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Tales From the Big House by Mark Anthony Given


One of the many lessons that one learns in prison is, that things are
what they are and will be what they will be.— Oscar Wilde

           I HAD A GUY come see me about a very unusual problem.  Actually, it happened more than once:  They had cooperated with the government in the prosecution of others and now wanted to compel the government to reduce their sentence, as promised.... I can't tell you the number of times I been approached on how to do that.   This guy, however, was the star witness in an active prosecution in the next state over involving thirty people, many were his family members.  He showed me newspaper clippings about it.  He wanted me to contact another prisoner in a maximum security prison using my Institution Mail Department Head or "Inner Office," to the Law Library there..... he offered me an arm and a leg and I refused. 
          This is in Texas right?  One day a young Mexican American came to me and told me that a very important man both in Mexico and in America wanted to meet me, that he didn't speak good or any English, that he will be the interpreter and that he wants my legal assistance.  He's filthy rich, he will pay anything you ask for, but you have to be honest with him.  This ain't the guy to be messing with.  Can I bring him to you?
           DUDE HAD AN ENTOURAGE.  He showed up a few days later on the one o'clock movement with the interpreter and two henchmen and a lookout.  I didn't have that many seats and nobody had the nerve to sit in Terry's chair so they waited in the public area, the interpreter stood and the barrel chested Poncho Via mustache with deep set dark eyes I got a cold chill looking into them.  Anyway, the kiss ass interpreter proceeded to explain that this individual was a locally famous south Texas Sheriff of some county or another and was arrested in a federal sting operation protecting drug shipments in his jurisdiction.  I think he was doing fifteen or twenty years.  The first thing he wants?  He wants me to sign a Confidentiality Agreement attesting that I will not discuss his case with anyone, period.  Then he wants me to assist him in compelling the government to reduce his sentence for rolling on everybody he could.  He was terrified that the fact that he cooperated with the government would be known on the compound....
           HE TOLD ME the only reason he came to me was that I had a great reputation, that I had sent several people to the house with my motions and that he would pay five, ten, fifteen thousand dollars right now sent anywhere you want.  But this is the rub:  If I pay you fifteen fucking thousand dollars and I'm still sitting here a year and a half from now, your little half-assed legal career here will be short lived.  Whatever we file, has to work... Can you help me or not?
           TERRY WOULDN'T BE back until the next movement and I had an active roster of twelve cases I was either responsible for or consulted on.  Which means I would read other's motions and make minor changes or suggestions.  Lots of guys that's all they needed; just a shove in the right direction and they'd take it from there.  I met guys in there who were brilliant on say, search and seizure or prison rights, but they were all one-trick ponies and had no formal training and everything they did looked like Jailhouse bullshit.  Never mind I had formal training, by the time I was twenty-five volumes in reading one-hundred twenty five volumes in fourteen months I was there, into the early 1960's, the heyday of criminal rights and procedure, people were taking notes whenever I talked to them.  

           You can't trick an honest man.-W.C. Fields 
           That maxim was my mantra in business.  As long as I am above board in everything I do, I can't get jammed up.  Besides, I had a back door.  He still had an appeal of something and told him I only did post conviction and the conviction wasn't final until after the appeal process.  In other words, come see me later, much later... There's few guarantees in Law...
           THE JAILHOUSE LAWYERS Hall of Fame sits it's founding father who was a two-bit career criminal who could not spell the word "Jurisprudence," (the science of law), who hand wrote on the back of prison commissary slips a pro-se motion (without counsel), that made its way to the United States Supreme Court and resulted in the immediate release of thousands of prisoners nationwide, forever changing the legal landscape in America and around the world and law school admissions everywhere exploded. 
To be continued....12:45 PM 5/20/2015



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