'Racehorse' Haynes gives jury vintage show Famed lawyer lives up to reputation in Baltimore trial

November 04, 1993|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Staff Writer

It was high noon when Richard "Racehorse" Haynes started his closing argument -- the perfect time for a showdown.

The famous Texas lawyer has been in Baltimore for almost two months, trying a drug trafficking case and, he acknowledged yesterday, probably trying the patience of those who have watched it unfold oh-so-slowly.

"I may not have enamored myself because of the tenacity or persistence I showed," Mr. Haynes, 66, said with an easy grin as he began to address the jury in the case of United States vs. Richard Edison Boyd.

As a drug trafficking trial, it's notable only for Mr. Haynes' presence and as the coda to the story of James Todd Hibler, who ran a multimillion-dollar drug ring from his parents' Crofton home.

In calling himself tenacious, Mr. Haynes may be guilty of under statement. Hibler was kept on the stand about 17 hours, according to the U.S. attorney's office, while two other key witnesses testified for 15 and 14 hours.

Along the way, the rapid-talking Texan -- given to rhetorical flourishes such as "that puts the frosting on the corn bread" -- kept track of every time a witness said "I don't know," or "I can't remember." He then read the tally back to the jurors, noting that Hibler alone had uttered those words 297 times.

"The kid from Crofton!" he said dismissively during his hourlong speech, interrupted by the jury's lunch break and an occasional objection from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jefferson M. Gray. "I couldn't help but think at the time that Billy the Kid was a younger person, too."

The character attack was part of a vintage Haynes defense, a style once explained by one of his cinematic alter egos.

If he had to defend his dog against an accusation of biting someone, an actor playing Mr. Haynes declaimed from the courthouse steps, he would say his dog didn't bite. He would say that wasn't his dog. Moreover, he would say he didn't have a dog.

It's a style that has served Mr. Haynes well over the years, most notably in his defense of T. Cullen Davis, a Fort Worth millionaire accused of shooting his ex-wife and killing her daughter and boyfriend. Mr. Davis was acquitted of that crime and a subsequent charge of trying to murder the judge in that case.

Other famous cases in Mr. Haynes' past include the murder of a Houston socialite, allegedly poisoned by her husband with a tainted pastry, and the slaying of Price Daniel Jr., a former speaker of the Texas House and son of a Texas governor.

Mr. Haynes also represented Morganna Rose Roberts, baseball's "kissing bandit," charged with trespassing at the Astrodome. Mr. Haynes' defense? His client, who has a 60-inch bust, had been the victim of Newton's law, pulled to the field by gravity.

Prosecutors say that Mr. Boyd, of Texas, routed slightly more than a ton a marijuana to Maryland. He was one of four men indicted on information from Hibler and his colleagues. The other three have entered guilty pleas.

Mr. Boyd was the middleman for two suppliers, prosecutors say. He has no prior criminal convictions and maintains his innocence, saying he was falsely accused by dealers who were desperate to reduce their sentences.

Hibler is serving concurrent 15-year and 25-year sentences in state prison and isn't eligible for parole for at least 15 years. Police raided the Hibler home on Nov. 2, 1989, and confiscated 50 pounds of marijuana, 7 pounds of cocaine and 4 pounds of hashish.

His parents -- psychologists at the National Security Agency -- said they were unaware of the drug dealing and weren't prosecuted.

4 How did the Boyd family hook up with Mr. Haynes?

"We asked someone who the best criminal lawyer in Texas was, and they said Racehorse Haynes," said Mr. Boyd's wife, Dallas, in court with 9-year-old Bradley and 3-year-old Aspen. "For as much fame as he has, he's really down to earth."

And Mr. Boyd, an electrician who is on trial on five counts involving drug trafficking, isn't waiting for the jury to return today to make up his mind about Mr. Haynes.

"It couldn't have been done any finer," he said. "Some say he's the best in the country. I'll say he's the best attorney in the world."

Baltimore lawyer William H. Murphy Jr., waiting for a jury in his own case in the federal courthouse, dropped in several times to see Mr. Haynes in action.

"If you're a serious lawyer, you're obliged to watch one of the real winners," said Mr. Murphy, who also has watched Edward Bennett Williams and F. Lee Bailey. "He has charisma. He knows how to talk to common folk. And he has absolute command of the facts."

Even Mr. Gray, Mr. Haynes' adversary in the trial, acknowledged his ability.

"I thought he lived up to his notices," he said. "There's no question this was an unusual professional challenge."

As for Mr. Haynes, he left the courtroom after the jury began its deliberations and may not be there when it returns with a verdict. He has another trial waiting in Dallas.

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