Houston's worst defense attorney, Ron Mock, has been suspended for nearly three years by the State Bar.
The 58-year-old former bar owner was placed on probation most recently in February 2004 after state officials found that he had accepted $4,600 to handle a woman's sexual harassment claim but had not told her that he had little experience with such cases. The woman's lawsuit was dismissed after Mock failed to respond to a preliminary motion, records show.
Originally, Mock was to have served one month of active suspension in March 2004, followed by 35 months on probation. The State Bar's board of disciplinary appeals ordered the longer suspension starting in December, however, because he violated his probation terms, which included notifying clients and the courts in which he worked about the disciplinary action, state records show.
Mock handled 19 capital murder cases between 1986 and 2001, and 16 of his clients ended up on death row. More than 10 have been executed, records show.
He stopped accepting court-appointed capital murder cases in 2001, after a new state law set stricter requirements for indigent capital defense.
"I was tired of the heat, so I got out of the kitchen," Mock said in an interview last year.
Several death row inmates he represented claimed on appeal that Mock did not represent them adequately.
Most recently, Frances Newton of Harris County said Mock met with her several times but never thoroughly discussed with her the case involving the 1987 murders of her husband and two children.
Anthony Westley got Mock as his attorney. Westley and an acquaintance, John Dale Henry, were charged in the 1984 robbery of a Houston bait-and-tackle shop. One of them fired the .22-caliber bullet that killed the owner. Then they fled, leaving just one witness, a clerk. Henry went on trial first. The evidence in Henry's trial, including the clerk's testimony, suggested Henry was the robber with the .22-caliber pistol, with Westley carrying a different gun. The prosecutor told jurors that all signs pointed to Henry as the victim's killer. But Henry was not sentenced to death.
Five months later, at Westley's trial, a different prosecutor gave the case a new slant, tailoring the presentation of evidence, and eliciting testimony from the clerk in a way that pointed to Westley as the robber who fired the fatal shot. Westley was sentenced to death. "I did the best I could for him," Mock recalled in an interview.
Except he did not take the basic step of attending Henry's trial or reading a transcript for a preview of the state's case against Westley. Had he done so, a judicial report later concluded, he would have been well-equipped to undermine the spin that Westley's prosecutor put on the crime. That was just one of many mistakes Mock made in the case, according to a 100-page report by a court-appointed special master, Houston lawyer Brian Wice. Wice reviewed the case in minute detail as part of Westley's appeal. He wrote that Mock's preparation for Westley trial was so lax, and his performance in court so inept, that "a breakdown of the adversarial process" occurred.