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For the Plaintiff:
Ms. Marcy Morrison -and- Ms. Lorinda R. Taylor
Iris Jones & Associates
900 Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701
For the Defendants Llano County, Texas; Llano County Sheriff, Nathan Garrett; Jailers, John Overstreet and Don Stewart:
Mr. Michael Shaunessy
Bickerstaff, Heath, Smiley, Pollan, Kever & McDaniel
1700 Frost Bank Plaza
Austin, Texas 78701-2443
Mr. William M. Crenshaw, Jr.
Attorney At Law
P.O. Box 100
Buchanan Dam, Texas 78609
For the Defendant Holland Ligon:
Mr. Anthony J. Nelson
Allison, Bass & Associates
208 West 14th Street
Austin, Texas 78701
Melvin Lawson, was called as a witness by the Plaintiff, and having been first duly sworn, testified as follows, to-wit:
By Ms. Morrison:
Q. Okay. The air-conditioning, which I'm sure we need, is a little bit loud, so I'm going to try to speak up so that you can understand me, Mr. lawson, and the court reporter can understand me, and I'd ask you if you would do the same. Okay?
A. That's good.
Q. All right. Could you please state your name for the record?
A. My name is Melvin Allen Lawson.
Q. What's your age, sir?
Q. All right. Have you ever had your deposition taken before?
A. One time years ago.
Q. And what was that about?
A. Car accident.
Q. Were you injured?
A. No, I wasn't.
Q. Okay. All right. So do you recall -- when you
say "years ago," was it 10, 15 years ago, something like that?
A. Approximately 10 years ago.
Q. Okay. Well, why don't I then just go over with you briefly how a deposition runs, and I'm sure that you've also discussed it with your attorney, Mr. Shaunessy, but I just want to try to set up some ground rules. We've already discussed the fact that it's important for you to speak so that not only the court reporter and I can hear you but also Mr. Nelson, Mr. Crenshaw, and I just wanted to also introduce Ms. Taylor to you. I believe you've met her before, Lorinda Taylor. Now, it's also important for you to answer audibly when you're answering the question, and when I say "audibly" -- obviously you're an educated man -- you know I mean say yes, no. Don't nod your head. Actually speak. Okay?
Q. Okay. Mr. Lawson, I know that your wife is ill, and I'm sorry and everyone at my office is very sorry for your circumstances, and also that we're having to take this deposition to take you away from your wife. Does she have somebody with her today?
Q. Okay. All right. Now, I don't know if Mr. Shaunessy told you, but we offered to take this in your home if that made you feel more comfortable. Did you know that?
A. I wasn't aware of that.
Q. Okay. Well, I just want you to know that we're trying to do everything we can to make it easier under your circumstances. Now, Mr. Lawson, I know that you've been under a lot of stress lately with regard to your wife's health, but do you still feel that you are able to go through and give this deposition today and that any worries about your wife will not affect you telling us what we're asking you here today?
A. Yes, we can do this.
Q. All right. That's good. Now, are you on any medication or anything else that would cause you to have a problem answering any of the questions that we have today?
Q. All right. Now, did Mr. Shaunessy tell you that we took Ms. Dahl's deposition on Saturday?
Mr. Shaunessy: Don't disclose anything you learned in a conversation with me.
I will tell you I suspect he is aware that Jackie Dahl's desposition was taken on Saturday.
Q. And I apologize. I'm not trying to get you to tell me anything with regard to an attorney-client privilege with Mr. Shaunessy, and I want to ask you. Mr. Shaunessy is your attorney. Is that right?
A. Yes, he is.
Q. When did he become your attorney?
Mr. Shaunessy: For the record, let me just tell you I became his lawyer as soon as we got a demand letter from Marvin Foster and I was retained as the county's lawyer. At that time I represented everybody in the sheriff's department. Now, with regard to this lawsuit, Melvin Lawson is not a named defendant, but he is a named defendant in the Maynard case. So to the extent that I wasn't automatically his lawyer, although I considered myself his lawyer, when we got the demand I certainly became his lawyer at the time he was sued, and I answered for him in the Maynard case.
Ms. Morrison: All right. so, Mr. Shaunessy, I'm still a little confused. When did you -- so you're saying that when you answered for the Maynard case you became Mr. Lawson's lawyer?
Mr. Shaunessy: No. It is my position I became his lawyer in October of '97 when we got the demand letter from Foster. Because he is an employee of the Llano County sheriff's department and I respresent the sheriff's department, I think I became the lawyer of all the employees. To the extent that there's any uncertainty about that, though, I answered a lawsuit, in which he's a named defendant, in February of 1998 if I'm not mistaken, and any uncertainty about me being his lawyer was cleared up at that time.
Q. Mr. Lawson, are you paying Mr. Shaunessy or his law firm any money out of your own pocket?
Ms. Morrison: All right. He's clear on that.
Q. Okay. Now, there are -- as there are in almost all depositions, there are going to be -- there are going to be objections, and it is Mr. Shaunessy's right and Mr. Nelson's right and Mr. Crenshaw's right to object to questions that I may ask you, and they'll say things like "objection." They'll use lawyer terms like "leading" or, you know, "mischaracterization of the testimony" and stuff like that. And I'm sure they will correct me if I'm
wrong, but unless Mr. Shaunessy instructs you not to answer the question, even if they've objected you still need to go ahead and answer the question. Okay?
Q. All right. And sometimes if everybody objects, you know, if we go down the line -- there's three lawyers here. You may not remember the question and I may not remember the question, so it may be a little complicated. Now, mischaracterization of testimony in a lawyer's terms basically means that they believed that the lawyer who's taking the deposition -- in this case me -- may be restating what I believe I heard you say, but they don't think it's really what you said. Do you see what I'm saying?
A. (Witness nods head affirmatively.)
Q. For example, you testify to me A, B and C, and later on I say, Mr. Lawson, don't you remember when you said X, Y and Z? Now, that would be a mischaracterization of your testimony, and I want you to understand that I'm not here to do that. I want you to stop me and tell me if you think that I'm saying that you said things in the deposition that you didn't really say. Can we have that agreement?
Mr. Shaunessy: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Let me interpose this.
Mr. Lawson, it is not your job to recall all of the testimony in this deposition. To the extent that it occurs to you that Ms. Morrison has mischaracterized some of your testimony, you can certainly tell her. Do not feel you are in any way obligated to try to remember everything she asks you. All right?
The Witness: Thank you.
Q. And I didn't mean it that way, Mr. Lawson. I just meant if it became clear to you that you felt like I had done something like that. I also want you to know that I'm not here to trick you and that I'm going to ask you straigthtforward questions. All right? I know I'm a lawyer, but I'm still going to try to be straight with you. All right?
Q. All right. Without telling me what was said, have you discussed your deposition with Mr. Shaunessy?
A. Yes, I have.
Q. All right. Have you discussed having your deposition taken with Mr. Nelson?
A. We spoke.
Q. All right. Now, Mr. Nelson is -- as you know, is not your attorney, so anything that you and he talked about is not privileged. That means that you can go ahead and tell me what y'all talked about. When did you speak?
A. This morning.
Q. All right. And did he ask you some questions about any particular subject of this lawsuit?
Mr. Shaunessy: Let me stop you right there. Any communications he had with Tony Nelson are covered by the joint defense privilege, which is recognized in the 5th Circuit. Now, if Tony wants, he can waive that privilege, but it's up to Tony, just like any conversation that you guys had with any of Melvin's -- Marvin Foster's clients could be handled by the same privilege. Joint defense privilege is recognized in this circuit, and, in fact, my name is one of the leading cases in that field.
Ms. Morrison: Do you have it with you?
Mr. Nelson: Mr. Shaunessy is correct, and I do not waive the privilege.
Mr. Shaunessy: Don't tell her anything of your content -- the content of your conversation with Mr. Nelson.
Ms. Morrison: Do you have the question with you, Mr. Shaunessy, since you knew I was going to ask this question and you knew in the last few depositions I've discussed it, what was asked of Mr. Nelson? Obviously you came here prepared. I'm asking you did you bring that case that your name is on?
Mr. Shaunessy: No, but it's not hard to find.
Ms. Morrison: Tell me the style.
Mr. Shaunessy: Apex versus N-Group. Apex, et al versus N-Group.
Ms. Morrison: N-group?
Mr. Shaunessy: N, hyphen, G-r-o-u-p.
Ms. Morrison: Thank you very much.
Mr. Shaunessy: It's out of Simlakes's court in Houston, and went to the 5th Circuit, and both courts found the joint defense privilege applied.
Ms. Morrison: Under what circumstances?
Mr. Shaunessy: Circumstances between
co-plaintiffs, but go on with the --
Ms. Morrison: Co-plaintiffs. Did it have anything to do with communications between -- Mr. Nelson: I don't think Mr. Shaunessy is being deposed.
Ms. Morrison: I'm trying to find out whether Mr. Shaunessy can prove to me that there's a privilege. If he says it's between co-plaintiffs, that's totally different betweeen co-counsels.
Mr. Nelson: I don't think he has to prove it to you.
Mr. Shaunessy: Look, here's the bottom line. I'm instructing him not to answer. If you need to certify the question.
Ms. Morrison: I certify the question.
Mr. Shaunessy: Don't let any of that bother you.
Ms. Morrison: Mr. Shaunessy, are you also making that claim with regard to Mr. Crenshaw?
Mr. Shaunessy: Absolutely. Yes.
Q. Okay. I certify a question as to whether you've spoken to Mr. Crenshaw on anything that was -- that had to do with your conversation with Mr. Crenshaw.
A. Yes, I did.
Q. Okay. All right. How many times?
Q. All right. Okay. Have you talked to anybody else about your deposition being taken? Did you talk to Jackie Dahl, who is not a party to this suit? Ms. Dahl, as you, are not a party to this suit. I mean, you haven't been named in this suit. So since you haven't been named in this suit, you're not a co-defendant with anybody. So, anyway, I'm asking you, sir, have you talked to anybody else about this deposition? For example, did you talk to Jackie Dahl about having your deposition taken?
Mr. Shaunessy: Go ahead. You can answer.
Q. All right. When did you talk to her?
A. Last night.
Q. Okay. And did she tell you about having her deposition taken?
A. She told me that she got home at 7:30 -- or to Round Rock 7:30 Saturday night. She said it was a long day.
Q. Did she tell you who took the deposition?
Q. It was me.
Did she tell you any questions that were asked to her in her deposition that she -- did she say anything specific about any questions that were asked of her in her deposition?
Q. What were those?
A. She made a statement.
Q. What was the statement?
A. They're going to ask you about the barbecue.
Q. Okay. Did she tell you that we were going to ask you about anything else?
A. I don't recall.
Q. All right. So how long was your conversation with Ms. Dahl?
A. About five minutes.
Q. And besides the barbecue, which obviously we're going to get to later, she didn't tell you anything else that we might ask you about or that you need to be concerned about?
The Witness: Can I talk to you?
Mr. Shaunessy: Sure. Let's go outside for a second.
(Off the record.)
Q. Mr. Lawson, I believe that my last question to you was whether you had talked to Ms. Dahl about
anything else besides the barbecue, if she had made any other statements to you in your conversation with her regarding her deposition or what they might ask you about in your deposition, and at that point you asked to speak to your lawyer, and you and Mr. Shaunesssy went outside and now you've come back in. Do you have an answer for me?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Go ahead.
A. I specifically called her to ask her if she recalled why we made John Pesina a third-floor-only trustee.
A. I'm not sure that this was brought up in your deposition with her, but the point is I wanted to know if she remembered.
Q. And did she?
A. She didn't remember. She told me that she didn't remember.
Q. Why did you ask whether she remembered?
A. Because I knew you was going to ask me today.
A. You being you.
Q. But you don't even know me, Mr. Lawson. Me being a lawyer?
A. That's it.
Q. All right. So have you talked to anyone else about this deposition? And I'm not talking about lawyers right now. For example, have you talked to Sheriff Garrett?
A. No, I have not.
Q. Have you talked to John Overstreet?
A. No, I have not.
Q. And when I say "talked about this deposition," did you talk to Sheriff Garrett about his deposition?
A. No, I did not.
Q. Did you talk to Mr. Overstreet about his deposition?
A. No, I did not.
Q. Did you talk to Mr. Don Stewart about your deposition or his deposition?
A. He talked to me a little bit about how he made you upset.
Q. It wasn't me. I didn't take the deposition.
A. Okay. I don't remember names that well. Okay?
A. As a matter of fact, I don't recall him even giving me a name.
Q. It was a pretty, thin, blond girl. It wasn't me.
A. Okay. I take your word for that.
A. But he just made mention of the fact that he upset the --
Q. The lawyer who was taking the deposition? Now, you said that Mr. Stewart said he made the person who took his deposition angry. Is that right?
A. Yes. Yes, he did.
Q. Did he say how he made that person angry?
A. It concerned how Pesina was supervised, and he asked for a definition of supervise, apparently repeatedly.
Q. Okay. Well, I'm going to give you a definition so you don't need to worry about that. Was there anything else that --
Ms. Morrison: Off the record.
(Off the record.)
Q. Okay. So was there anything else, Mr. Lawson? I believe I just asked you is there anything else that Mr. Stewart told you about his deposition?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. All right. Did he say anything to you? Give you any advice? Anything at all with regard to your
A. No, ma'am.
Q. All right. Now, when I asked you if you had talked to anybody about the deposition, you were starting to shake your head yes. Is there anybody else that you've talked to besides your lawyer about this deposition?
A. My wife.
Q. I thought you were going to say that. It just flashed on me. Okay. Well, how about this lawsuit? Have you talked to Sheriff Garrett about this lawsuit?
A. It's been mentioned several times, but it's nothing ever -- no details, no specific instructions, nothing has been said. It's just the fact that we've got this lawsuit that we're going to have to deal with, and that's it.
Q. Okay. We'll go into a little more detail about Mr. Garrett a little bit later. In his deposition, Mr. Stewart mentioned that he had discussed this lawsuit with you. Do you recall that?
A. No, I don't.
Q. So you don't recall ever discussing this lawsuit with Mr. Stewart?
A. All I remember is he had a lot of paperwork and stuff that he had to fill out, and he made mention that he had to do it, but as for actually discussing details, I -- I don't remember that.
Q. Okay. How about anybody else? Have you discussed this lawsuit -- besides your wife, anyone else you've discussed this lawsuit -- about this -- with about this lawsuit? How about Jackie Dahl?
A. I told you I talked to her last night.
Q. Right. And I was -- then we were talking about deposition. Now I'm talking about a lawsuit.
A. It's been mentioned a couple of times -- say a couple. That wouldn't right either. Couple is only two.
A. Mentioned several times when we were working together that I wish we didn't have this lawsuit.
Q. All right.
A. I'm -- everyone is unsure about this lawsuit and how it would affect us regardless of the outcome, not so much as in respect to our jobs. It's just a fact of life that we have to deal with this, and we wish this had never happened.
Q. All right.
A. That's it.
Q. And that was really going to be my next question to you, Mr. Lawson. And I guess it's my understanding that -- from what you just said, that -- and I don't want to put words to your mouth, that this lawsuit has made life a little more difficult for people at the jail?
A. It's added stress.
Q. And I think that I could speak for -- certainly for everyone on our side that we wish it had never happened either. But, be that as it may, let's go on to some less unpleasant things like when were you born?
A. February 9, 1944.
Q. All right. And where were you born, sir?
A. Fredericksburg, Texas.
Q. That's a pretty place. Were you rasied in Fredericksburg?
A. No, I was not. I was raised right here in Llano.
Q. So did you come here as a baby?
A. My parents lived here. They just went over there to have me.
Q. Oh. I'm with you. Okay.
And so you -- do you currently reside in Llano or some other suburban-type place?
A. In Llano.
Q. In Llano. All right. Now, I know you're married.
Q. What's your wife's name?
Q. How long have you been married to Carolyn?
A. Twenty-fifth of next month, it will be 34 years.
Q. I really admire you for that, sir. Do you have any children?
Q. What are their ages?
A. 27 and 30.
Q. Oh, you've got twins?
Q. Okay. Do any of them live in Llano?
A. My daughter.
Q. Is she the 27-year-old?
Q. So you've got -- were they twin girls or were they fraternal twins?
A. Twin boys.
Q. All right. So the boys are 27?
Q. Okay. What does your daughter do here?
Q. All right. Are your boys involved in any kind of law enforcement? Anything like that?
Q. All right. I'm sure I know the answer to this question, but do you have any other previous marriages before Carolyn?
Q. All right. What's your educational background, Mr. Lawson? Did you go to Llano High?
A. Graduated from Llano High School, and then my law enforcement I have --
Q. We're going to get to that.
Q. I'm just talking about your regular education now.
A. Okay. I have a 12th-grade education.
Q. All right. Now we need to go through your work history, and I know it's a little tedious, but -- and we'll try to make it, you know, as painless as possible. When you graduated from high school, did
you go to work?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. What did you do?
A. Went to work in a rock quarry.
(Continued On Lawson Deposition V2)