Lawyer Monthly - April 2022

MY LEGAL LIFE - SAM BASSETT Please tell us a little about your journey into law. I wanted to be a lawyer beginning sometime in high school. Though I was not certain at that time, I was drawn to criminal law and criminal cases. I worked as a runner for a civil law firm in college and decided to apply to be a clerk at a criminal defence firm while in my first year of law school. I was fortunate to be a clerk for a firm in Austin (White and Allison, PC) which was working on some high-profile cases and trials while I was a clerk. I learned a great deal from watching my mentors handle those cases. The most high-profile case they handed was State v Michael Morton. Michael was convicted of murdering his wife, yet 25 years later he was freed from prison when it was shown that he was actually innocent of the crime. Would you say that miscarriages of justice like Michael’s case are of particular importance to you? Are there other kinds of cases that you find especially interesting to work on? Michael’s case had a huge impact on my perspective of practising criminal defence as it showed that our emotions or intuitions may not always be correct and the high standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” needs to be emphasised more than ever in our system. I enjoy cases involving allegations of criminal activity within the context of parallel litigations, such as family law. It never ceases to amaze me how much the emotion of a divorce or child custody battle can lead to false allegations of assault and/ or child abuse. Those cases are very interesting to me as they are complex, with many moving parts. Is there a career accomplishment that you are particularly proud of having achieved? Though I have had many acquittals in the practice of law, I would have to say I am most proud of working with young people who are having problems and influencing them toward a clearer path. I occasionally receive letters, cards and emails from people I represented years before talking about how I played a role in turning their life in a more positive direction. That is what keeps me coming to the office after 33 years. In 2009, the Dallas Morning News nominated me for Texan of the Year for my work as Chair of the Forensic Science Commission. That work was among the most interesting of my career, even though I was replaced as Chair of the Commission for questionable political reasons. Can you tell us about your plans for the remainder of the year? With the COVID pandemic winding down (hopefully), I anticipate having several jury trials the remainder of this year. There is a backlog of cases in Texas and many of these cases would normally have been tried years ago. Do you have any closing comments to make about the current climate for defence attorneys and what the future of the sector might hold? The career of a criminal defence lawyer can be tough and stressful, as you are dealing with many difficult situations. Often, you are not popular with the public as they tend to associate you with clients charged with serious crimes. However, I have found it to be quite rewarding as I believe there is no other area of the law which involves standing up for foundational rights of citizens in our society. To add to that, in the process of fighting for your clients’ rights you also have many opportunities to help your clients overcome difficult personal issues. More About Sam Bassett APR 2022 | WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM 27

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