WEATHERFORD — It wasn’t always an office, the smallish clapboard building that’s painted a standard shade of white and probably always has been. It was obviously designed as a standard two bedroom, one bath home built in the post World War II era in what was never the silk-glove area of town, the part of town surrounding The Parker County Justice Center (otherwise know as the “jail” and Sheriff’s office). The structure is now a law office that houses two Weatherford practices recently imported from Fort Worth.

“Weatherford is an interesting place to practice law,” said one of the attorneys who recently hung his shingle there. “I’ve been practicing law in Parker County for quite some time. I’ll have two cases here, four cases there. It’s a very comfortable place to practice law and it’s a good opportunity for Harmony, too. She can be more of a presence in Parker County than I can. It’s working out well for both of us.”

The lawyer mentioned above is famed Attorney Jack Strickland, a man used to practicing law in interesting places and using his experience on challenging cases. The “Harmony” he refers to is his young colleague, Harmony Schurman, who made her mark in the Texas legal community while still in law school. She was one of the students at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law who was instrumental in establishing the Innocence Project at the campus in 2006. Schurman obtained her bar card in 2008.

Jack Strickland made his mark in the 1970s when as a hotshot assistant district attorney with Tarrant County, he worked on the case of T. Cullen Davis, a multi-millionaire who stood trial for the August 1976 murder of his step-daughter, 12-year-old Andrea Wilborn.

Davis was also charged with the murder of his estranged wife’s boyfriend, TCU basketball standout Stan Farr. Davis’ wife, Priscilla Davis, had filed for divorce in 1974, but in 1976, the divorce proceedings were still dragging on without coming close to a finale.

While Farr and Wilborn had been shot dead, Davis’ stunningly glam, party girl of an estranged wife, Priscilla, was injured by a gunman at their home on Mockingbird Lane in one of Fort Worth’s toniest west side neighborhoods.

The trial that ensued in November of 1977 has been called “one of the most expensive murder investigations and trials in Texas history.” Strickland fought head to head with a great criminal defense attorney, Richard “Racehorse” Haynes. The young assistant DA managed to hold his own. In the end, the jury found Davis not guilty.

Win or loose, the trial put Strickland on the map and in the news. He was even linked for a time romantically to the blonde bombshell, Priscilla Davis.

“Yeah,” Strickland said, “we dated for a while.”

After the conclusion of what the media often referred to as “the trial of the century,” Strickland went into private practice and became a one-man dream team.

Strickland had always known Schurman’s family, but came to know her when she was a pupil of his at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.

“I wanted to be a lawyer and wanted to be a criminal defense attorney since high school,” Schurman said. Her grandfather was Howard Green, a former Tarrant County Judge. “I was exposed to the legal world all my life and I liked it. My true passion is for criminal defense work.”

That passion drew Schurman to be a part of establishing the Innocence Project at Texas Wesleyan.

Innocence Project is a non-profit legal organization devoted to proving the innocence of those who have been wrongly convicted, using volunteer efforts, most of which comes from either law or journalism students. Most of the work is through the use of DNA testing.

The first Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld as part of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University in New York City. It became an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2003, but maintains strong institutional connections with Cardozo.

In addition to working on behalf of those who may have been wrongfully convicted of crimes throughout the United States, the Innocence Project performs research and advocacy related to the causes of wrongful convictions. The Innocence Project is a member of the Innocence Network, which brings together a number of innocence organizations from across the United States.

As of Sept. 20, 2009, 242 defendants who had been convicted of serious crimes in the United States had been exonerated by DNA testing. Most were convicted of crimes that involved some form of sexual assault and about a quarter of them involved murder.

It was Schurman’s work with the Innocence Project, coupled with her writing ability, that first spurred the veteran law, Titan, and the idealistic young lawyer into working together, Strickland said.

“Where she started off helping me was in a death penalty case,” he said. “She was a very quick and conscientious student. Some of the experience she had with the Innocence Project has proven helpful.”

While neither Strickland nor Schurman plan to give up practicing law in Fort Worth, you can expect to see them in Weatherford more frequently.

Strickland and Schurman are working together on the case of Douglas Earl Fredenburg, 50, of Weatherford, who was indicted for assault on a public servant in connection with a shooting incident in late September of this year in which a Parker County deputy was shot. Cpl. Richard Crosley, who serves as a member of the Weatherford/Parker County Special Crimes Unit, was in a group of officers who came to serve an arrest warrant on Fredenburg.

“This promises to be a fascinating case and a challenging one,” Strickland said. “It’s the kind of case that we came to Parker County to be involved in.”

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