I was born John William Hammond, Jr. in Orange, Texas on November 13, 1963. My father was a high school football coach and he died at the age of 32 when I was three months old. My mother, Mary Ann
Rose, remarried into the Weinacht family and we moved to Pecos when I
was four. My name was changed to John William Weinacht but everyone
calls me Bill. I grew up in Pecos and played quarterback for Pecos High
School. I graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in December of 1986. I went straight through
Baylor Law School in two years and three months graduating in May of
1989. I took the Bar exam in Waco in the summer of 1989 and returned to
The Weinacht family had a ranch that we all loved when I was growing up and I made it back home just in time to see the ranch being sold in a foreclosure sale on the courthouse steps. I was almost 26 years old and I already had two wonderful children, Lara and Jake, that were counting on me, so I started my own law firm with eight hundred and fifty dollars and a bundle of energy. I made a deal with the late Bill Allen for office space and he let me have one month rent-free to help me get started. I was appointed by the district judge as a public defender on three felony cases right before the Bar results came out. I thought being a public defender was the greatest thing in the world and I couldn't believe it paid so much money (about $250.00 a case). I learned how to try a lawsuit at Baylor and all I had was that knowledge, so all I did was try cases. I was told in law school that I needed to try about twenty-five cases before I would really know what I was doing, so I decided to get over that hurdle as fast as I could.
If a defendant gave me the slightest hint that he wanted a jury trial, I was more than happy to accommodate him. The first case I ever took to a jury trial was for a juvenile that I was appointed to defend. We won that case and I kept on having jury trial after jury trial. On one occasion I tried three jury trials in state district court in one calendar week. I began on Monday with an enhanced burglary of a habitation case. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday I tried an enhanced attempted murder case. And finally, I ended the jury trial week on Thursday with a slip and fall case against Furr's supermarket that was completed that same evening so that I could attend regular court hearings on Friday. I could not win every trial, but I won my first personal injury verdict that Thursday and I was fascinated by the fact that the money the jury put in those blanks was real money that would be paid, not like in practice court at Baylor.
I didn't know at the time that a slip and fall was the hardest type of personal injury case to try but I should have clued in when an older lawyer didn't want anything to do with the case and gave it to me. I loved being a lawyer and practicing law on both the criminal defense and plaintiff sides and I completely threw myself into it until I experienced an interesting turn of events. My house was burglarized and my guns and other personal items were stolen. With a tip and a hunch, I found four people shooting my guns out on the Pecos River. I sought the help of my dear late friend, Tony Juarez, who lived near that area and we disarmed them at gunpoint. They attempted to flee and I shot out their tire and held them until the police arrived. When the police arrived, the people that had my guns claimed that I tried to shoot them. The District Attorney at the time took me before a Ward County grand jury seeking to indict me for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The grand jury refused to indict and after some reflection on the matter, I decided to run for Reeves County Attorney. I told the people in English and Spanish that I would prosecute the thieves, but that I would have the strength to stand between the people and the police when the police were wrong. I am grateful to the people of Reeves County for electing me as their county attorney at the age of 28 by a two-to-one margin over the incumbent. I almost forgot to mention the arrival of my third child, Claire, who was a real rascal from the beginning and we love her very much.
In 1997 at the age of 33, I was cast into one of the most widely publicized cases of the time. Esequiel Hernández Jr. was shot and killed a few hundred yards from his home in the border town of Redford, Texas by the United States Marines. I was honored to have been selected by the Hernandez family to represent them against the United States federal government for the wrongful death of their eighteen-year-old son and brother. Esequiel's older brother Margarito and I appeared on Good Morning America and CNN on behalf of the family while we pursued our claim against the U. S. government that finally resulted in a $1.9 million structured settlement. Attorney's fees and expenses were kept within $200,000.00, so that the rest of the settlement went to the family, instead of their lawyer. The killing of Esequiel Hernández Jr. was reported in the New York Times and in many other newspapers in this country and around the world and the incident resulted in a policy change by the United States Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, with regard to the use of armed forces on the border. I wish I could tell you that I slayed that faceless dragon by myself, but I did not. The real power and strength came from the Hernández family. From the moment that I began representing them until the end of the case, I felt like I was walking on sacred ground. I hope there is another cause out there somewhere that will make me feel like that again.
In June of 2002, I was in the courthouse trying lawsuits for an entire month. During the first two weeks, I selected the jury and gave the closing argument in an oil field tank battery explosion case now known as Chi Energy, Inc. vs. Urias, 156 S.W.3d 873 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2005, pet. denied) and the jury returned a verdict for 9 million dollars. Unfortunately, the case was reversed on appeal because of a new law called Chapter 95 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code that wiped out many valid claims for oil field injuries and deaths, including this one. The second case I tried that month was a slip and fall against Wal-Mart, and we won a verdict for a lady who slipped on some pine sol in the parking lot. The most interesting thing that occurred in that case was that two young lawyers showed up to watch me try the case, Jon Bailey and Brian Burris. The final case I tried during that one-month period was against Union Pacific Railroad for the death of Lucio Flores. Union Pacific had about five lawyers and Brian Burris volunteered to return to Pecos to do anything he could to help me with the lawsuit. We tried that case for a week and the jury returned a personal injury verdict for the Plaintiffs in Cause No. 01-08-17135-CVR. A few years later, Brian Burris and Jon Bailey showed up again in Pecos with a dram shop case that they had put together against On The Border restaurant for serving too much alcohol to a schoolteacher who wound up killing two men in a car accident. I selected the jury for them and gave the closing argument and we won another personal injury verdict for the Plaintiffs in Cause No. 04-09-018057-CVR.
What I haven't disclosed to you is that for each and every one of those cases, I was never alone. I had a special friend that went with me inside the courthouse and waited for me in the lobby on the first floor. He was there every hour of every day, waiting patiently until I came out. He didn't bother me while I was trying the cases because he could take care of himself. He knew how to stand in the right place to open the automatic door of the courthouse and he let himself out when he needed to. Someone would usually put some water out for him in the lobby or he would go out and find a drink somewhere. When we quit for the day, he would jump in the back of my truck and ride home with me every night. His name was Jack. If you hire me as your lawyer, I won't have Jack around to help me out anymore and its just not the same without Jack waiting at the bottom of the stairs for me to come out of the courtroom. That type of loyalty, companionship and commitment is hard to replace. Although, Jack did get me in trouble every now and then, like in the Union Pacific case when the dogcatcher was on the jury panel or the time he provoked some javalina hogs into attacking us, but over all, he was the best dog I ever had and I told him that while he was alive. Jack was known and loved by so many people that I had to write his obituary when he died and it was published in our local newspaper, the Pecos Enterprise. I pasted it below so that you can read it if you would like to.
If you or your family need a lawyer and you would like to be a part of this journey, even though we won't have Jack to help us out anymore, then give me a call. I prefer to follow my instincts and desires with regard to the selection of cases that I accept, so I have not sought board certification in any particular specialty. A lawyer who tries to be everyone's lawyer will take on so many cases that he can't be a good lawyer for anyone, so I have to be selective. I leave you with this quote that through my experience, I have found to be true.
"Well when I was an attorney, a long time ago, young man, I realized after much trial and error, that in the courtroom, whoever tells the best story wins. In unlawyer-like fashion, I give that scrap of wisdom free of charge."
— President John Quincy Adams
Jack was my friend for ten years. He passed away Thursday, March
17, 2011. I don't know how old he was because I found him, or he found
me, in a pasture next to the Balmorhea Highway Department. He just
jumped into the back of my truck and stood up on the tire hump looking
like he was ready to go. When we came to the house, he jumped down
and waited for me to come out and when I did, he jumped right back in
the truck with the tailgate up. No matter where I went for about seven
years, Jack was there waiting, ready to go with me. As Jack aged, I had
to put the tailgate down and finally lift him into the truck, but he never
lost his desire to go. People would sometimes ask me if I went some
place alone, and I would always say, "I can't believe you think that going
somewhere with Jack is going alone." Jack hated to be left out of
anything. When one of my daughters was in the Golden Girl pageant, he
came in and walked down the aisle to the place where I was sitting. He
showed up again to see her as a homecoming queen nominee and laid
down in the north end zone for the halftime show. I didn't like to chain
him or pen him up because, as I said, he didn't own me and I didn't own
him. He could leave whenever he wanted, and if somebody had a
problem with Jack, they needed to take it up with him. Although, I did bail
him out of jail a few times. Anyone who knew Jack knew that he was a
true gentleman. He let little kids play with him and pull on him every
which way. He never bit or harmed anyone and behaved appropriately
on almost every occasion. I say almost because there were a few cats
and several dogs that tried to attack him that might disagree with me.
The thing Jack loved the most was hunting. One hot summer day in July,
Jack hunted alongside the jeep running from side to side in rugged
mountain country. The jeep odometer read twenty-four miles at the end
of the hunt. Jack survived two rattlesnake bites and a gunshot to the
neck. Jack became so angry with rattlesnakes that he would grab them
with his teeth and fling them as high as he could in the air -- a little too
exciting for those standing nearby.
Jack was a magnificent beast and a wonderful friend and he will be loved and remembered for years to come. He leaves behind Bill, Alva, Scoochee, Roo, Luz, Jake, Charlie, Claire, Lara, Marina, Martin and everyone else he became friends with in his short time on this earth.