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Novice Attorney Can Represent Capital Murder Defendant: Texas Judge

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on October 02, 2014 12:04 PM

Just over a year after receiving his law license, Texas criminal defense attorney Maverick Ray -- his real name -- is representing a client in a capital murder case. One year out of school, what were you doing? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Ray, a 2012 graduate of South Texas College of Law in Houston, is the lead attorney for Howard Wayne Lewis, who was indicted by a grand jury for the 2013 murder of his infant son.

Can't Someone Else Do It?

District Attorney David Weeks was not pleased, and asked Judge Don Kraemer to have Ray removed as lead attorney.

When Ray was hired for this case six months ago, he had yet to try a criminal case. Weeks was concerned about the ethics issued involved in allowing a novice attorney to represent a capital murder defendant -- but no doubt he was also concerned about an inevitable appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel.

Ray was hired by Lewis' fiancée, who told CNHI News Service that she wanted someone "fresh and not part of the old boy network." The article then proceeds to bury the lede by mentioning, nonchalantly, "She also said at the time she was under the assumption he was qualified to handle a death penalty case" (emphasis added). Whoops?

Nevertheless, Judge Kraemer ruled that Lewis had a Sixth Amendment right to hire a lawyer of his choice.

This Is No Laughing Matter

Ray has his critics within the criminal justice community. Political consultant and former journalist Scott Henson had this to say: "I cannot fathom the hubris required for such an inexperienced attorney to take on DA David Weeks, in Huntsville, in a capital murder case. Mr. Ray is gonna get creamed (as he did at a recent bail reduction hearing), and his client will be lucky if he doesn't wind up with a needle in his arm."

Also troubling is how Ray represents himself. He has his own website, in which he touts his ability to provide representation in many practice areas unrelated to criminal defense, including Longeshoreman Act claims, toxic torts, asbestos, and class actions. You know, the usual.

Also pictured on Ray's website is an unidentified, smiling older gentleman. That gentleman turns out to be fellow Houston attorney Gilbert Villarreal -- and it's no coincidence they're in a photo together. Over at Villarreal's website, Maverick Ray is listed as a member of the Gilbert Villarreal legal team, and notably, both Ray's and Villarreal's firms share the same mailing address. Perhaps one could be forgiven, going to Ray's website, for thinking he's got his own firm. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Or maybe it is? The fact that this is a question means there's a problem.

Thankfully for Lewis, who is facing, you know, the death penalty, Ray told the court that "he would consult the case with his mentor, long-time Houston defense attorney Gilbert [Villarreal]," CNHI News Service reports. Let's hope so.

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