After losing his congressional seat from Texas, Craig Washington hunkered down Bastrop, Tx., and quietly resumed his work as a lawyer. Eleven years later, he is poised to return to the glare of the public spotlight, says the Houston Chronicle. His defense of Tyrone Williams, the Jamaican truck driver charged with a capital crime in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants in a 2003 human-smuggling operation, begins tomorrowy. At least 75 people were crammed into a hot, suffocating trailer when it was abandoned. The high-profile Houston trial is expected to last weeks.
Washington argues that prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Williams – and none of the 13 other defendants – because he is black. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has twice ruled against Washington’s request that the prosecution be forced to justify its decision. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Still, lawyers watching the case say Washington is a step ahead of the courts in his legal arguments. “I think it’s brilliant,” said Frank Blazek, a former prosecutor who lost to Washington in the defense lawyer’s most famous case. “Who knows, maybe in three or four years, the Supreme Court might agree.” In 1984, Washington represented Eroy Brown, a black prison inmate who killed two white prison administrators. There were three trials in the case. Blazek, the Waller County district attorney at the time, said Washington was ahead of the law then, too, arguing that the prosecution should have to give nonracial justification for striking minorities from the jury pool. Though the judge ruled against Washington’s point at the time, the Supreme Court, in an unrelated case, agreed with the argument four years later.