The Great Defenders by pengxiang


                   AN, DOES HE EVER NEED A LAWYER."                 even when the game is over. Today, however, he fre
                   Dick DeGuerin thought this last March as         cusses his legal strategy fbr the defense of the embattle
                   he stared at the image of David Koresh on        tor Hutchison. "If [Travis County district attorney]
                   the television screen: a 33-year-old misfit      Earle is correct in his interpretation of what an oft;
                   holed u in a compound known as Ranch             cannot do," he concludes in a rising voice, "then ev
Apocalypse, surrounde by an army of federal agents. To
DeGuerin, a man comfortable with his reputation as Texas'
                                                                    who holds office is subject to being indicted. How do
                                                                    cide whether speaking at a Republican women's clu
best criminal defense attorney, that first notion led quite         not state business? To try to enforce that kind of
naturally to a second: "He needs me."                               the jury box, as opposed to the ballot box, is just i
  Unbeknownst to DeGuerin, the same thought occurred to             Even though Kay's a very powerful person, she's
another great lawyer thirty years ago, prompted by the misdeeds     abused by those in power in the Travis County DA's
of another Texas misfit. After witnessing Lee Harvey O s d d ' s       DeGuerin smiles. "And that's my forte," he says. "I
murder on television, Percy Foreman announced to the press,         help people who are being beat up on. I remember on
"I go where I'm needed most. And right now, I can't think of        when I was eight and Mike was four and we were
anyone who needs my services more than Jack Ruby."                  Austin and swimming in the West Enfield swimming pooh
  That DeGuerin would echo Foreman was fitting. Foreman
had been his mentor, and since Foreman's death in 1988,
                                                                    there was this big kid who stood on top of the 01 ladder and,
                                                                    wouldn't let Mike get out. I went up to the      Kg     kid. And FI
DeGuerin has made it a habit to ask himself, "What would            held up my fist and I said, 'You leave him alone.' I see some-
Percy do?" whenever a new case crosses his path. DeGuerin           body get picked on, and that gets my juices flowing."
does not doubt for a second that Fore-                                                         Thirty years ago, as a University of
man would have offered his services to                                                       Texas law student, DeGuerin watched
David Koresh-and, for that matter, to                                                      2 Percy Foreman come to the rescue of a
Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has hired                                                        E man the legal system was picking on.
DeGuerin in the face of felony ethics in-                                                    T h e defendant was a thoracic surgeon
dictments. The Hutchison trial stands to                                                     whose wife and two brothers sought to in-
be one of the two most sensational court-                                                    stitutionalize him. Only Foreman stood
room spectacles in Texas this year. Com-                                                     between his client and the m e n d ward.
peting with it for drama and headlines                                                       The young law student could not take his

will be the trial of the Branch Davidian                                                     eyes off the 61-year-old lawyer. Foreman
lieutenants, who happen to be repre-                                                         was in every way a giant: six feet five,
sented by another Foreman prottgt:                                                           close to three hundred pounds, with
Mike DeGeurin, Dick's brother. (As a                                                         hands like catchers' mitts and a head one
college student, Dick DeGuerin changed                                                       Houston lawyer described as "simply
the spelling of his surname to the o r i d                                                   monstrous, the biggest in town." The
French spelling.) Like his older brother,                                                    surgeon's wife had hired two hotshot spe-
Mike DeGeurin is regarded as one of the                                                      cial prosecutors: Les Proctor, the former
state's finest lawyers; like Dick, he habit-                                                 'Travis County district attorney, and
ually invokes the mentor's wisdom. From                                                      Frank Maloney, today a judge on the
 1976 until 1982, the old man and the                                                        Court of Criminal Appeals. Foreman
brothers worked together under the same                                                      made them look like amateurs. Flaunting
roof in downtown-Houston. Inevitably, Forrmanuxlsa &&re&                    a %-likevoice.   a giant horse syringe, the Houstoa
Dick, the rebellious prodgal son, left the                                                   lawyer declared that if the surgeon's wife
demanding father figure in 1982 to seek out his own h e . Just      and brothers had their way, one of the great minds of medical
as inevitably, Mike stayed behind and today still tends to the      science would, in the nuthouse, be reduced to gelatin. The jury
business and the honor of Foreman, DeGeurin, and Nugent.            found in fivor of the surgeon, who left the courthouse with
  Their apprenticeship is long behind them. Yet the state's         Foreman, along with several of Foreman's attractive female ad-
most fimous sibling lawyers, in their distinctly separate ways,     mirers, in a long black Cadillac.
reflect the legacy of Percy Foreman, erhaps the greatest trial      on the steps and watched them
lawyer in Texas history and one o the very best who ever            ra& magazine cover story on
lived. Bv ~racticine
         #  *         " The Law According to Foreman. the
                                             w                      autoera~hed him.  fbr
brothers have maintained a continuum spanning nearly seventy           ~ { t h i t time, Percy Foreman had been defending accused
years of brilliant, often controversial criminal defense work in    criminals for 35 years. Soon he would take on the appeal of
Houston. In the coming months, Dick DeGuerin's represen-            Jack Ruby's case-though he later walked away from it in
tation of Kay Bailey Hutchison and Mike DeGemin's han-              protest of Ruby's meddlesome family. In 1966, in Florida's
dling of the Branch Davidian case will underscore the differ-        Dade County Courthouse, he would successfully defend Can-
ences in their styles and personalities. Yet beneath the strategy    dace Mossler and her nephew Melvin Lane Powers, who were
of each, one can expect to hear the Foreman credo: "You              accused of murdering Mossier's multimillionaire husband.
should never allow the defendant to be tried. Try someone           Through the Mossler case, and his later defense of Martin
else-the husband, the lover, the police or, if the case has so-                                         s
                                                                     Luther King's assassin, J ~ e Earl Ray, Percy Foreman would
cial implications, society generally. But never the defendant."      become a national figure. But the man 22-year-old Dick
                                                                     DeGuerin beheld was already a legend in Texas. Like every
SEATED AT THE CONFERENCE ROOM TABLE IN THE                           other dreamy-eyed law student, DeGuerin had read about Fore
Austin office of Kay Bailey Hutchison's husband, Dick                man's rise from the East Texas obscurity of Bold Springs, a few
DeGuerin talks while eating his lunch, which today consists of       miles down the road &om Livingston. H e knew that since Fore-
Dots candy and coffee. (Tomorrow's lunch will be popcorn             man be an practicing law in 1927, he had defended hundreds of
and coffee.) His well-proportioned frame and youthful face
sueeest an irn~erviousness lone hours and dietarv abuse.
                                                                     accuse mur&rers (more than a thousand b the time of his
                                                                     death) and onlv one of those was executed bv e state.
B in appearance and conversation, the 52-year-old bwyer is             ~oieman an imposing resence, a mAsive figure in natty
engaging but always a little cool and loath to show his hand,                                    B
                                                                     customized attire, his slicke -back hair [CONTINUED ON PAGE 111 1
98   J A N U A R Y   1 9 9 4
                                             going to confess?" As soon as the jury       handled many clients for little or nothing.
I           The Great                        declared the defendant not nuiltv. the
                                             sheriff and the Ranger leapt o ; th; rail-
                                                                                          (He also enjoyed referring plum cases to
                                                                                          attorneys he liked and wacko cases to
i           Defenders                        ing and proceeded to maul Foreman,
                                             who was already using a crutch because
                                                                                          those he despised.) His pride in his mur-
                                                                                          der-case record was matched by his fer-
                                             of a s~rained knee. U ~ o his release
                                                           left               n           vent moral opposition to capital punish-
    [CONTINUED FROM PAGE 9s 1 spilling down  from ihk hospital, the briised and hob-      ment-which, he once caustically re-
 into his fist of a fice, his Zeus-like voice
 clapping off the courtroom walls. "The
                                             bled lawver "                      .
                                                      , grinned and said to the Dress.
                                             "I harbor no malice toward these poor,
                                                                                          marked, "should not only be on tele-
                                                                                          vision but be sponsored by the Texas
 first time I saw him," recalls Houston at-  miswided minions of the law. "
                                                 "                                        Power and Light Company, which sup-
 torney Joe Jamail, "I thought, 'My God,       It was always a temptation to reduce       plies the juice." And for all the millions
 that's what a lawyer's supposed to look     the big man to a single comic-book di-       he made in divorce cases, he forfeited
like.' " N o one knew more about how to      mension, but there was much more to          millions more by turning such clients
 select a jury; former associate John Cut-   Foreman than met the eye. True, he           away. "In many cases," says his former
ler says, "I used to h r e a court reporter  charged high fees, but never as enor-        associate Lewis Dickson, "he set out af-
 to take down his voir dire questions to     mous as reported: I t was a tactic to        ter the husband with such an insulting
prospective jurors just so I could study     screen oui Ilt:nuisance cases, and he        fervor that he accomplished his ultimate
 the transcript later and see how Percy I
 did it." (In addition to his instincts, Fore.
 man relied on a few rules of thumb ir
jury selection: Blacks, Jews, and other
 groups who had faced oppression were
 often svm~athetic:Germans and Scandi.
 naviani "Lave ~ittlk  understanding of mis
 takes"; and exacting professionals like ac.
 countants and engineers were similarlj
 unforgiving.) Foreman, according to :
 former colleague, "was one of the f e ~
 defense lawvers to realize that the D     A
 was the enemy." N o one bullied him; or
 the contrarv. some assistant DAs dic
 anything to &oid being him in the court.
 room, while the more ambitious one5
 happily got trounced just for the learning
 experience. During one trial, when ;
 prosecutor became overly emphatic
 about the location of a gunshot wound tc
 the head, Foreman stood up and, with :
 red Magic Marker, drew a large circle ir
 the prosecutor's white hair, where it r e
 mained for the duration of the day.
    In front of jurors, Foreman would sob
 scream, or do whatever else it took tc
 sway them. Above all, however, he pre
 pared, briefing each criminal case as if F
 were an intricate civil ~roceedinn.H       c
  knew the law, and he Ad the inv&tiga9
  tions himself. Sometimes a case reauirec
  more courage than anything else, anc
  Foreman had that as well. In the 1952
  trial of an alleged gangland murderer
  Foreman argued that the defendant':
  confession h a been beaten out of him bj
  Harris County sheriff Buster Kern anc
  Texas Ranger Johnny Klevenhagen, anc
  was witnessed by a deputy named Kain
  In his closing argument, Foremar
  brazenly pointed to Kern and Kleven,
  hagen, who sat in the front row of tht
  courtroom, and shouted, "Kern, Kleven
  hagen, and Kain! KKK! They ku-kluxec
!this defendant! They tortured him tc
,make him confess! Who among you car
               ,would not have col3essed tc
              -innocent though you be-i
                packing, blackjack-wearing
                 rying, booted and spurrec
      cers of the so-called law had predeter
       ed you guilty and decided you wen
     purpose, which was to get them back to- even in defeat.
     gether. H e saved a lot of marriages." In      In 1968 Dick DeGuerin took a shot at
     one such case, a wealthy River Oaks big-bucks lawyering and hired on with
     woman answered Foreman's question Butler and Binion's trial division.
     "Why are you seeking a divorce?" with DeGuerin enjoyed some of the general
     the answer "I'm just not happy." Fore- litigation cases, especially "one case
     man roared, "You don't need a lawyer! where a lawyer was claiming that drink-
     You need a pharmacist! You'll never ing a bottle of wine bought at a grocery
     find someone who treats you as well as store insured by us had given him hemor-
     this man does! N o w g e t o u t o f my rhoids," he says. "I had his doctor draw
     office!" The woman remains married to the man's hemorrhoid on a chalkboard."
     this day.                                    H e also benefitted from the tutelage of
        T h a t first sight o f Foreman in the senior partner Frank Knapp, the head of
     courthouse dizzied Dick DeGuerin, but the firm's trial division. But the 27-year-
     it did not change him overnight. H e was old attorney had cultivated a rebel streak
     a bright but easily bored young man, the that chafed against the tweedy grain of
     kind of student who vexed teachers be- Butler and Binion. DeGuerin sometimes

II   cause he would not apply himself. His rode a motorcyle to work and could be
     father. Elias McDowell DeGeurin. was seen walking down the hallway in his
     an oil 'and gas lawyer and confidante        Penney's work shirt, briefcase in one
     who urged his son to pursue a career in hand, helmet in the other. H e hated the
     politics, but all that glad-handing looked insurance adjusters. In 1971, as a diver-
     to be a bit much. Mainly he enjoyed sion from his regular work, DeGuerin
     reading Shakespeare, drinking beer, and offered to represent an attorney friend,
     visiting the Chicken Ranch whorehouse Bob Tarrant, who had been arrested on
     in La Grange. Upon graduating from weapons charges. Also volunteering to
     the University of Texas, DeGuerin ap- help was Percy Foreman. DeGuerin
     plied for a job at the FBI, which turned worked long hours on his friend's behalf.
     him down on the grounds that he had T h e old man was impressed. Halfway
     once been arrested for trying to climb during the trial, Foreman leaned over
     a parade float that carried Governor and whispered into the younger man's
     Price Daniel. S o he entered UT Law ear, "Do you enjoy working for insur-

I    School, imagining himself as an inter- ance companies?"
     national lawyer, chasing French girls and
        In 1965 DeGuerin got his law degree.
                                                     "No," DeGuerin assured him. "I en-
                                                  joy doing this."
                                                     "Would you rather represent people
     H e followed his law school buddies to than insurance companies?" Foreman
     Houston, where the action was, where persisted.
     Percy Foreman was. H e sought employ-           "I sure would."
     ment from each of the big firms, who            "Well, then," said Foreman, "come see
     wanted experienced trial lawyers or top- me."
     of-the-class graduates. DeGuerin was            Later, DeGuerin showed up at Fore-
     neither. A &mily connection got him an man's shabby two-room office in the
     interview with Harris County district at- First National Life Building, now known
     torney Frank Briscoe. The meeting went as 806 Main. There the legendary Percy
     well, and DeGuerin was handed a formal Foreman offered him a job. DeGuerin
     application to fill out. T h e back page, was shocked and told Foreman he would
     which questioned the applicant's criminal have to think it over, which seemed to
     record. had for some reason not reDro- throw the old man a bit. DeGuerin had

II                              n
     d u c e d . ' ~ e ~ u e r igot the job.      just turned thirty. H e talked to his boss,
         For three vears DeGuerin honed his Jack Binion. Binion didn't mince words.

II   chops prosecuting Harris County crimi- "If you don't go with Percy," he said,
     nals. As an assistant DA he was not a "then you're a damn fool."
     standout, except by virtue of his youthful      DeGuerin accepted Foreman's offer
     appearance. "He was so pretty, with Ivy but told him, "What I'd like is for the
     League clothes and a cute little ol' butt," firm to be known as Foreman and
     snickers Erwin Ernst, the veteran first as- DeGuerin." Foreman agreed without
     sistant D A during DeGuerin's brief hesitation.
     tenure. "We all played like we were lust-       The old man was a workhorse who en-
     ing after little Dickie till he'd turn red joyed nothing like he enjoyed his prac-
     in the face." Still, DeGuerin worked tice. H e loathed physical activity of any
     hard, particularly so on a narcotics case kind and saw socializing as a waste of
      that pitted him against Percy Foreman, time. DeGuerin found this out just after
     The cocky young prosecutor strode into starting work, when Bob Tarrant invited
      the courthouse that day, certain of vic- him to Baja California for a four-day bac-
      torv. until his star witness., a ~ o l i c e chanal. Foreman was not amused and
         $   2                          L

      officer, was cross-examined by Foreman. told DeGuerin he would rather the
     Bv the time Foreman sDat the officer young attorney didn't go. DeGuerin
      back out, DeGuerin was mesmerized, went anyway. When he returned, there
was a long letter sitting o n his desk.        portant skill when you're explaining
"When you impressed me during the              something to a jury." H e learned that the
Bob Tarrant case," it read, "I mistook         business of trial law was trying cases, not
your efforts for a love of the law. Now I      pleading them, and that this often meant
think it was all because you were a good       playing hardball with his old pals over at
friend of Bob Tarrant's. . . . For me.         the DA's office. H e learned how to use
practicing law is the be-all and end-all.      the press to force answers out of the po-
I don't practice law to take vacations         lice, and how to salvage a little goodwill
and play golf." T h e letter concluded by      with the police by giving them occasional
informing DeGuerin that his pay would          pro bono legal assistance. Above all, he
be docked for t h e two days o f work          learned the value o f reading people:
he missed.                                     knowing when a juror remains unper-
   DeGuerin knew a challenge when he           suaded, when a witness is ready to crater,
saw one. "I poured myself into the next        when a prosecutor is bluffing, when a
case, days and nights and weekends," he        client is lying.
says. After DeGuerin won, he was sum-             I n 1972 one of the biggest Houston
moned to the old man's office. Foreman         cases in vears came into the office: the
looked up at him with a satisfied smile.       case of Lilla Paulus, accused of conspir-
T h e n he leaned to one side. reached         ing to murder Dr. John Hill following
deep into his front pockets-which were         the bizarre death of his wife, Joan Robin-
custom-designed to be knee length, since       son Hill. Foreman told his young associ-
Foreman distrusted banks and carried his       ate, "It's yours." T h e trial, immortalized
cash on his person-and pulled out a wad        by Thomas Thompson's book Blood and
of dollar bills. DeGuerin counted the          Money, was DeGuerin's first case under
money he was handed. I t was his two           the full unsparing glare o f the media
days' worth of docked pay.                     spotlight. Despite an at-times-dazzling
   Foreman a n d D e G u e r i n was D i c k   performance, DeGuerin lost. By asking
DeGuerin's firm in name onlv. T h e old        for a continuance, he gave the prosecu-
man called all the shots. H; expected          tors a chance to work a deal with Paulus'
everyone to be at work at eight-thirty on      co-cons~irator.Marcia McKittrick. and
weekday mornings, ten on Saturdays. H e        her testimony proved to be damaging.
selected and assigned all the cases. H e       Foreman had advised DeGuerin aeainst  "
set and collected all the fees, from which     the continuance; but he had also insisted
DeGuerin was paid a salary. T h e houses,      that DeGuerin put Paulus on the stand,
cars, jewels, ranches, weapons, silk um-       and against DeGuerin's better judgment,
brellas, and elephants that came to the        he did so. That proved to be the htal er-
firm in collateralized fees went to Percy      ror, since the prosecutors destroyed
Foreman, who warehoused the goods and          Paulus with evidence they had gotten
kept the accounting of them strictly to        from McKittrick.
himself. A t one time, Foreman owned                "Well, you did your best," Foreman
more than fortv automobiles. none of           told his deiected associate. "and now
them purchased by him. At anoher time,         we've got to see about a reversal." After
he was said to be the largest private          a five-year appellate period, DeGuerin
landowner in Harris County.                    won a reversal of Paulus' 35-year prison
   Foreman was not an easy man to work         sentence. H e never discussed Fore-
for. A former associate from the fifties,      man's poor judgment o n the case; he
George Greene, Jr., remembers that in           simply took notice of the fact that even
 1954, "Percy went through thirteen sec-       the old man was fallible. I n 1974 Fore-
 retaries in a single year. H e was under      man himself stood trial on a charge of
 so much pressure, because he was seeing       driving while intoxicated. Every high-
 maybe fifty clients and trying five or six    profile lawyer in the nation offered his
 cases everv dav. that he had absolutelv
            , ,,                               Dro bono services. Foreman selected Dick
 no patience for people who were slow           DeGuerin. I t was as high an honor as
or error-~rone. e e x ~ e c t e d
                   H             vou to an-     Percv Foreman could ~ o s s i b l vbestow.
 ticipate 'his every nee'd." B; the time       ~od&     DeGuerin discus'ses the'case with
 DeGuerin joined the business, Foreman,         fresh zeal. "We had this great defense,"
 nearly seventy, was not as brisk, but he       he enthuses. "See, Percy had been dia-
was still, as his friend Joe Jamail puts it,    betic since 1954. H e was probably as
 "a piece of shit to work for." I t was a       drunk as he could be, but the fact is,
 common occurrence for him to fire his          when you're having a diabetic attack,
 longtime secretary, Martha Allen, who          you act drunk-even to the extent of giv-
 would simply tune Foreman out and con-         ing off an odor that's just like alcohol.
 tinue her chores.                              S o it was a five-day trial. I built it up
    DeGuerin was not born with a sturdy         this way: First I brought on the police
 work ethic. but under Percv Foreman he         officer and the kids who were evewit-
 developed'one. H e learneh, during his         nesses, and I got them all to admit that
 short briefings with the impatient lawyer,     thev'd never seen a diabetic attack and
 "how t o boil something down t o its           thekefore wouldn't be able to tell it from
 essence, which of course is a really im-       drunkenness. T h e n I bring up Percy's
doctor, who testifies that Percy's dia-       about it," grunted the old man, and they have it, but no cameras, please. As in
betic. And then I bring. UD the Harris
                        7   I
                                              drove back to the office together and did the old days, clients sit for hours in the
County medical examiner, Dr. Jachim-          not discuss the case again.               waiting room, attended to by Martha
czvk. And he testified that not onlv did                                                Allen, Foreman's longtime secretary.
hL know Percy personally and kn& he                  IBLING RIVALRY IS ONE OF THE Mike DeGeurin never charges an initial
had diabetes. but that several times in
the past, dust on police officers had
                                              "S     most recognized normal negative consultation fee, and he always makes a
                                              traits in our society," says 49-year-old point of "leaving people who come into
mistaken diabetic attacks for being alco-     Michael DeGeurin as he sits in the chair our office better off than when they
hol-related and threw them in jail, where     that was once the property of his mentor. came in, whether we represent them or
they died! Pdect testimony!                   "Dick and I are unusual siblings in not," he says. That's the way Percy
   "And that's the setting fbr when Percy     that we're each other's best friends. So Foreman did things.
took the stand."                              in thinking about whether or not to         O n the wall of the waiting room,
   The legendary lawyer was everything        work in my brother's practice, I was only the sign used to read "Foreman &
he had always instructed his clients not to   apprehensive in this sense: 'Will I mea- DeGuerin." Now it says "Foreman,
be. H e sat on the witness stand, his arms    sure up?' "                               DeGeurin & Nugent" (Paul Nugent
folded tightly against his massive chest,       The physical similarities between the joined the firm in 1985), and below the
glowering. To the prosecutor, a nice fel-     brothers are just enough to accent the words hangs a fiamed black and white oil
low named Mike Maguire, Foreman               differences. "Mike isn't as precious as painting of the old man seated atop a
snarled, "I hear they call you Young Cas-     Dickie," says Erwin Ernst, by way of desk, and behind him a quiet and respect-
sius." H e volunteered that he was not        understatement: The younger brother ful presence, Mike DeGeurin. The My
onlv not drunk that articular dav. but in     is short, he is gravelly voiced from his name on the firm logo is now spelled
kc;, "I've never beA drunk a d& in my         cigarette habit, and he wears suits that Mike's way. It is he who stayed behind.
life." H e was a studv in arrogance. The      are wrinkled and somewhat ill-fitting.      "Mike is more of a diplomat than I
jury found him         and thpjudge sen-
tenced him to probation.
   DeGuerin and Foreman walked back
                                              His office has the orderly ap earanre am," says Dick DeGuerin. "He'd rather
                                              of a broom closet. Accordion es dom- get people to agree." It is Mike, the con-
                                              inate the floor and yellow Post-it notes ciliating little brother, who is best loved
to the car in silence. The young lawyer       cover the edges of his desk, which is among the state's judges, while it is Dick
knew the old man had dug his own grave,       heaped with pleadings and notepads. who has the reputation of a man who
but DeGuerin had developed his own            Where Dick DeGuerin has taken the doesn't care who he offends. It is the
perfectionist streak under Foreman's          Percy Foreman style and added a few difficult older brother who felt compelled
tutelage and now tormented himself            coats of gloss, Mike DeGeurin has to change the spelling of his surname. It
thinking of ways he could have salvaged a     stripped the style down to its most is Mike who was praised by their fither
victory. "Look, I'm sorry," he began, but     primitive hide. Here at Foreman's firm, for his quiet loyalty: "I know of no one
Foreman cut him off. "Don't worry             the work gets done just as Percy would who can keep a secret better than you,"
he told him. Houston attorney                    Dickson's sheepish hce.
IBerg calls Mike DeGeurin "the Aost un-             For years, Dick DeGuerin had stewed
t derrated lawyer in Harris County7'-a tag       quietly while his peers, less talented than
I      could not possibly apply to the older     he, were raking in the dough. Foreman
Ibrother, for all his deft manipulation of       always paid him well, but not nearly as
1the news media. When Dick represented
  Mike in a landmark withholding-of-privi-
                                                 well as DeGuerin's talents were Daddine
                                                 the pockets of the old man. " ~ d e s yous
Ileged-information case in 1990, the older       make me ten times what I Dav vou."
                                                                                A    , ,    *
 Ibrother insisted that they ram the case        DeGuerin was told, "you're not worth it
tdown the U.S. attorneys' throats. Mike          to me." DeGuerin was well aware that
I reluctantly agreed, but he was adamant         the big firms were content with profit
1that his name be kept out of the plead-         margins of around 20 percent. "I never
  ings and was more than happy to leave          knew what the bottom line was-Percy
  most of the interviews to Dick.                kept that to himself," he says today. "But
    All the same, Mike DeGeurin pos-             I know that I made Percy millions and
  sesses the little brother's determination.     millions of dollars. "
  After finishing law school-far surpassing         T h e stylistic differences between them
  Dick in his grades-he clerked for a state      bespoke their separate generations. Fore-
  iudge and then a federal judge, then went      man did his afternoon work at the Old
  searching for work in Houston. Dick of-        Capitol Club, where the waiters brought
  fered to get him a job at the DA's office;     him a ~ r i v a t e hone and a succession of
  with his connections, it would be a cinch.     scotch'and soAas. DeGuerin didn't care
  Mike DeGeurin refused. "I can take the         much for the ioint: I t was filled with
  most awhl person and after thirty min-         geezers who brigged about how they had
  utes with him, come up with more good          never lost a case. DeGuerin spent his
  in him than there is bad," he says. "I just    early mornings jogging, which Foreman
  couldn't see myself pointing my finger at      found unfithornable. Worse, the jogging
  that person in trial and telling the jury to   routine often caused DeGuerin to be late
  send that person away. T h e idea of devel-    to the 8:30 meeting, an outrageous flout-
  oping my skills and getting practice by        ing of office procedure Dick DeGuerin
  prosecuting some poor soul didn't appeal       committed repeatedly, as if hell-bent on
  to me."                                        getting the old man's goat. T h e n there
    DeGeurin hired on at the public de-          were the first-class airplane tickets and
  fender's office, where his performance         hotel suites DeGuerin charged to the

  was closely monitored by Foreman. I n          firm. I t was the young attorney's way of
  1976 the old man said he wanted to hire        asserting his right to the high life. But
  Mike, starting next week. "I can't do it,"     Foreman, who fought his way out of the
  DeGeurin told him. "I've got five or six       Depression, was apoplectic over this
  cases scheduled for trial. These people        abuse of office funds. H e promptly cir-
  are counting on me." Foreman grum-             culated a memo banning all luxury pur-
  bled, "Son, you're building a hell of a        chases and forced each attorney to ini-
  foundation as a lawyer. But someday you        tial it.
  need to get off the first floor." Still, he       But it wasn't just the kid's tardiness
  appreciated the young man's priorities.        and fiscal irresponsibility that rankled
  A few months later, the old man offer-         the old man. T h e fact was that Dick
  ed the job again and Mike DeGeurin             DeGuerin had now made a name for
  snatched it up.                                himself. A t first Foreman encouraged    "
    By 1982 Foreman and DeGuerin did             this, though with a certain ambivalence.
  more criminal law business than any            As earlv as 1973 he had hired another
  firm in the state. I n addition to Mike        associate, DeGuerin says, "just to put
  DeGeurin, the firm had added Charles           me in my place after I'd had a long string
  Szekely and Lewis Dickson. Foreman             of successes and he was worried I might
  was now eighty and seldom made appear-         leave." Instead it was the new fellow who
  ances in court. "He quit trying cases,"        left. But by 1980 clients were coming di-
  recalls Ernst, "and let the boys try 'em."      rectly to Foreman's younger associate;
  Rumors drifted through the courthouse          now reporters were asking to speak to
  that the old man had lost it.-The boys          Dick DeGuerin. Foreman began to make
  knew better. When Foreman told Dick-            snide comments whenever he overheard
  son to get a bid from A B C Bonding             DeGuerin returning a reporter's call. It
  Company, Dickson thought, "Well, bless         was a little hypocritical of him, consider-
  his heart, his memory's failing. We al-         ing that Foreman often said, "Hell, I
  ways do business with A B D Bonding."           know the press made me." But he was
  Dickson took it upon himself to call            still Percy Foreman. N o b o d y rubbed
  ABD. When Foreman got wind of this,             anything in his hce.
  he charged into the young attorney's               Dick DeGuerin's apprenticeship made
  office and hollered through clenched            a great lawyer out of a good one. Now
  teeth, "I told you ABC, not ABD! A-B-           it was time to move on. H e discussed
  C-D-E-F-G . . ." H e proceeded to re-           the decision to leave with his brother,
  cite, at top volume, the entire alphabet in     Szekely, and Dickson. T h e latter two
I   said they wouId jump ship with De-            His fame culminated in 1986 with the          can trust and who will hand you distilled
    Guerin. In June 1982, DeGuerin walked         successful defense of Hurlev Fontenot.        knowledge so that you don't have .to go
    into Foreman's office. "I've enjoyed          an East Texas principal accused of mur-       through what they did-well, then I will
    every minute of this, but I need to make      dering a football coach; the acquittal of     be that person fbr you."
    a name fbr myself," he told the old man.      three New York Mets baseball                    Overwhelmed, Mike DeGeurin said
    "I don't want to be one of those kinds of     after a barroom brawl with a few Hous-        yes. "And fiom then on until his death,"
    lawyers who tries to take over the older      ton police officers; and the reIease of im-   he says, "every day he would hit me with
    lawyer's business. So I need to start my      migration lawyer Edward GilIett, who          at least one new piece of distilled knowl-
    own deal."                                    was found not guilty on more than elghty      edge. Yes. What we had was special."
      Foreman took it well, though his eyes       counts of immigration fraud.                    In 1987 Mike DeGeurin won a rehear-
    were teary. They shook hands and                Meanwhile, Mike DeGeurin tended to          ing fbs Clarence Brandley, a Conroe jani-
    agreed that DeGuerin would stick with         Percy Foreman's business. It was just the     tor who spent seven years on death row
    the firm through September, when all of       two of them now, and the heavy workload       for the murder of a high school cheer-
    the cases he handled would be cleared.        required Foreman to return to the court-      leader. DeGeurin's dedication to the case
    What they fiiled to discuss was what to       room. It was obvious the old man lacked       and his interrogation of the law e&rce-
    do with the new cases that would come         the fbrtitude of his earlier days. He spent   ment officials who had collared Brandley
    DeGuerin's way in the meantime. On the        much of the day napping on his couch or       were breathtaking; ultimately, Brandliy
    morning of Friday, July 2, Foreman            issuing blistering memos to the fire mar-     was freed. Now Mike, like his brother,
    poked his head into DeGuerin's office.        shal and charitv solicitors. It was never     was ascending. T h a t same year, Percy
    "These new cases that have been coming        necessary to vent his ire on the younger      Foreman received an award for World's
    into the office that you're taking," he       brother. As Lewis Dickson savs. "He           Best Lawyer. As he stood onstage, eyeing
    said. "Do you intend to keep the fees?"       yelled at Dick knowing he wouid 'be ig-       the gigantic plaque he held with both
      "Yes, I do," said DeGuerin.                 nored and yelled at me knowing he would       hands, Foreman seemed not to know
      Foreman exploded. "By God, as long          be heeded. Mike he simply shamed into         where he was. A sick murmur arose from
    as you are working in my office, the          fbllowing his will."                          the young lawyers in attendance. The old
    money that comes in here is mine!" he           The two had become extremely dose,          man had clocked out.
    roared. "I want you to turn over the          even more so after DeGeurin's father            At last, Percy Foreman said slowly,
    money that they're going to pay you, or I     died in 1982.-One day the old man said        "You know, I feel like the cowboy on the
    want you out of here!"                        to the younger brother, "There's a rea-       corner with a saddle in his hands. I can't
      DeGuerin, stubborn to the end, said,        son people say life begins at forty. It       remember whether I lost my horse or
    "Then 1'11 leave. "                           takes forty years of life experiences to      fbund a saddle."
      By the lunch hour, Percy Foreman had        know who you are, what your purpose is,         In the summer of 1988, at the age of
    locked Dick DeGuerin out of the build-        how you fit in. But if you can find some-     86, the great man's heart &led. H e was
    ing. Later, Charles Szekely informed          one who's much older than you who you         rushed into intensive-care and was Fhere
    Foreman that he was leaving as well.
    When it came Dickson's turn, the old
    man was despondent. "Why not stay
    here with me and see how Dick does?"
    he asked and offered to quadruple Dick-
    son's salary. Dickson looked his idol in
    the fice and turned him down.
      "I'm sure it was devastating to him,"
    Dick DeGuerin says today in that even,
    mentholated voice of his that betrays
    scarcely a drop of whatever emotions cir-
    culate within. It is the belief of Mike
    DeGeurin, the mediator, that Percy
    Foreman staged the whole disagreement
    himself purely as a means of kicking
    Dick DeGuerin out of the nest. But that
    scenario does not square with the behav-
    ior of Foreman, who refused to speak to
    DeGuerin fbr a long time thereafter.

    Dlawyer without an PRODIGALfriend
        ICK DEGUERIN,                SON,
                         office, showed up
    at the building occupied by his
    David Berg. Berg let DeGuerin encamp
    in his conference room. "I stayed there
    fbr two months," he says, "and in David
    Berg's conference room I made more
    money than I had made in the past three
    years with Percy, Literally."
      T h e rise of DeGuerin surprised no
    one. H e was slick and camera-ready but
    also a tenacious streetfighter. In the 1983
    book The Best Layyers in America, he was
    named by his colleagues as one of the na-
    tion's best criminal defense attorneys.
fbr several days. Mike DeGeurin showed          The Harris County Courthouse closed man at times went overboard with the
up at Methodist Hospital with news he         down that morning. It was what you did number of clients he took on. "I don't,
hoped would cheer up the old man.             when a giant said good-bye.                want a law kctory here," he says. As it2
"Percy, I've got a gifi for you," he said.                                               is, DeGuerin has pushed aside all other
"I've got a client in Cincinnati who's
charged with murder, and he says that
he'll give me his ranch in California if I
                                              T   HE COURTHOUSE IS NOW FILLED cases while concentrating on Kay Baileyt
                                                  with a new generation of lawyers, Hutchison's defense. "We could use an-;
                                              and the idle conversation among them other hand around here," he concedes,
represent him. So there's another ranch       suggests a certain revisionism. Percy "but it would have to be someone I can
fbr you."                                     Foreman, to hear some of them tell it, trust. Actually, I've always had a dream
  At that moment a doctor poked his           was nothing: but a "
                                                          "          grandstander and a that Mike and I would get back together
head in the door. Through the tubes and       drunk, perhaps even a crooked lawyer someday. He and I have implicit trust in
the machines, Foreman managed to bel-         who rigged juries. As to the latter each other, and Paul Nugent's a h e at-
low, "Get out of here, goddammit! We          charge, there is only hearsay. But wiser torney. But you know Mike. He's the lit-
are consulting!"                              souls in the courthouse acknowledge the tle brother. H e doesn't want to be under
  The doctor fled, and Percy Foreman          pervasiveness of Foreman's influence. "I his big brother's wing."
summoned his last bit of legal advice:        think Houston has the best criminal at-       Mike DeGeurin smiles warily at the
"You'd better get photographs of the          torneys in the nation, on both sides," topic. "I enjoy making decisions with-
ranch. What they call a ranch in Califor-     says 228th state district judge Ted Poe. out having to argue with my brother
nia is not what we call a ranch in Texas."    "And I think Percv Foreman is one of about it," he says. And there are other
  The property, as it turned out, was a       the chief reasons fb; that. He raised the things at stake. When Percy Foreman
mere three acres with a trailer. Had it       standard not only for defense attorneys died, he willed Mike his business-
been a thousand, the old man would not        but for DAs, who knew they'd have to and he willed him his name. The actual
have been around to enjoy it. H e died        get good if they had any hope of beat- name, "Percy Foreman." How could
soon thereafter. At the funeral on Au-        ing Percy."                                Mike DeGeurin desert all that? This
gust 29, both brothers gave speeches.           Erwin Ernst agrees but sees where was his firm now, though always the
Dick spoke in his clear, dispassionate        most of the Foreman legacy is concen- old man's. Percy would have had some-
voice. "Finally I can tell you how I feel,"   trated. "He taught those two boys all of thing to say on the subject, something
he said, daring to address his wrathful       their pizzazz, and today you hear them about spiritual destiny. Then again, the
Lather directly, "without fear of interrup-   use a Percy quote fbr every situation," he two of them never got a chance to talk
tion." Mike gave his speech in tears,         says. "Hell, he's still guiding them."     about religion.
sobbing all the way through it, but any-        Of course, Dick DeGuerin runs his           The younger brother looks up from his
one who knew the younger DeGeurin             business his wav. Lewis Dickson is a Dart- mood and peers out the doorway. "Mary,"
knew that he would finish the speech,         ner and draws 'a share of the busine'ss as he calls out to a secretary. "Mary, there's
anrl h e rl;A                                 well                           hol;mrec Fnre-
                                                     ac a calamr n e ~ l e i n                a   rl;ont   nrlt   thoro in tho   v.m;n'nrr   r-m   "C

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