Grand Hustle

By Jay Goodman

As I have said before, you will never know who you run into while in prison. There are so many different types of prisoners and personalities living inside these prisons. I personally, have trained myself to be a quiet person overall. I usually go about my day doing my routine alone. Throughout the day I may socialize with the few that I know and avoid the rest. I would have to say that I am genuinely liked by most of the inmates, and CO's also. But, I am never in a hurry to add to my inner circle of people that I call my friends. Not because I believe that I am better than the rest, but a good portion of the men in prison do not care about anything else but themselves. I am a true believer in the old saying, "Birds of a feather, flock together." So, I am very careful of the people that I do sit down with and engage in conversation.

In my life I have learned if I sit down with negative people too often, their thinking will eventually pull me down. Even though I know this fact, I have also learned through the years that some people have been dealt a bad hand in their life. Whether it be by their own hand, or by someone else’s doing. That brings me to the person I am writing this next chapter about.

I met this man some months back, his name is Lowrence Bernal. He is a Hispanic man from West Texas. He is serving a forty-five-year sentence for murder. I had actually met Lowrence through another mutual friend of ours, and then we began to talk a little. Most people who have been sent to prison usually take a plea agreement for whatever their case carries, and then it's off to prison. By taking a plea deal, the Court usually offers this to the accused pupil's attorney, it saves the Court from a very long trial process. In some cases, it helps out the individual going to court by serving a little less time than he might have received if he had gone to a jury trial. Of course, there are times when the court will not offer a plea deal, because they want to give the accused the death penalty. Naturally, the Court understands that no one is going to accept a plea of death. There are some individuals who are innocent and will not accept any plea deal what-so-ever. Now this leads me to my friend's story written in his own words. This is everything that happened during his trial. For all of you that are reading this story, sit back and be enlightened to what has happened to Mr. Lowrence Bernal.

Hello, I am grateful to my friend Jay and his attorney Mr. Hernandez, for this opportunity to tell my story and vent my frustrations over my trial. Let me start out by saying, after all of my time being locked up, how easily that Texas will lock someone up, and keep them there, I am impressed. The powers that be have designed a plan that is set up for failure for those who have come to stand trial against this state. If you ever get placed within this system, you'd better have a lot of money or a lot of clout. If you do not have either, then welcome to my nightmare.

On August 20, 1999, in Jones County, Texas, one Andrew Phillip Sorenson was murdered in Lueders. On the 28th of August, 1999, I was arrested under the suspicion of Capital Murder. Bond was set at 500,000 dollars in Taylor County, Abilene Texas. The reason that I was placed in Taylor County and not in Jones County was a simple tactical strategy. Taylor is a closed county, meaning that only a bondsman from that county can bond you out. How unfortunate that is for someone with a $500,000 bond.

On October 5, 1999, I filled out a statement of indigency and requested for counsel. Michael Fouts was appointed on October 15, 1999. He promptly filed a motion to withdraw from my case. I was sent back to jail to wait and see who I would get appointed next. A few weeks later I was called out to the visiting room, a grey-haired man was sitting there in a nice suit. I stepped up to the desk where he was sitting and he asked me for my name. When I said that I was Lowrence Bernal, he started rummaging through stacks of papers on the desk. When he found my file, he started reading it shaking his head. He looks up at me and stated, "Do not tell me you're not guilty, I don't want to hear that crap." In response to this, I asked him, "So are you just trying to give me a deal or something?" “I am not the District Attorney, I'm your lawyer." So I asked him then, "What evidence did you see that makes you believe I'm guilty?" He leaned back into his chair and said, "I don't have anything from the D.A., or the Texas Rangers, yet. It's just what I've seen on television." "So, you don't have anything from the D.A., or the Texas Rangers, and you just said all you know is from what you saw on television, and you say to me, not to tell you that I'm not guilty?"

He sat there without saying a word. At this point I have been in the county jail for a while, so I asked him to file for a bond reduction. He answered, "The Judge will never go for it." Looking back now at everything, I realize that was probably the only honest answer he ever gave me. I asked him if he ever planned on doing anything for me. He just said that we were done here and that I could go back to my cell, he would be in touch. As he was leaving, I asked him, "Are you going to get off of my case?" He just smiled and said, "Sweet dreams." When I went back to my cell and started talking to people who had been in the system before. They all pretty much said the same thing. "If you're using someone from this county, you will more than likely get the needle." I could not help but think, thanks fellas for the boost of confidence in regards to our Judicial system. These old convicts all started laughing and shaking their heads. I thought it must be some kind of inside joke, because I did not get what was so funny. Now I do.

I was so green to the system, but I would shortly get a crash course in the Texas legal system, one that I have never forgotten. I fight it every day. Something else dawned on me as I saw these men laughing. The lawyer never told me his name or even gave me a card. Now, I am what the system refers to as a jail house lawyer, writ writer, or just a plain pain in their asses. I try to steer others away from the pitfalls that had cost me my one shot out. In here we learn from our mistakes. I'll get a little more in detail to that later. For now, let's concentrate on how l was put through the meat grinder.

For those who believe that the system works, stop reading this now. Keep believing in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Everything you read in here can be verified through court documents or statements. So, just settle in with your favorite drink and kick your feet up. I was taken to the 259th District Court of Jones County, Texas. The town is so small you can throw a rock from one end to the other. Your run of the mill podunk town in West Texas. Here family trees grow tall with deep roots and very few branches. This is now my second time in court, the first was when Michael Fouts bailed out on me. At least I did learn my lawyers name this time, it is Sam Moore. Sam didn't admit to talking with any other lawyer about my case. This did come out later during the trial.

This was for pre-trial motions. We didn't get a discovery granted. A discovery is what evidence the District Attorney has against you, or in my case the lack of. We did get a motion to dismiss my indictment granted. Seems you can't kill a person two ways, who knew? We were also granted an expert witness, (he never came because he costs too much). I guess he was granted just for the record. I was given a Private Investigator. The Court only gave him $1,500, WOW! I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. I looked at my lawyer Sam and asked, "How much does your P.I. cost an hour? He's going to interview all of my witnesses, find the ones that are missing, talk to the Pathologist and get a report for only $1,500?" Sam looked me in the eyes and said, "Don't worry about it, that's more than enough." The old adage came to mind then, "Good work ain't cheap, and cheap work ain't good." I asked Sam, "Say does your P.I. know that he's not getting paid much?" At this point Sam blows a fuse. He is turning red and says, "If you weren't so dumb, you would be stupid." Hey, what an epiphany. My whole life I've searched for this realization. To just think how many scientists would kill for this knowledge.

I took a look at Sam and asked, "So where did you go to college at?" Sam narrowed his eyes and said, "Texas A&M, why?" "No reason." I lowered my head and just stared at the table. Growing up in West Texas you hear a lot of Aggie jokes. You look at your elders and think nobody can be that "stew-pit." Yet he is my lawyer with 20 years as a D.A. A board-certified capital murder specialist, and now defense attorney. I thought man, I'm so dead. I could feel the buzzard’s eyes on me as they started to circle.

At this point Sam files a motion to dismiss my indictment. The judge asked why. Sam states that he cannot defend me, because you cannot kill a person two ways. Everyone agrees to dismiss cause number 8421. I'm then sent back to jail while they finish up some stuff. Whatever that meant, I had asked them if I could stay. My lawyer Sam only visited me a few times while I was in the county, even though my life was on the line. The second time that he did visit me, he brought his P.I. They talked to me about how Andy was murdered. They started this little event with, "So did you use gloves when you choked him?" I said, "Look, I know it's hard for you two to keep up, but let's take it from the top once again, I did not kill Andy." My lawyer Sam blows it at this point. "You think this is a game? If don't stop talking you are going to fry!" "So which of you is the good cop, and which of you is the dumb cop." I am to the point where I am beyond frustration.

I have been sitting in jail for months. I am charged with Capital Murder and am facing the death penalty or life in prison and my lawyer has talked to me only two or three times. He told me from day one not to tell him that I am not guilty. I cannot understand why he will not listen to me, or look at the facts. Facts are, I have never been in any kind of trouble in my life. There is no reason for me to want to kill this guy. There's no evidence, only two drug addicts who say I did. One guy has been arrested for two counts of armed robbery, who has been a suspect in the murder since day one, and was also wearing the dead man's boots. So, he has every reason in the world to lie.

Next, the girl who was testifying against me was also arrested for murder. Joel Wayne Hewitt, the man testifying, has been on the phone with the D.A., making a six-year deal. He was also at a party with Kristi Gibson, saying that David and he killed Andy, not me. Hewitt also said he took David out to check on the body, making sure it was still submerged. Five different people have heard him saying this. Never at any time did he say Lowrence Bernal. As my lawyer and his P.I. get up to leave he said, "I'll be in touch." I did not see or hear from him again until the day of the trial.

In my next chapter I will take you through Lowrence's trial and the testimonies of people that took the stand. These people had changed their stories over and over again, but were still put on the stand by the D.A. and were used to convict him. To this day twenty years later, he is at a loss for words to explain how he truly feels. It would be one thing if he was guilty, but to lose twenty years of his life for a murder he did not commit, is crushing to his heart and soul.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez