Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, perhaps the most famous criminal defense lawyer in the history of the state of Texas, passed away on Friday April 28, 2017 in a Livingston, Texas hospice. It would be impossible to exaggerate his fame as the “go to” lawyer for celebrity clients.
My first exposure to Haynes was through the 1976 bestselling true account of several celebrated murders in Thomas Thompson’s “Blood and Money.” The book and the case put Haynes in the national spotlight – flamboyant, a master of cross-examination, and an extremely well prepared lawyer, Haynes was a major player in a book that sold over 4 million copies. Additionally, his defense of John Hill was covered extensively in both local and national media accounts.
In the mid-1970’s I spent a fair amount of time in Houston, and the book, the trial, and the sensational murders dominated the scene. Tourists’ cars drove by the principal character’s homes incessantly.
Haynes later went on to defend T. Cullen Davis, a successful Fort Worth, Texas businessman in two trials: one involved several murders and the other, the hiring of a hit man to execute a judge. Improbably, he won both.
The Hill and Davis trials, which were portrayed in various movies at later dates, just scratched the surface of Haynes’ uncanny ability to pull rabbits out of his hat in the court room.
He represented 40 defendants in murder trials, none of whom ever received the death penalty.
It is also reported that Haynes defended 163 DWI cases without a single defeat.
One of my favorite stories about him is that when he was in tight spots in trials, situations that were about to destroy his case, he would tell his fellow lawyers, “We’ve got them where we want them.”
His nickname came from the running style of play he exhibited as a high schooler.
Any of the numerous books about Haynes’ incredible legal career are worth reading, but my favorite remains “Blood and Money.” It is a classic case, and it is all true.
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