Go back to this issue index page
November/December 2007


The Daughters of Juarez: A True Story of Serial Murder South of the Border

By Teresa Rodriguez and Diana Montané with Liza Pulitzer
Simon & Schuster 2007
336 pages

Reviewed by Bradford Crockard

Teresa Rodriguez’s The Daughters of Juarez: A True Story of Serial Murder South of the Border is a shocking, sobering account of the brutal rapes, torture, and murders of over 400 women just across the border from the United States.

In October 2007, over 90 members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter to the new President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, demanding adequate funding and tougher penalties to address this tragic situation. Unfortunately, this comes nearly 15 years after the femicides began.

This is not a story with a happy ending. The majority of these crimes went without investigation and unpunished by Mexican authorities. Teresa Rodriguez, a journalist with the Spanish-speaking Univision television network, does an excellent job of shining a spotlight on a deplorable situation just feet from American soil and offering explanations of how it could have occurred. It was co-written by Florida writer Diana Montané and noted true-crime author Lisa Pulitzer.

Much of the blame is assigned to the police of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, which lies just across the border from El Paso. The police seemed at best indifferent and at worst, culpable. When mutilated bodies of young women began to appear in the desolate Chihuahua deserts, Juarez police had a disturbing tendency to point fingers at the victims themselves, many of whom were new to Juarez. Police would callously tell distraught family members that the women had probably run off with a boyfriend. They would accuse the girls of dressing promiscuously and secretly working as prostitutes or strippers, even having the audacity to accuse the grieving mothers of poor parenting. Without any evidence, the authorities claimed that the victims were living secret lives, and the murders went unsolved because family members would not allow investigation that would uncover these seedy behaviors. Investigators went so far as to change the cause of death of one victim, who had clearly been strangled, to a drug overdose. The state of Mexican law did not help. For example, a Chihuahua state law allowed the punishment for a rape conviction to be reduced from four years to one year if the defendant could prove that his victim had provoked him. At one point, there was a mandatory 72 hour waiting period before missing persons reports would even be investigated, a life-or-death lapse for victims of kidnapping, torture, rape, and eventually, homicide.

More chilling is evidence that the police themselves were involved in the murders. The book portrays a border town where corruption runs rampant, a town in the suffocating hold of a massive drug trafficking problem. The police would either not investigate at all, or run investigations so inept and incomplete that citizens began collaborating to look into the murders themselves. Police refused to work with outside experts, such as Robert Ressler, the American criminologist of Silence of the Lambs fame, who made scathing reviews of the indifferent and under-prepared police force. Police were accused of burning over a thousand pounds of evidence, allowing reporters to reposition bodies at the crime scene for photographs, and mixing up victims’ bodies. One woman accused police of gang-raping her in prison, a common accusation by poor Mexican women, and had forensic evidence to back up her claim. All charges were dropped until the victim went to the media with her allegations. More terrifying, police intimidated her with pictures of the mutilated bodies of women that had been thrown in the desert. Police repeatedly held people with no evidence in attempts to satiate an angry public, but these cover-ups were so poorly organized that not even victims’ families would buy them. One part of the book describes drunken police harassing a grassroots group of amateur investigators as they combed the desert where hundreds of bodies were turning up. “Suspects,” especially local bus drivers, were tortured into confessions. Criminologists were bribed into falsifying reports. One body was discovered just yards from a police academy.

If the situation were not so tragic, some of the police negligence would be comical. One crime scene investigator ordered a murder victim’s bloody clothes washed in fabric softener because he grew tired of the smell. Evidence was destroyed when homeless people who had taken up residence in a police warehouse burned it for warmth. One high-profile criminal defense attorney was murdered while representing a suspect. The cause of death was listed as a brain injury he sustained while fleeing police. Ignored on the report was the gunshot wound to his head.

Rodriguez also points fingers at the United States and the North American Free Trade Agreement for creating the dangerous, drug-ridden environment. After the passage of NAFTA, the 1994 agreement to create a trade bloc in North America, maquiladoras, factories that import items for assembly and then send them back to the importing countries, quickly multiplied on the Mexico-U.S. border. These sweatshops, primarily American-owned, engaged in the dubious practice of employing young girls with no education to work long hours for low pay ($3-5 a day.) These girls, nameless to all but their impoverished families, were prime targets for attackers as they walked alone to and from work at all hours. Many were just in from other parts of Mexico and were unfamiliar with their dangerous surroundings.

Attorneys play an interesting role in this terrible saga. One attorney helped the family of a missing victim find the body when police refused to help. Activist attorneys founded groups such as Women for Juarez and Casa de Amigas, advocacy groups that worked to raise public awareness and help victims and their families.  A campaign was initiated to warn the women of Juarez of the danger they were in. Attorneys fought to hold owners of maquiladoras accountable. For instance, one settlement of punitive damages resulting from an assault motivated a large Mexican auto producer to start documenting workers, which helped with the problem of identifying the predominately indigent murder victims. Another attorney represented an imprisoned bus driver pro bono, despite death threats, after the man’s wife convinced the attorney that he was innocent. He protested when his client was moved to a prison in a faraway town, despite a provision of the Mexican Constitution requiring that criminal trials be held where the presumed crime was committed. A new office, the Special Task Force for the Investigation of Crimes Against Women, was created by the attorney general to oversee investigation of murders involving women and put under the command of a 34-year-old female attorney. At the same time, the book blames many prosecutors for being part of the problem. Daughters of Juarez does end with some rays of hope. Reforms have been made to Mexican law, mainly involving women’s rights. Foreign groups, including Amnesty International, have started calling attention to Juarez. Some advances have been made in criminology. For example, Chihuahua became the first Mexican state to employ facial reproduction techniques to identify victims. International celebrities have become involved in the cause. On Valentine’s Day of 2004, a group including Sally Field, Salma Hayek, and U.S. Representative Hilda Solis of California, who recently initiated the letter to President Calderon, marched from El Paso into Juarez to protest. They were joined by at least two female Mexican prosecutors, a powerful and overdue symbol of unity between the women and law enforcement of Mexico. Jennifer Lopez, Antonio Banderas and Martin Sheen starred in the 2006 movie Bordertown that, while a box office failure, may focus some attention on Juarez.

While the book is often painful to read, Rodriguez does a good job of humanizing the victims and their families and offering explanations as to how these tragedies were allowed to occur. Each chapter begins with a quote, usually from a victims’ family member, with whom the author obviously spent time while researching. Also interviewed were suspects in the killings, including an immigrant chemist, who was arrested for one grisly murder and died in jail proclaiming his innocence.

This book truly motivates the reader to think about the state of human rights, especially outside the U.S. It is shocking how little the American media seemed interested in a serial murder rampage lasting over a decade just across the border. Daughters of Juarez is a gripping true-crime drama. The saddest part is the lack of a resolution.

Bradford Crockard is an attorney with Marty Herring & Associates and is a member of the editorial board of The Houston Lawyer.



MacCarthy on Cross-Examination

By Terence F. MacCarthy
ABA Publishing 2007
221 pages

Reviewed by Fred A. Simpson

Terence MacCarthy has been executive director of the Federal Defender Program in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for more than 40 years and is a prominent CLE instructor on cross-examination, including appearances at the National Criminal Defense College since its inception. In his book, MacCarthy on Cross-Examination, MacCarthy’s premise is that cross-examination is a skill most trial lawyers have not learned to master (unlike direct examination, voir dire, and opening and closing statements), and that the skill is a science, rather than an art. As a science, MacCarthy preaches that the skill of cross-examination can be taught and learned. The book is pleasantly pedantic in its explanation of MacCarthy’s rules and displays a good knowledge of human nature and an unusually good sense of humor.

This pocket-size book is short, only 144 pages of text, with a 75-page appendix that is a rather valuable inclusion. The appendix consists of seven actual courtroom transcript examples of how MacCarthy’s advocated system is effectively used by others in their practice.

MacCarthy’s recommended system enables the lawyer to tell the finder of fact a story by using short statements which transform the process into a monologue in which the witness seems a rather unessential but incidental vehicle for the trial lawyer to “look good” while doing his job of making the witness look not so good. MacCarthy analyzes the contrasting techniques of others and how and why they work, including the winning style of Perry Mason, episodes of LA Law, the books of Scott Turow, and the antics of numerous actual trial lawyers he encountered over his five decades of practice.

MacCarthy provides a number of housekeeping rules, reviews principles taught by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, and reminds us of the basic objectives to be achieved in the cross-examination process. All of this provides an entertaining few hours with an opportunity for the reader to consider or reflect on how to improve one’s own cross-examination skills the next time at bat.

Fred A. Simpson is a partner in the Houston Litigation Section of Jackson Walker and is an associate editor of The Houston Lawyer.



Thomson-West Westlaw Research Tools:
Graphical Statutes & Graphical KeyCite

Reviewed by Al Harrison

Legal research and analysis frequently commences with assessing underlying federal and/or state statutes. Researching statutes has traditionally been both a laborious and a challenging aspect of legal research, regardless of whether being undertaken by law clerks, paralegals, professional researchers, or even by attorneys themselves.  While paper-based law libraries have become largely superseded by universally-available electronic libraries, researching the statutory basis for legal controversies has largely remained a daunting chore.  Consider and contrast the functionality and feature sets of two popular, but diametrically different, protocols available via MyTexasBar and Westlaw.

Complimentary legal research is provided under the auspices of the State Bar’s MyTexasBar website. Members of the Texas Bar may freely invoke the Casemaker search engine to conduct case law and statutory research.  To invoke research pertaining to statutes, the “Texas statutes” option is selected in the Collections window and then particular search criterion is entered in the Basic Search window. Once a hit of interest is obtained via Casemaker, the actual statutory language may be retrieved by clicking the section number indicated in the results.

While, at first blush, obtaining this statutory language appears to be easy enough to achieve and is free of charge, this protocol suffers from the customary search deficiency of failing to afford the searcher more than the literal language of the cited statute — in its current version.

Diametrically opposed to this conventional protocol for conducting statutory research is Westlaw’s new “Graphical Statutes” research tool. Thomson-West has broken through the tedium of statutory research by converting it into an intuitive, comprehensive view that not only delivers the current version of a statute, but also delivers all previous versions of the statute — and tracks all amendments to the law, references and links to materials indicative of relevant legislative history, includes links to relevant case law, and even links to contemplated future amendments. Realizing that Westlaw is fee-based legal research, how extensive are the benefits associated with this novel graphical presentation of cited statutes? Why should the reasonable attorney or law firm pay for what ostensibly can be obtained for free?

There lies the rub: Westlaw Graphical Statutes transcends preconceived notions of what constitutes statutory research. Indeed, Graphical Statutes provides in a single graphical view a diversity of pertinent documents and case law that normally cannot be obtained without conducting extensive and even more tedious statute-based legal research. Seeking to track history of a statute is a disquieting, elusive adventure that typically entails navigating through and among non-linear historical and political maneuvers typically manifest by a plethora of reports and a series of related amendments and several revisions thereto.

The Rosetta Stone for Westlaw Graphical Statutes corresponds to a hierarchical block diagram which resembles a conventional top-down organization chart superimposed on a time line. As shown, Graphical Statutes displays blocks representing (i) the current version of a statute; (ii) prior versions of the statute; (iii) a future version of the statute; (iv) links to enacting public laws; (v) links to amending public laws; (vi) relevant legislative history materials and links thereto, e.g., bill drafts, reports, journals and the Congressional Record, if applicable; (vii) case law that negatively affect the statute; and (viii) legislation that has been enacted but not yet codified. The Graphical Statutes feature is conveniently invoked by clicking the icon, or it may be invoked, while viewing a statute, by clicking the Graphical Statutes option located on the Links tab. When done in this way, a graphical view of the statute and its comprehensive history is displayed. The timeline located atop the graphical view shows the effective dates for each version of the statute. The presence of arrows on either side of the timeline indicates that additional effective dates are available, but are not presently being displayed due to on-screen space limitations.

What can be said about the benefits of Graphical Statutes? First, this treasure trove of statute-related information is presented simultaneously and graphically in a single screen (shown for convenience in this example as an upper portion and a lower portion of the same screen). The full gamut of available research materials is shown in an easy-to-understand block-diagram format. Second, all of this supplemental information is only a click away, i.e., readily available and instantaneously retrievable. Imagine that a mere click instantaneously presents the searcher with such esoteric documents as bill drafts and legislative committee reports, prepared by either the Senate or the House. Third, Westlaw Graphical Statutes functions hand-in-glove with its sister application, Graphical KeyCite, which enables the searcher to ascertain precedential authority of statutes and case law based upon current events reported in near-real-time. Similar to Graphical Statutes’ presentation, Graphical KeyCite displays interdependency among precedential authority in an easy-to-understand block-diagram format. In this context, Graphical KeyCite devolves to being a superb tool for further exploring statutory citations in Texas Statutes Annotated and/or United States Code Annotated, among others. Westlaw’s published annotated codes and the like afford profound insight into and interpretation of statutory provisions via editorial commentary, notes analyzing and interpreting court decisions, and other pertinent references. In its time-honored protocol, KeyCite uses red and yellow flags to signal the severity of treatment history for statutes and precedents.

Hence, Westlaw draws upon the computer industry standard graphical user interface to provide attorneys and their staff an online legal research engine that reduces even demanding comprehensive statutory research into a virtually effortless endeavor. Is the cost of invoking Westlaw Graphical Statutes justified for conducting statute-related research? Surely, there is no reasonable doubt of the affirmative!

Al Harrison is a patent attorney practicing intellectual property law with Harrison Law Office, P.C. He is a member of the editorial board of The Houston Lawyer.



Managing the Modern Law Firm: New Challenges, New Perspectives

Edited by Laura Empson
Oxford University Press 2007
217 pages

Reviewed by JANET H. MOORE

What makes one modern law firm successful—and another less so? The well written analysis in Managing the Modern Law Firm sheds light on that question. It takes a critical look at large, multi-national firms in today’s global marketplace and clearly identifies a number of success factors. The book explores relevant topics ranging from the decline of traditional partnership structures to determining the value of legal knowledge to global law firm mergers.

One of the most interesting chapters examines approximately 200 large U.S. firms and analyzes various success trends. The authors’ detailed studies lead to conclusions such as, “the highest profits per partner are enjoyed by those U.S. firms with a very limited international presence or who have reduced their international presence in recent years.” The book also explains why the firms that were the first to internationalize have been less profitable than those that took their time to do so: the latter learned from the mistakes of the former.

Lawyers wanting to develop new practice areas within their firms will benefit from the book’s exploration of this topic. The chapter touting “recipes for success” in new practice areas starts by reporting that “nearly half of all new practice attempts fail.”The chapter then highlights success factors (such as tangible and intangible resource support) and debunks myths about what creates a successful new practice (such as the myth of the heroic founding partner).

Yet another interesting chapter examines whether a partnership remains the right form for a global law firm.  This discussion scrutinizes some of the largest international firms (primarily “Magic Circle” firms headquartered in London) and how such global firms maintain a sense of ownership among partners across cultural lines.

Successful global law firms—and other firms aspiring to become such—will benefit from this book’s insights.

Janet H. Moore (www.internationallawyercoach.com) is a professionally trained and certified executive coach for attorneys. She trains and coaches lawyers on customized client development and career strategies.  Moore is a member of the editorial board of The Houston Lawyer.



The Law Firm Associate’s Guide to Personal Marketing and Selling Skills

By Catherine Alman MacDonagh and Beth Marie Cuzzone
ABA Publishing 2007
146 pages

Reviewed by J. Brian Thomas

Somewhere amid nerve-splitting semesters of torts, contracts and the intricacies of civil procedure, one fact loomed heavy on the horizon – one day, you would become a living, breathing, successful (or starving) lawyer. While the rigors of attaining a law degree might prepare today’s associate for the courtroom or the boardroom, few, if any, provide lawyers with the tools to sell their hard-earned skills to a discriminating public.  In The Law Firm Associate’s Guide to Personal Marketing and Selling Skills (the “Associate’s Guide”), Catherine Alman MacDonagh and Beth Marie Cuzzone attempt to teach associates the planning, executing and honing necessary for success in an industry driven as much by service as by results.

More than a sterile how-to-guide for finding and keeping paying clients and rainmaking contacts, the Associate’s Guide reads more like an action-item list of do’s and don’ts for associates progressive enough to know that a successful law practice does not invent itself.  From its introduction, the book concedes that personal selling and marketing in the law never come with a “one size fits all” playbook. Rather, identifying the difference between marketing and selling, goal-setting, communicating and cultivating clients are composed of skill sets as distinct as each attorney applying them.

Rest assured, there are plenty of the usual “self-help” suspects: catchy acronyms, such as setting goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely), pie charts and pyramids for the visual learner and brief chapters for those that realize reading rarely translates to billing.  However, the Associate’s Guide takes the reader a step further, providing and suggesting real-time implementation and follow-up opportunities within its advice.  In doing so, the short chapters, flashbacks and checklists do for the time-sensitive associate what crib notes do for Shakespeare – cutting straight to the chase without all of the iambic pentameter.

Take the chapter on communicating the associate’s individual marketing plan, for example.  Rather than wax esoteric on the power of an effective Internet presence, visibility in the community and leadership in the world of continuing legal education, the Associate’s Guide offers tips, checklists and insight for mastering the art of being the kind of lawyer your clients want.  The advice ranges from how to dress for your professional photograph to a compilation of resources on speaking effectively in public.

Thoughtfully arranged throughout pages of self-analysis and recommendations are tidbits on demonstrating value in your billing, preparing for meetings and publishing.  The Associate’s Guide approaches marketing at the most basic of individual levels, focusing on selling practices that most associates engage in daily.  MacDonagh and Cuzzone prepare this self-selling associate for understanding his or her audience, creating client loyalty, managing client expectations and dealing with clients that say “Maybe,” “No,” and the sometimes equally dreaded, “Yes.”

Brevity, however, and a shotgun approach to the endless cycle of marketing and delivering competitive client service, is a double-edged sword.  Much of the usefulness of the Associate’s Guide is found in brief, outlined and task-oriented chapters, filled primarily with quick attention to a broad array of topical thoughts and ready reminders.  Substance, in a handful of deserving areas, is traded for easy readability and a prompt to outside resources.

A CD-ROM accompanying the Associate’s Guide provides some useful portability of the tools and techniques the Associate’s Guide outlines and distills.  It also keeps the reader from running to the copy machine or simply tearing out tip sheets and checklists to make them available for an upcoming meeting, speech or pitch to a potential or returning client.  Even more useful is the Trainer’s Manual to the Associate’s Guide, which provides a ready battery of teaching tools, workshops and exercises designed to assist the firm’s marketing specialists in preparing associates for the world of practicing law beyond codes and case law.  

In all, the Associate’s Guide recognizes that no single personal selling plan is perfect for everyone.  The craft of finding, cultivating and constantly reapplying a system that works for every associate reader is one that no single book, or accompanying CD-ROM, could outline.  Fortunately, the Associate’s Guide never tries to be that single book.  But if the authors’ top references and Internet resources are the essential library, then the Associate’s Guide is most certainly the quick-tip catalog that any associate would be well-served in adding to their shelf.                                                                                        

J. Brian Thomas is an associate at Ford & Mathiason LLP, where his practice  focuses on estate planning, probate  and guardianships.