Law Office of Sam Winston

Results

Donald G. Story

Donald G. had been in jail for over a year for an armed robbery that he did not commit. Then I came onto his case.

I will never forget the look on Donald’s face when I told him that I believed he was innocent. It was like the heaviest weight in the world had been lifted off of his shoulders.

“Donald, I believe you are innocent.” I said. “You have done nothing wrong. Whatever else may have happened in your life, this is not your fault. And I’m going to do everything in my power to get you out of here.”

Tears streamed down Donald’s face. That’s not something most people will allow themselves to do while in jail, but in the privacy of the attorney visitation room, he couldn’t help it.

This was shortly after I saw the video evidence in Donald’s case for the first time. When I came onto the case, I did not know anything about Donald’s case other than what I had read in the paper. He was accused of robbing two woman at gunpoint in the French Quarter and taking their purses. He was facing between 10 and 99 years in prison and had not had a lawyer for several months.

Then I saw the security camera footage that was supposed to be the most damning evidence in the case. I nearly had a heart attack. It was not Donald. My gut told me this instantly. I watched the video 20 times – there was no way it could have been Donald. Then I began think about how I knew, without a doubt, that it was clearly not Donald in that video.

First, Donald was 6 foot 3, and the guy in the video could not have been more than 5 foot 6. Donald also has always had very short, buzz-cut hair. The guy in the video had longer, curly hair. There was even a picture of Donald from the day of the incident in the file that showed his hair was short.

And then there were the pants, which were supposed to be the second big piece of evidence in the case. The pants on the guy in the video were loose, flowy, and had no writing on them. The pants Donald was wearing on the day of the incident were tight, not flowy, and had big red letters on the front of them. These were all details that we would later use to convince a skeptical district attorney’s office and the trial judge that the wrong person had been arrested.

But just looking at the guy on the video, I knew, with every fiber in my body, that it was not Donald. We quickly started filing motions for his release, which we eventually won. Donald was, thankfully, able to be freed and move on with his life.

How Donald came to be arrested and held for over a year for a crime he clearly did not commit is a topic for another forum. Needless to say, our criminal justice system is far from perfect. I’m just happy we were able to help Donald when we could.

Glenn L. Story

Glenn L. was sentenced to 17 years in prison for allegedly having one ounce of marijuana in his car. He hired me to take on his appeal.

When I first met Glenn, he told me he was a boxer. He had been undefeated as an amateur and was about to turn pro when this incident happened. He told me he wanted to fight his case. What happened to him was wrong. I never doubted Glenn for a second, but I needed to make sure that we had the facts and the law on our side so that the courts would listen. Then we started investigating his case and blew the doors wide open.

We found out that the arresting officer in Glenn’s case was corrupt – the officer was pulling people over and lying about what he found on them. The officer also was making up confessions from the people he wrongfully arrested,  just like in Glenn’s case.

I filed a motion for a new trial challenging Glenn’s conviction. We were prepared to call others we had found to testify about the similar abusive and unfair treatment they had received from this officer. But we won the motion without having to do that. After years of uncertainty and agony, Glenn was going to get his life back.

Glenn had already served almost 2 years by the time I got his case, and it took another year to litigate. But we prevailed and erased 14 years of prison time off his sentence in a subsequent plea agreement.  I’m thrilled for him and his family. I’ve even taken up a boxing class in Glenn’s honor.

Phillips T. Story

When the Court’s decision came out, I jumped in my car and raced with my co-counsel to go see Phillips. I knew we would likely be the first one to break the news to him. After what seemed like an eternity, they finally brought Phillips into the visitation room.

It was an unexpected visit and Phillips was surprised to see the look of anticipation on my face. Without even saying hello, I held up the Court’s decision and yelled, “WE WON THE MOTION!”

Not wanting to get too excited, he asked “We won the motion? What motion!?”

I said, “WE WON THE MOTION TO SUPPRESS. YOUR CONVICTION IS OVERTURNED!!!”

Phillips, in disbelief: “We WON the Motion to Suppress!?”

Me: “YES! LIFE SENTENCE IS OFF THE TABLE!!!”

Phillips: “WOOO! We Won the Motion to Suppress!!!”

Me: “WOOOO!!!”

It was the culmination of one of the hardest fought cases in my career.

Phillips was accused of sending three pounds of methamphetamine from California to Louisiana through a UPS Store. But it turned out that the Government had been paying the UPS store owner to find and search packages for them without a warrant. This was a not so subtle attempt to get around the Fourth Amendment’s protection against warrantless seizures by the Government.

Upon investigating the case, we learned that there was even a written contract between the law enforcement and the store owner to help them find drug packages. The California sheriff’s deputies initially attempted to deny the full extent of their relationship and their knowledge that packages were being opened without a warrant.

But in later testimony, the store owner stated without reservation that she was opening all of the suspected drug packages that came through her store for the past decade, without a warrant, and that law enforcement knew about it all of this. Later testimony from the sheriff’s office deputies admitted that they did in fact know about the warrantless opening of packages and that they continued to work with and pay the store owner for her work on their behalf.

After a series of heavily litigated battles before, during, and after trial, we finally prevailed for our client. The court agreed with us that this case was a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of illegal searches and seizures.

Before the Court’s ruling, Phillips was days away from receiving an automatic life sentence having lost at trial with prior convictions on his record. Yet as a result of the Court’s ruling that burden was lifted. Phillips’ conviction was vacated.

Currently, we are waiting to see if the Government will appeal the judge’s ruling or if they will drop the case entirely against Phillips.