|Athlete of the Week: Zeph Tyson|
Last Updated: February 9, 2006, 04:58:39 AM PST
Tyson, a senior guard, scored a combined 44 points as the Knights were 1-1 in Modesto Metro Conference play last week. Against undefeated Modesto, he tallied 19 in a close loss. In a win over Beyer, he had 25 points.
PARENTS: Darryl and Gloria Tyson.
FAVORITE ATHLETE: "Allen Iverson. ... He's small and he runs all day. I try to do what he can and pass it around a little bit more."
BIG RIVALS: "Modesto and Beyer. ... We'd lost twice to Beyer before last week, and got them in our third game at our Homecoming. It's Modesto because we want to be the first team to beat them."
MOTTO: "To stay strong and play well in every game. My uncle Andre tells me to always stay strong and beat everyone. I try to follow that."
TRADITION: "My family and I watch old tapes of Tiny Archibald and Allen Iverson playing basketball. And my brother (Darryl) tells me to play every game like it was my last."
COLLEGE CHOICES: "Right now I have no idea where I'm going to go, but I definitely want to keep playing basketball."
FAVORITE MUSIC: "Rap and R&B. ... 2Pac's my favorite rapper, but I really like Mac Dre, too."
NBA PREDICTION: "It's looking like the Detroit Pistons, but Phoenix could shock some people."
ON HIS NAME: "My full name is Zephaniah. It's a book in the Bible. We're Jehovah's Witnesses, and when I was born my parents brought me to the Kingdom Hall and a nice lady gave me that name. It's pretty unique."
NOTABLES: Timmy Oswald, Mariposa basketball: Scored a combined 42 points in two Southern Athletic League wins. ... Sergio Juarez, Patterson basketball: Scored a combined 30 points in two Trans-Valley League wins. ... Tyler Heilman, Beyer basketball: Scored a combined 35 points as the Patriots went 1-1 in the MMC.
-- WILL DeBOARD
PROFILE Mumphrey attorney called shining star in legal arena
By RENÉE C. LEE Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
In his 12 years as a criminal law attorney, Eric J. Davis has had many courtroom successes, but none compares to his latest victory — getting an innocent man out of prison.
The Houston attorney became the center of national headlines last month when his client, Arthur Mumphrey, gained his freedom after spending 18 years in prison on a sexual assault conviction.
DNA evidence recovered with Davis' persistence and new testing not available when the crime occurred in February 1986 cleared Mumphrey as one of two attackers of a 13-year-old girl.
Those who know Davis or have worked with him say it comes as no surprise that he prevailed in the challenging case. He's a man who believes in defending people's rights and who will search under every stone when trying a case, they said.
Fellow attorneys see him as a shining star in the legal arena, destined to become a judge someday. His clients often speak of him as the attorney who cares about those he represents.
Davis, reserved and soft-spoken outside the courtroom, takes the compliments in stride. He says his motivation is simply to ensure that justice is done.
''I question the government," Davis said. ''I think we as a people should. Our government is based on people who asked questions and questioned authority. Part of my job is not to go with the status quo."
A licensed attorney since 1994, Davis, 36, says he has tried about 70 cases as both a former prosecutor and a private attorney.
Some of his notable victories include:
•A federal religious discrimination suit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in 2002. The jury awarded his client, a prison employee and Jehovah's Witness, $500,000 in damages plus $44,000 in attorney fees. The employee claimed she suffered retaliation after she complained about a warden requiring employees to pray with him during monthly meetings.
•A 2004 criminal case in which a prison guard faced two cases of sexual assault against two inmates. The jury found the prison guard not guilty in both cases in which the state introduced two sets of DNA evidence and the testimony of the two alleged victims.
•And a case that resulted in the removal of Port Arthur Justice of the Peace Thurman Bartie from office, barring him from ever holding a judicial office in Texas. The case was heard before a Review Tribunal in April 2004.
Seana Willing, executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, recalls how impressed she was with Davis, who served as a special counsel for the commission on the Bartie case. The commission had recommended Bartie's removal because he used obscene language in the courtroom, failed to follow the law and used corporal punishment in a truancy matter.
''He's not a big-name attorney, but he should be," Willing said of Davis. ''You could tell he just had the right stuff as far as his skill, his professionalism and manner in dealing with people. ... These days you're more often to run into legal terrorists who use the rules to gain advantages that aren't fair. He's not that kind of lawyer."
Pro bono assignment
Bill Torrey, who worked as a staff attorney for the commission at the time of the Bartie case, recommended Davis for the pro bono assignment. He had worked with Davis two years earlier on a drug case in Victoria. He said he admired his integrity and intensity in the courtroom.
"He's very laid-back, but in the courtroom he shifts into overdrive and you can feel it," Torrey said. ''You can see the street fighter in him."
On Bartie's appeal, Davis was so effective that the group of appellate judges returned a unanimous affirmation in two hours, Torrey said.
''I've never heard of that in my life. It usually takes a month," said Torrey, who has practiced law for 29 years and is now in private practice.
Davis, the youngest of three children, grew up in New Orleans' lower 9th Ward, an area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Davis said he always knew he wanted to help people for a living. Just before graduating from high school, he narrowed his career choices to medicine and law.
He studied political science and chemistry at Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, D.C., and graduated magna cum laude in 1991.
He earned his law degree at Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, where he graduated cum laude in 1994.
He landed his first job with the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville, Fla., prosecuting felony cases for three years.
Rick Alexander, who worked with Davis as a prosecutor, described Davis as ''a good student of the court" because he studied the judges' rulings and pet peeves, a habit that helped him win cases against some seasoned lawyers.
Duval County Circuit Judge Jack Schemer presided over many of Davis' cases in the criminal division. He described Davis as confident, even as a novice. He said he recalls Davis being reasonable and fair in his recommendations and plea bargains.
Alexander, now a trial lawyer in Jacksonville, said he'd be surprised if Davis had enemies. ''He was tough, but he never railroaded anybody," he said.
Knack for negotiating
Looking back, childhood friend Sheldon Jones said Davis always had a knack for negotiating and bartering.
"He likes competition, and he loves to argue," said Jones, who still lives in New Orleans. "That's just in him. He's a good-hearted person. He likes for people to be done right by."
Davis moved to Houston in 1997 with his wife, Carla, who had a job offer here. Davis worked full time at defunct Western Indemnity Insurance Co. for three years and tried criminal cases on the side before opening his own firm, Davis and Associates, in 2000.
The two-attorney firm handles mostly criminal cases and some labor and employment cases. Much of his business comes from repeat clients and referrals, he said.
Mumphrey came to him as a referral from another inmate also serving time at the Rufe Jordan Unit in Pampa.
Davis has never had a case like Mumphrey's. He said he had no reason not to believe Mumphrey's claims of innocence when he reopened the case three years ago.
''I just knew it was a case that could be defended," he said.
He meticulously researched the case and in early 2005 found what he needed to clear Mumphrey's name — DNA evidence.
Request for DNA denied
The challenge came in getting the evidence. Davis said initially officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab in Houston said the agency had the evidence.
Davis quickly filed a motion for DNA testing in early 2005, but a state district judge denied it when the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office said DPS officials told them there was no evidence.
Stunned by DPS' reversal, Davis kept pushing for answers until he got one from a lab supervisor.
Frozen samples located
The supervisor wrote a letter dated Aug. 18, 2005, informing Davis that he had located the frozen DNA samples, consisting of a vaginal swab, the victim's panties, and blood and saliva from the victim and Mumphrey.
Davis filed another motion in the fall, and the judge granted the testing.
Although the system failed Mumphrey, Davis said he does not believe it is broken.
''It's easy to judge the whole system on a case-by-case basis, but in a lot of cases it works out OK," he said. ''I'd be lying to you if I said it should be scrapped and thrown away."