.”

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The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: A Visit to the Hole

I’m afraid I’m now being kept in the Seagoville federal prison Special Housing Unit, or SHU, known more informally as “segregation” and even more informally as “the hole.” Several of my fellow jail unit inmates and I were brought here in the wake of a June 17 incident that the Department of Justice is billing as a “semi-disturbance” for which we are to be investigated and perhaps punished — though not necessarily in that order. One awaits one’s disciplinary hearing in the hole, and if one if found guilty, one is sentenced to … the hole. More than a week after being confined, I’ve yet to even be charged with an infraction.

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Larry Friedman, the Lawyer With the Most Interesting List of Clients in Dallas

We mentioned the Crosland divorce earlier today. Luke says Mary was having an affair with the couple’s plastic surgeon and claims she secretly sold a $1 million diamond ring to promote a book she wrote with the doc. Usual Dallas stuff. What caught my eye was the name of the wife’s attorney: Larry Friedman. The man has been on our radar since at least 1997. Interesting guy. Even more interesting list of clients. I searched a database of Morning News articles to remind myself whom Friedman has represented recently. This is just going back to 2010. I’m sure I’ve missed some. Imagine all these folks together at Friedman’s holiday party:

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ExxonMobil CEO Sues to Stop Fracking-Related Project Near His House

I’m not sure if this is a full-blown hypocrisy alert, but the Wall Street Journal reported late last week on a lawsuit in which Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, has joined some fellow Denton County homeowners in attempting to block a fracking-related project.

Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation wants to build a 160-foot water tower to supply natural gas drilling sites in the area. Neighboring property owners, including Tillerson, are concerned about the impact on their property values of heavy trucks frequently visiting the tower, creating additional noise and traffic.

The Raw Story cites some of Tillerson’s past critical statements about those who oppose hydraulic fracturing in the drilling process to imply his participation in the suit is a pot-kettle-black situation.

But Tillerson says this is about the devaluing of his property from the presence of the water tower, not fracking itself.

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Leading Off (1/17/13)

Harold Simmons’ Secret Will. The widow of the recently deceased Dallas billionaire/evil genius has asked that all documents related to his probate case be sealed. Presumably this is because his heir is a journeyman minor-league ballplayer who’ll have 30 days to spend $30 million before he can inherit the bulk of the fortune. So everybody plan to vote “None of the Above” in this year’s gubernatorial election.

Judge in Munoz Case Recuses Herself. State district judge Melody Wilkinson didn’t explain why she doesn’t believe she should hear the case of the family who have filed suit against JPS Health Network for the right to take pregnant and brain-dead Marlise Muñoz off life support.

Cupcake ATM Gets an Upgrade. The ability to buy a cupcake 24 hours a day wasn’t, apparently, good enough for the people of Dallas. Sprinkles’ new technology will better meet our insatiable appetites, dispensing up to four cupcakes in a single transaction.

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Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr Elects New CEO, COO

Dallas law firm Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr PC is ringing in the new year with newly elected leaders at the helm. Taking over as CEO is Phil Appenzeller Jr., a member of the firm’s litigation practice group who most recently served as chief operating officer. Moving into the COO spot is E. Lee Morris, a member of the firm’s restructuring, creditors’ rights, and finance practice group.

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Leading Off (9/30/13)

Atlantic Dubs Ted Cruz Leader of a “Third Party:” For some reason, reading about Ted Cruz’s unofficial third party, loosely defined as those members of Congress who would rather see the government shut down (today?) than approve funding for Obamacare, just makes me think of this. Mark Cuban Heads To Court Today for SEC Trial: […]

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Lawsuit Filed to Fight Anti-Abortion Bill

Bradford Pearson reports that a coalition of groups led by Planned Parenthood has filed a suit asking a federal court to block restrictive provisions of House Bill 2, the anti-abortion measures that last June state Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered to block. The law goes into effect Oct. 29. Says Planned Parenthood: “The restrictions in this […]

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